Putting Marketing on Hold due to the Pandemic? Read this and Rethink!

May 27, 2020

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Running a business has never been easy.

For an entrepreneur or someone responsible for ensuring sufficient cashflow, the pandemic has made things quite more difficult than they already were.

Extended quarantine, business closures, lockdowns, restrictions on transactions and trade are some of the challenges faced by entrepreneurs and marketers worldwide.

To make matters worse, expenses like operational costs, rents, electricity/water bills, staff salaries, payment to vendors have forced businesses around the UAE to put a leash on their business expenditure drastically.

When business circumstances change for the worse (like the one caused by the pandemic), companies start cutting costs in various areas, to save money.

Most of the time, it’s the marketing spend that gets slashed.

In fact, the 2008 recession saw a decrease in US ad spending by 13%.

The toxic repercussions of such a decision are often overlooked to meet short-term expenses.

As a marketing agency, we understand the predicament you’re in.

You’re, perhaps, under the impression that, if you stop marketing your brand, you’ll be able to use that budget for meeting other expenses.

As logical as that philosophy may seem to you, the reality is far from the truth.

If you don’t market your business now, how will you pay off expenses and survive?

When your customers can't find you, there's no chance of increasing revenue in these dire circumstances. 

If you're still unsure about spending on marketing during the pandemic, don’t worry.

As your local digital marketing agency, we’re here to help!

In this article, we’ll explain how you can make your business thrive by utilizing the current marketing opportunities.

As the popular saying goes…

“When times are good you should advertise..

When times are bad you MUST advertise.”

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Here are 4 reasons why you should continue advertising to save your business from an impending doom.

Reason 1) Your Competitors have either Reduced or Stopped Advertising

Let's take a couple of historical examples from brands who have benefited massively by not pulling the plug on their marketing during economic crises.

Pizza Hut & Taco Bell vs McDonald's

During the 1990-91 recession, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell took advantage of McDonald’s decision to drop its advertising and promotion budget.

Pizza Hut increased sales by 61% & Taco Bell sales grew by 40% while McDonald’s sales declined by 28%.

A few decades later, Amazon grew by 28% in 2009 during the notorious great recession.

To achieve this, they continued to innovate with new products while the economy tanked - especially with new Kindle products which helped in growing their market share.

On Christmas Day 2009, Amazon customers bought more e-books as compared to printed books.

By innovating during a slump, Amazon won the battle in the minds of consumers.

It was seen as an innovative, adaptable brand that helped cash-strapped consumers. 

If brands as big as the ones mentioned above could pivot themselves during this time, you can too.

We understand that most small businesses have a limited to almost-nil marketing budget.

And if competitors start toning down their advertising, they lose visibility in the market - giving you the chance to get more exposure among your target audience.

It's commonly observed that increasing your marketing efforts, increases your market share.

This gives you the chance to increase sales, profits and eventually thrive during the pandemic.


Reason 2) The Cost Of Online Advertising Has Dropped

Regardless of the economic implications, ad inventory needs to be filled so that media companies can sustain themselves at the cost of cheaper advertising rates. 

Multiple sources around the world have confirmed that the cost of advertising on major digital platforms have fallen significantly.

For marketers and entrepreneurs, this translates into more reach and better value for money on your advertising budget.

Socialbakers, a social media marketing company, says that CPCs on Facebook plunged by more than half from December to the end of March, while analysts at Bernstein stated that ad prices on Twitter have declined 20% to 40%.

Rick Heitzmann, a partner at venture firm FirstMark Capital, said ad rates are down 30% to 35% across much of his portfolio, depending on the sector.

“Whether it’s Facebook or TV, as people are spending more time at home and more time in front of screens, they’re generating a large amount of inventory, and at the same time large sections of the economy have ceased advertising,”

Heitzmann said, “The supply and demand curve has changed dramatically, and the clearing price is lower than it’s been in six to eight years.”


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With people consuming digital media at such an alarmingly-high rate (more on this in the next section), you have way more opportunities to get your brand in front of potential new customers. 

Combine that with the data we've stated above on reducing advertising costs, there's significantly less competition for each ad impression.

Essentially, if implemented correctly, you can advertise more for less than ever!

The fact that many advertisers have reduced their budgets, means there is less competition for each impression, which lowers the cost and increases the effectiveness of your ads.

In the US alone, the average cost per thousand impressions (CPM) for Facebook ads fell below $3 for the first time in two years on March 22.

The average CPM has remained close to this $3 average for about two months.

For comparison, the average CPM in the US from March 2018 to February 2020 was $4.67.

The chart below indicates the trends in Facebook's CPM in 2020 as compared to the same period in 2019. 


