“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou’s words feel especially relevant during these unprecedented times.

As the coronavirus outbreak drives business online, it represents both an opportunity and a risk. The opportunity to engage (and retain) customers. And the risk of appearing cynical or profiteering.

We believe business can and should be a force for good. It plays an important role in disseminating information, providing essential services and protecting livelihoods.

The pandemic is already changing customer behaviours and attitudes. Businesses that connect with their audiences now are likely to gain a lasting advantage. They’ll also protect their financial health.

The challenge lies in communicating effectively and sensitively. Reevaluating the tenets underpinning your content and comms strategies will make it much easier to continue the conversation with your customers. They may even start to like you more.


It’s hard to have a good conversation if you don’t know who you’re talking to. Is your audience the same as before the outbreak? The answer may be different in each market.

Categories like home fitness have gained huge new audiences. The average age of UK viewers following “the nation’s PE teacher” Joe Wicks has shot up in recent weeks, as parents adjust to new homeschooling schedules. His audience has also gone global, with people joining from Jamaica, India, Uruguay, Australia, New Zealand and Scandinavia. Meanwhile, patriotism has emerged as a key source of support for some national airlines.

Tools like Google Analytics are a mine of information about your website visitors. But audience profiles are about more than demographics. Perceptions, interests, attitudes and behaviours all matter. They’re influenced by culture. And the varying government decrees around coronavirus.

In this fast-changing situation, ongoing research and listening are essential. It might be time to reassess your audience profiles.

Here’s more on audience research:


It would be a mistake to believe now is the time to batten down the hatches and wait things out. Only 8% of global consumers think brands should stop advertising. The key is to listen to local voices and adapt your messaging to the mood in each market. It may be prudent to put more emphasis on some markets than others. Up-to-date market research will be vital to help you navigate the way forward.

In the UK, 86% of marketers are pausing or reviewing their campaigns. Even long-standing campaigns have been affected. This includes KFC’s “finger-lickin’ good” strapline (cf. advice to stop touching your face) and Cadbury’s Easter egg hunt ads (grandparents shouldn’t mix with kids). Reconsider your long-standing messaging to avoid accidental faux-pas and stay relevant for your audience.

Attitudes to face masks vary from country to country. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, it’s compulsory to wear one. In many Asian countries, it was common even before coronavirus (if you had a cough or cold), out of respect for people in close proximity to you. However, in the UK, it’s still common to see people without one. The attitudes in your markets may well affect the imagery you choose to use.

As the infection rate in some Asian countries slows, they also offer a useful preview for future spending patterns. For example, see the talk of “revenge spending” in China. Will shopping-starved consumers rush to the malls? Or will this outbreak lead to a rise in conscious consumption?

More on market research:


Although there are still opportunities for brands, continuing with business as usual isn’t an option. 74% of consumers think companies shouldn’t exploit the current situation. This means getting your tone right has rarely been so important.

It’s never a good idea to leave your tone of voice to chance. A global team, remote working and an uncertain business climate make it even more important. Create a framework to guide your communication strategy, then adapt it for each market and channel. If you already have a tone of voice guide, retune it for the current situation.

This includes internal comms. 80% of consumers worldwide believe employee health should be a priority. Doing the right thing by your teams is important. Your customers are paying attention and missteps could do long-term reputational damage.

It’s worth considering what your competitors are doing, and how your brand can provide genuine value to your audience. In fact, Google has restricted ads around outbreak-related keywords to encourage this and prevent opportunism.

More on tone of voice:


It’s not too late to get started. Over this blog series, we’ll share insights you can use to navigate the current uncertainty. Time will tell which strategies are the most successful. But we’ll make intelligence from our global network available to help businesses everywhere weather the storm.

If you have any questions or we can do anything to help, please let us know.

Photo by Evgeni Tcherkasski on Unsplash

ABOUT Zoey Cooper

I’m a global content and brand strategist, with more than 15 years' experience researching, planning, delivering and testing content and brand solutions across multiple regions, languages and platforms. I love words. And I love culture. And I believe that the right combination of these two essential ingredients will deliver content that is not only on brand, but will engage customers and drive sales.

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