Let's not kid ourselves, it is rough out there right now for marketing. From blank billboards to an 33 percent dive in digital ads, marketers are jittery to say the least. Frankly, they are faced with unprecedented challenges, both personal and professional. From furloughs and job cuts to postponed or cancelled launches, the impact on the industry is understandable, if daunting and demoralizing. Feeling fearful about marketing right now -- the risk of being perceived as tone deaf or insincere and faced with infinite uncertainties -- is a completely justifiable sentiment. 

However, there is risk associated with allowing marketing to go completely dark. While we are in no position to pretend that it is "business as usual" right now, we are creative problem solvers. We've seen tough times before. And, unfortunately, we are bound to see them again.

First and foremost, you must kind to yourself and empathetic to others and you need to keep your priorities firmly in their place. However, you can extend these values to the work you do during this challenging time. It will help you weather this crisis and position you and the brands and businesses you represent, to rebound with responsiveness, agility, and strength. 

Consumer Behavior

The good news is that audiences are highly engaged with the media right now. The impact of Covid-19 on media consumption has been profound. We need only look at our own behavior to get a sense of it. Significantly, however, it does have some generational variances that are worth considering as we cautiously move forward with our marketing plans.

According to a Global Web Index report, Boomers are watching more television (up 45 percent) and have increased their online video viewing 21 percent. Gen X is not far off, watching 45 percent more television and 35 percent more digital video. While both Millennials and Gen Z have both increased their consumption on these mediums, they are leaning hard into gaming, with a more than 30 percent uptick.

The fact is that, after an initial rush to news in an attempt to understand the medical and economic implications of the pandemic, people across all generations have turned to entertainment mediums as coping mechanisms and as a way to fill the free time they might have otherwise spent outside of their homes. People are even increasing their subscriptions to print magazines. This means that we are presented with-- pardon the expression-- a truly captive audience, across generations, and across a wide range of platforms.

Mindset and Messaging

In terms of messaging to the right-now consumer, the key is that we are all in this together. Consumers, faced with their own job uncertainty, for example, are keen to do business with companies caring for their own employees.

Educational and informative messages are also both useful and engaging. These are particularly well suited to placement alongside news content, which is racking up attention (and which, according to the Association of National Advertiers, offers a highly suitable setting for most advertising). But, like the other content people are drawn to now, lighthearted and uplifting messages will also resonate. As ever, carefully consider the customer, your messaging, and the context of your placement.

That said, none of us plan to be in business for the short term. Thus, beyond consumers' immediate needs, we need to think about our goal to develop long-lasting customer relationships. It is impressive to see everyone from family restaurants to car companies innovate with contactless buying experiences. Innovation, pivots, and helping customers cope with the challenges they currently face will create meaningful impressions.

However, it is equally inspiring to witness public service moves, such as AT&T offering doctors and nurses three free months of unlimited wireless service, news sites offering free access to critical Covid-19 coverage, Adobe's offer of free access to its Creative Cloud for students learning from home, or America's Test Kitchen providing free access to sorely-needed recipes. Being there alongside your customers - be they frontline workers or newly homeschooling parents - will forge a lasting bond.

We all face uncertainty now, for our health, for our loved ones, for our jobs, and for the larger economy. Marketers: Your concerns are real. However, remember that we are in this together. And marketers who can extend that empathy beyond immediate forecasts and the confines of the current situation will poise themselves for success.

The customer is watching. The customer is reading. The customer is listening. Deliver a meaningful message now, as always, and you will better weather the storm and build a business that lasts.