Facebook CPM data

Source: Gupta media analysis on global Facebook CPM rates


While traditional marketing media like newspaper ads, hoardings, billboards and other traditional marketing techniques have long lost their appeal, it's time to go aggressive on digital. 


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Reason 3) Online Content Consumption has Increased Massively 

The past recessions & pandemics have demonstrated a drastic change in consumer behavior - both in terms of content consumption as well as spending habits.

People are consuming online content at a rapidly increasing rate. 

Your target audience is at home, bored and hooked on to the internet with extra disposable time on their hands.

They are online for the longest time in years, looking for updates on the pandemic as well as entertainment to alleviate their anxiety.

All social media channels and other video streaming apps have seen a tremendous rise in traffic - making this the best time to increase both organic and paid reach.

While the reason for this shift is pretty obvious by now, marketers and businesses need to leverage this opportunity to grow their brand and provide maximum value to their target audience. 

Now is the perfect opportunity to engage, educate and entertain them. 

Facebook even disclosed massive increases in traffic, messaging, and bandwidth usage in a public report.

There's been a 50% increase in messaging across their platforms.

That's not all! 

Brands are reporting as much as a 76% increase in daily accumulated likes on ad posts since early March.

The global pandemic has made the following figures possible:

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  • Social media usage has increased by 27% among Gen Z, 30% among millennials, 29% among Gen X and 15% among boomers;

  • 66% of people who have yet to be confined to their homes anticipate they’ll up their online consumption if asked to stay home;

  • 99% of social media users anticipate they will make an online purchase once confined to their homes;

  • 79% of consumers with children between the ages of three and 17 anticipate they will purchase DIY items or home improvement materials while confined to their homes;

In terms of content consumption, gaming & shopping:

  • On average, consumers around the world spent 20% more time playing games and using apps each week in Q1 2020 than they did in Q1 2019;

  • In Q1 2020, consumers spent over $23.4 billion in app store purchases, the largest quarter ever in terms of consumer spending;

  • There were over 31 billion new app downloads, a 15% increase from Q4 2019.


Reason 4) Build Long-term Marketing Momentum Instead of Quitting

According to a Harvard Business Review study that analyzed the performance of 4,700 public companies both three years before and after a recession, companies that slashed costs at a hacksaw rate didn’t necessarily flourish.

In fact, businesses that opted for a prevention-focus had the lowest rates of profitability post-recession as compared to businesses that chose a more aggressive, forward-thinking approach and continued advertising during a recession (in this case, pandemic)

The previous sections of this article have demonstrated the importance of continuity in advertising during a pandemic.

By pulling the plug on your marketing, and reducing the advertising budget, you're expediting the doom of your business - in one way or another.

When your competitors cut down their budget, the "noise level" in your category drops.

This gives you more visibility to either introduce a new product, promote your best-selling ones or even get a chance re-brand yourself.


Marketing is not like a light switch that you can turn ON/OFF and expect instant results.

It requires momentum, consistency and repeated exposure to your messaging to derive results.

You cannot simply turn off your campaign during the impacted months and switch it back on expecting leads and revenue instantly.

An effective marketing campaign needs to ripen and achieve maturity in the minds of your customers.

If you doubt our word, the following statistic might help you comprehend the importance of advertising now:

A survey of more than 35,000 consumers globally by Kantar found that only 8% of customers thought brands should stop advertising during the coronavirus outbreak.

However, 78% of consumers believe brands should help them in their daily lives, while 75% stated that brands should inform people of what they’re doing and 74% preferred companies to not exploit the situation.

“Brand health becomes vulnerable when companies stop advertising,” says Kantar Insights global head of media, Jane Ostler.

“If they do this for longer than six months it destroys both short- and long-term health.”



Has COVID-19 scared you into putting your marketing on hold, indefinitely?

Have you stopped or are still considering to pause your marketing campaigns?

As gloomy the current situation may seem to be, things will get better eventually. 

Don't let the outbreak halt your business and ruin everything you've built with your time, money and hard work.

The current setbacks shouldn't compel you to make the mistake of pausing your marketing.

You should look at marketing as a solution to grow your business and meet the expenses you're incurring.

The budget cuts you're making are justified to a certain extent, but don't let it kill your business during this pandemic.

After all, nobody wants to whole-heartedly shut down their business in times like these.


Useful Links for Additional Reading:

1) Coronavirus And Business: How To Market On A Budget And Stay Afloat During The Pandemic

2) Marketing During COVID-19: 4 Essential Copywriting Guidelines

3) The Dos and Don’ts of Advertising During COVID-19

4) How COVID-19 Affected The Online Marketing Industry

5) Understanding the effect of COVID-19 on Facebook Ads (by Gupta Media)

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