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The Advertiser’s COVID-19 Playbook

The coronavirus outbreak is a concerning global occurrence, with more than 800,000 confirmed cases worldwide and just less than 40,000 deaths to date. This outbreak is reminiscent of epidemics that have occurred in the past like SARS, MERS, the Zika virus and Swine flu

However, there are a number of differences among the viruses:

  1. The coronavirus outbreak is not as deadly as the SARS epidemic. In 2003, SARS killed around 10% of the 8,098 confirmed cases of the respiratory illness.

  2. It is less deadly than the Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, which killed around 34% of the roughly 2,500 confirmed cases since it was first reported in 2012 in Saudi Arabia.

  3. The coronavirus outbreak is more deadly than the outbreak of H1N1, or swine flu. In 2009, 700 million and 1.4 billion people worldwide were affected but only had a mortality rate of 0.02%.

  4. The 2015 and 2016 Zika cases had more than 500,000 suspected cases leading to 18 deaths.

SARS and MERS were far more contained than COVID-19. More people are now infected with the coronavirus though less people are projected to die compared to the death rate of the other viruses. The current state of the world has advertisers thinking about the long-lasting effects on global consumers and not least on Caribbean consumers.

It is extremely crucial at this point of uncertainty that businesses and their advertising counterparts develop a playbook on how to respond swiftly and compassionately to their consumer base. Here are four (4) strategies advertisers and brands should add to their playbook.


  • Brands provide resources which are essential to human life. Companies are dependent on consumers for the purchase of products.

  • By seeing consumers as fellow players or stakeholders and crafting intelligent messages which respect this relationship, creative strategies will convey the authenticity and honesty needed by consumers

  • Spotify has remained authentic to their brand (music) with their COVID-19 messaging and services.


  • This is not a time when companies are simply creating messages to sell products. Action now is directly connected to preserving our friends and family, our health and our way of life.

  • Messages have surpassed their symbolic importance. This is the season for literal prescriptions to assist brands in remaining visible and relevant to consumers.

  • People are afraid and are looking for reassurance from companies. Top of mind for consumers is health, job security, bills and food shortages. It is important that brand messages lead with empathy.


  • The reality is, when the dust settles, consumers and industry professionals will remember who, did what, for whom, when. Brands’ social acts will not go unnoticed.

  • Facebook has positioned itself as a leader in corporate COVID-19 initiatives will endear consumers to brands.

  • Their leadership offsets their constrained impact during the pandemic as Facebook competes for the attention of users with other apps like Tik Tok.

  • Facebook has decided to cut through the clutter by investing US$100,000,000 in small businesses.

  • They are assisting their community of followers during this hard economic times and also inserting themselves into consumers’ lives in an effort to remain relevant during and post COVID-19.


  • Consumers can see brands coming a mile away. They know what brands want – sell, sell, sell! It is important that this reality not be hidden by ads.

  • The effort to promote brand awareness must not ignore the reality of our present times. The survival of our family is top of mind for consumers.

  • Marketing strategies must then be two-fold – health and well-being foremost and then the product.

To find out about Jamaican consumers, check out our post Are Jamaican Consumers Banking Online?


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