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COVID-19 and Marketing Your Business

Marketing / 3.20.20 / By Malorie Benjamin

Marketing During COVID-19

COVID-19 live updates

COVID-19 spread map

COVID-19 stimulus

Coronavirus symptoms

Coronavirus USA

These are just a few of the top searches tied to COVID-19 (novel coronavirus), which, according to Google, has experienced a 260% increase in search interest globally since the first week of February.

This is an event of scale that hasn’t been experienced since 9-11. When we look at our marketing campaigns, it leads us—as marketers—to questions like:

“It just doesn’t feel right to promote ourselves during this time. Should we pause what we’re currently running?”

As you look at next steps, consider the product/service you’re marketing, and evaluate your campaign messaging and the media tactics selected. When it comes to protecting your brand, here are three steps all marketers should take for paid media campaigns running during this time:

1. Remove your brand from any paid search queries related to COVID-19/novel coronavirus: Search volume related to coronavirus is soaring, with some sources noting it may be the biggest trend in Google search history. To ensure your brand isn’t wasting valuable dollars or being associated with COVID-19, build a robust negative keyword list of search terms related to COVID-19/coronavirus. Think about how people typically find you and ensure that any terms that might be connected to the virus or the crisis are added to the negative keyword list. These changes can be implemented through Google Ads, Bing Ads or any other paid search platform you might be using for your campaign.

2. Contextually exclude content related to COVID-19 from your digital display and video campaigns: Marketers’ fears are often filled with ads that are adjacent to content that doesn’t align with the brand. The COVID-19 experience is no different. The last thing you want to see is your brand running a display ad promoting ticket sales alongside an article about cancellations or a video ad before a news story about COVID-19.

3. Lean on your media partners and don’t be afraid to request protections for your campaigns: Along with taking precautions for your self-serve platforms, you should also lean on any media partners or platforms being used for your campaign needs. You should actively contact media partners/vendors to ensure similar exclusions have been applied to your campaigns and actively seek to understand what protections are being provided. Many major players have released statements proactively sharing the steps they’re taking, especially on the misinformation and spread of false content. Additionally, global media vendors, including Google Ads, are proactively blocking ads taking advantage of COVID-19/novel coronavirus.

With social, economic and business implications evolving daily, it’s just safe to avoid coronavirus content all together. The negative keyword list you developed for your search campaign can be evolved to create custom audiences that you should add as exclusions to your display and video campaigns, as well. If you’re using a self-serve platform of any kind, you’ll want to ensure that you build this audience to correctly exclude these keywords contextually. Why? Exclusions of other types may result in drastically reducing audience size for your ads, since this content is being consumed and searched for in such high quantities.

This is a very serious time. A time—quite frankly—more serious than your brand.

This is why you need to set up the proper measures to ensure the content people see from you during this time is properly aligned.

Giddy up! When she's not building brands, you can find Malorie with her family, corralling their five pets—two dogs, two cats and a horse.


Malorie Benjamin

Malorie Benjamin is DS+CO’s vice president of media services who stays on top of ever-changing media targeting and measurement.