As a business, context heavily influences how we promote our products and services (who, when, where, what). With the current COVID-19 situation that is sweeping across the world, we find ourselves deep in unchartered waters. This is forcing us to get creative with strategies on how to push our businesses through these uncertain times. This period is marked with a change in spending patterns. People are only prioritising the most essential products or services. The ban on congregating and the curfew have also impacted negatively on many businesses. So what are some of the ways you can tactfully marketing your business during COVID-19?

One important aspect to consider is how we talk about our business. It is rather insensitive to still go on communicating as though it is business as usual, without recognizing the challenges that people are currently going through. It is, therefore, necessary to take a more tactful, mindful, and understanding approach when promoting our business.

Think carefully about the visuals that you are using

We are all familiar with the saying a picture speaks a thousand words. A large part of what we communicate is visual. It is important to still communicate the message of social distancing and hand washing. A great example here is Citizen TV. Every Friday and Saturday they host dance party shows where they invite artists to perform live surrounded by very eager youth keen on showcasing how well they can perform the latest dance move. Since the government directive that banned congregating, the shows have hosted a stage for two, the presenter and the guest DJ with artists performing remotely as seen in this video interview with popular dancehall legend Konshens. This allows their numerous fans to be engaged while still keeping safe. It is an effective way to communicate that they are taking the situation seriously and setting a good example.

Re-evaluate your current marketing plan 

It is necessary to take a closer look at the messaging that you currently have about your brand and figure out whether to restructure it or align it to the current situation. An example is MIKA, an appliance company. Rather than just advertising their appliances, they have capitalized on roadside poster branding and their Facebook page to emphasize the individual’s responsibility to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, wear a mask and stick to social distancing. Safaricom has also re-thought its advertising about bonga points, so rather than points being redeemed for self-benefit, the message is more focused on being able to support those professions and businesses that have lost their income by sending them your bonga points to purchase food.

Promote positivity

Despite the current COVID-19 environment being less than ideal for business and life in general, it is not all doom and gloom. Communication needs to strike a delicate balance. It should recognise the situation and the challenges it presents while promoting hope and positivity. As businesses, we need to be able to champion a positive attitude and the fact that the current situation is only with us for a while and will surely come to an end.  A great example would be Safaricom’s #ApartNotAlone slogan ads that have a note of understanding and positivity rolled into one. CocaCola also recently released an advertisement titled To the Human Race.  It focuses on all the positive things happening and thanking those in the frontline.

It’s a crisis for goodness sake, don’t take advantage

Some Kenyan politicians have been seen providing their constituents with soap and sanitizers that have been self-branded, in a blatant bid to gain political capital with their voters. This is an example of what NOT to do. Think more about how the current situation ties into your brand and how your business is dealing with it all and keep people informed. A great example here would be with the banking sector. I have received numerous messages from my bank detailing their COVID-19 response measures, encouraging me to transact via phone and visit the banking hall only if absolutely necessary, where they also have measures in place to ensure the safety of their employees and clients.

How can your business be helpful?

From large corporations to micro-enterprises, all are looking for ways in which they can still remain relevant during these unprecedented times. Local tailors are becoming experts at making masks. Companies like Tropikal that are known for their air fresheners have adapted their manufacturing processes to include sanitizers. Picha, an Afrocentric stock photo company, has published a free COVID-19 photo collection showing Africans practicing good hygiene for anyone to use. Are you able to offer discounts on your products and services? Every cent saved counts in these uncertain times. Can you add a new service to your offering? Sendy has introduced Sendy GO, a grocery delivery app in collaboration with Naivas. You may not be able to do something as a direct response. Try help in spreading the message about the importance of hand-washing, social distancing, and staying home. Every little effort counts. 

Keep safe and know that Brighter Days (Sauti Sol Ft. Soweto Gospel Choir) are yet to come.

Here are some mental health resources that can be useful to you during this period.