Real Time Banter: The Challenges and Strategies for Marketing During COVID-19

In the second Real Time Banter webinar, LiveIntent SVP of global marketing, Kerel Cooper, and VP of marketing, Nick Dujnic, invite Abigail Mallick, online marketing manager at Penguin Random House, and Mike Schanbacher, head of growth at Hawthorne, to discuss the challenges and strategies for marketing during COVID-19.

Insights from Abigail Mallick, online marketing manager at Penguin Random House:

“Our shifts during COVID-19 are all under the umbrella of, ‘How can we help people right now?’ We’re boosting helpful content, like shifting messages from ‘Buy this book now’ to ‘Wellness benefits of reading.'”

“We’re working with influencers, moving away from push marketing and into the social scene to connect with people. Right now, everyone is isolated and looking for that personal connection. So they can go to Instagram and see influencers talk about a book that’s helping them escape.”

“We’ve beefed up our blacklist and reminded marketers about how to use ad messaging on different platforms. We have a young adult thrilled called ‘The Good Girl’s Guide to Murder,’ which could be potentially triggering if listed beside violent content. For something like that, we have a whitelist to make sure we’re curating and reaching the right audiences.”

“My advice for publishers is to be very flexible. We’ve really benefited from leaning into partners who are willing to work with us by temporarily bringing down minimum buys for campaigns or adding extra perks.”

“Err of the side of human. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. Be comfortable looking objectively at what you’re working on and being able to walk away if it’s not fitting this moment, even if it was appropriate a week ago.”

Insights from Mike Schanbacher, head of growth at Hawthorne:

“We sell soaps and body washes, but we’ve made a point not to communicate that we’re providing an answer to COVID-19. We’re just providing an answer to problems that have arisen from that.

“On email, we’re becoming more content-focused by doing team member highlights of how people at company are dealing with social distancing.”

“On the media side, with larger advertisers pulling out, we’ve taken advantage of cheaper media and are thinking about how we can communicate to a wider audience. We’re a D2C brand selling essential items, so people will still continue to buy even if they can’t get to the store.”

“We saw a lot more mobile traffic in the first couple of days. People were constantly checking their phones for updates and news. We’ve since seen a shift to more desktop and tablet traffic than normal. People tend to use tablets at home.”

“Early on, we struggled with whether to even address the pandemic in our emails or stay away from it. But I think it’s so top of mind at this point that we’re not concerned about it. We just want to make sure that our messaging isn’t tone-deaf when it is next to COVID-19 content – like, we won’t have images of people hugging.”

“We’re always looking to diversify our media mix, especially at times like this when there are imbalances in the marketplace. For example, large advertisers are pulling out, allowing small advertisers to swoop in. We’re thinking about the long-term and experimenting with new channels now.”

Key takeaways and best practices:

  • Provide helpful content and go for the soft sell during times of financial and social instability
  • Experiment with new channels as large advertisers are pulling ad spend and opening the door for smaller advertisers to buy at lower costs.
  • Ensure ads display properly across devices by using high-quality photos, bold colors, and concise messaging.
  • Update blacklists and whitelists to provide for brand safety and the most relevant ad placements.
  • Build your email subscriber list. Even if people aren’t willing to make a purchase yet, they may be willing to sign up for email. Get people in the top of the funnel and invest in those long-term relationships.

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