The past year has been a drag. But equally, it feels almost unbelievable that it’s been one year since Boris Johnson first asked us to stay at home! The mood of the country changed when bustling cities and close-knit communities retreated into isolation. Our resolves became stronger, and our working lives shifted onto Zoom calls with a dodgy internet connection. But similarly, our attitude to businesses and brands changed. We recognised those that were looking out for us during the pandemic, and our perception of essential needs changed dramatically.

Marketing campaigns acknowledged this changed attitude, with brands seeking out new and creative ways to grab the attention of customers. This has led to more creative marketing techniques. Exploring a variety of marketing campaigns, Washington Direct Mail shares with us the adverts and PR stunts that we responded to the most during the pandemic.

Political PR
When we look for convincing advertisement examples, you might not expect them to come from the Government. However, the task of persuading the public to follow strict guidelines during the pandemic was huge.

We’ve become used to the familiar slogan, “Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.” Indeed, its meaning is important, but its effectiveness is still interesting. Employing a power-of-three principle, which has become the recurring device of the Government during the pandemic, demonstrates the strength of simple messaging. The sentences are all imperative but indicate the direct sequence of the instructions. ‘Stay at home’ is the directive, the others happen consequently.

The simple yellow-blue-red colour scheme also demonstrates the importance of returning to basics to get your message across. The message was effective for a majority of the public, proving the importance of good marketing when needed.

Can’t believe my eyes
Of course, the Government’s messaging didn’t cut through for everyone. One Downing Street advisor, Dominic Cummings, caused national outrage when he allegedly broke lockdown to drive his family from London to Durham, and then to Barnard Castle to test his eyesight.

Good marketing campaigns are reactive. One craft beer company, BrewDog, took advantage of the newsworthy moment. The brewery launched a new beer named the ‘Barnard Castle Eye Test’. The drink features a Snellen chart and a witty tagline: “A short-sighted beer for tall stories”. Profits from the beer purchases funded BrewDog’s own sanitiser, which was then donated for free to the NHS and other health charities. You can feel even better buying this beer, knowing that you’ve helped the NHS.

Takeaways help out
It’s been a difficult year for businesses in the hospitality sector. The closure of non-essential businesses forced the likes of bars and restaurants to shut. As a result, these businesses had to rely on the furlough scheme, grants, and loans to support employees.

When these businesses briefly reopened during the summer of 2020, the Eat Out to Help Out scheme was a popular incentive for customers to return. Customers could save 50 per cent on their meals up to £10 in August, with businesses reclaiming the money from the Government. This in itself was a positive marketing campaign to encourage the finances of the hospitality sector. But it’s the campaigns of other businesses which are interesting to explore.

Takeaway delivery company Deliveroo launched their own incentivised marketing campaign: Eat In to Help Out. While takeaways were excluded from the Government scheme, Deliveroo allowed customers to save money on meals delivered to their home. The offer was not as impactful on the final bill, with only £5 deducted when you spent £20 or more. However, it launched on the back of the popular Eat Out scheme, continuing through September.

Ultimately, people have relied on takeaways since the reclosing of restaurants. By inviting people to use its delivery service, Deliveroo prepared and created new loyal customers.

Support for those who need it
It should not be undermined that the pandemic has been difficult for many people. Marketing campaigns during the past year have not all focussed on selling products or services. Instead, some marketing campaigns have been used to help the British public.

Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve celebrated the contribution of keyworkers, especially our NHS frontline staff. Clapping on our doorsteps every Thursday night became a symbol of community spirit and gratitude. Many businesses recognised their efforts, marketing their unique offers to NHS workers. Discounts at supermarkets such as Morrisons, free and unlimited mobile phone data from EE, and retail discount across many fashion stores showed that the healthcare workers would not be forgotten during the pandemic.

Another impactful marketing campaign includes that of domestic violence charity Women’s Aid. A joint investigation with Panorama found that a report of domestic abuse had been made every 30 seconds during the first seven weeks of lockdown. This marketing campaign drew attention to this fact and reminded people that leaving a dangerous household was allowed during the pandemic.

Overall, marketing campaigns have offered a unique and diverse perspective of our lives during the pandemic. From helping the public to introducing us to new incentives, campaigns have proved the importance of strong messaging. With an end to lockdown in sight, who knows how marketing will adapt to the ever-changing mood of the nation, whether they be through direct mail, TV advertisements, or exciting PR stunts.


Author's Bio: 

Andrew Richardson