How the pandemic has affected advertising approach of global brands?

The SARS-CoV-2 virus pandemic has radically changed daily human activities, from transportation, working habits, spending time with friends, etc. It also had a great impact on the economy, given that large and small businesses, without distinction, have found themselves together in the same situation – to fight for their costumers’ attention, keeping them engaged and loyal to the brand. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, large global companies have recognized the importance of creativity in times of not such a positive atmosphere, and have adapted their communication strategies to the new situation.

A large number of global brands, including Apple and Ikea, have designed their communication approaches and styles around the extremely emotional and sensitive moment we are living in. In the Creativity Goes campaign, Apple singled out a series of home videos that show that creativity, even in conditions of pandemic and isolation, survives, and that people still find a way to share it with others. In the equally emotional video I stay home, IKEA reminded consumers why their home is important, how important it has always been, in good or in bad and that being in your home can be a positive thing after all. At the same time, through social media, Ikea has launched the #IKEAatmine challenge by inviting its employees and consumers to share photos and inspiration for home decoration, in order to make the living space as pleasant as possible during quarantine.

It is not such a surprise that the theme of being isolated at home, with numerous activities that started taking place in it all of a sudden, was the inspiration for many other brands. With the Play for the World campaign, Nike has supported athletes who are currently unable to train in their natural habitats or play in front of a large audience, but are forced to do so at home, thus symbolically playing for the health of the entire planet.

Brands from the fashion and beauty industry were especially forced to fight so that their market would not suffer much in an era of reduced human interaction. Given that traditional editorial shootings with models have become impossible, Zara realized a campaign in which clothes were sent to the models for them to improvise the shooting at their homes. They were than invited to photograph themselves, taking care of the art direction, styling, make-up and hairstyle. L’Oreal realized a how-to tutorial with actress Eva Longoria on how to cover gray hair at home. On the other hand, the Dove brand with the Courage is Beautiful campaign paid tribute to healthcare workers who risked their lives and health on a daily basis by caring for the sick under heavy protective equipment that left scars on their faces.

There were also some brands that used the situation with quarantine and the pandemic to approach their consumers in a humorous and funny way. The KFC fast food chain has announced a Press pause on ‘It’s Finger Licking Good’ campaign for now. Namely, as their long-standing slogan suggested that KFC food is so delicious that you “lick your fingers”, with this campaign they asked their consumers not to do it for a while. McDonald’s also portrayed how it feels to be afraid to touch any public space in the #touchthis campaign, while Heineken joked about different awkward situations happening due to the isolation – failed video call attempts (link) or discomfort at first, frightened visits to the pub or meeting friends outside (link). The most famous American brand of ketchup, Heinz, went a step further by launching a special edition of puzzles. Namely, relying on the fact that most people turned to playing board games during quarantine, Heinz launched puzzles of 570 pieces, all in the same red color, intended, as the company pointed out, only for those most persistent puzzle lovers. The joke was not lacking in the print campaign launched by Starbucks as well, which showed what it is like to catch the names of its customers properly in order to write them down on coffee cups during the pandemic, since everyone is wearing a face mask.

At the majority of this year’s advertising festivals, due to the large number of campaigns that were realized during the pandemic, a special category for creativity during the SARS-CoV-2 was presented. Most of the so-called Covid-19 campaigns have been awarded with first prizes, as consumers and general public identified with their messages and communication styles easily. These and similar examples are just an indication that the world’s top brands are able to reach their public even in times of crisis, stimulating emotions, inspiring and encouraging, and that brand communication may have never been such a powerful social force before in history.

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