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How To Sustain Your Brand During COVID

Henry Ford once said, “A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.

If you look back to through history to loyal brands we recognize today, Kellogg’s continued to advertise their brand during the Depression while their competitor Post did not. Today, Kellogg’s holds 30% market share, the largest percentage among cereal companies. During WWII, Coca-Cola not only ramped up their marketing efforts, but they also added a promotion offering five cent Cokes to any American in uniform. During the last recession in 2008-2010, Ford Motor Company was able to rebound without taking government handouts like GM or Chrysler. Though they did have to adapt, Ford kept their brand on top of consumer’s minds during the recession, while their competitors were silent. Now is not the time to be silent. Brands will rebound more quickly by continuing to advertise than those who remain quiet hoping to get through by saving their money. So, what are some affordable ways you can brand and market yourself during this time? For small business owners, we're going to start with a few ideas that cost you nothing but your time.


Speaking Engagements

Currently, our local Chambers are asking for business owners to speak at their upcoming virtual events. Local category exclusive networking groups still showcase speakers regularly. Speaking engagements create an opportunity for positive PR, showcase you as an expert in your field, generate content that can be repurposed in many ways, create an opportunity to connect with current and potential clients as well as facilitate relationships with potential strategic partners. All of this increases your lead generation efforts. You can also partner with other professionals in a similar industry to talk about a topic that people would find helpful during this time. For example, self-care would be a great webinar to present right now. Invite your audience to connect with you via social media. Encourage them to post images or ask questions on social media. This is great engagement for your brand. Don’t hesitate to ask the organizer if you can capture some images to post about the event on your social media pages. This can be done virtually, too. Use the content you have and post to all your social media platforms. Be sure to let everyone know before the webinar begins that you'll be sharing photos and/or the video, so if they're not interested in being seen, they can turn their camera off. Make sure you blog about it. Depending on the topic and length, you will have at least three and up to twelve different blogs you can create with the content from your presentation. If you struggle with writing blogs, listening back to yourself is a great way to write up and organize your ideas. Try to write a blog every week if possible. Developing a blog post brings the audience to your platforms and helps with your SEO. Before shelter-in-place orders, any business card that was given to me during a presentation or a networking event, I would connect with them on social media. Nowadays, via these virtual networking events, you can take a picture of the guest list and connect that way. If you start a conversation and you had a great webinar, ask your new contact if they'll recommend you on Facebook, Google, or LinkedIn.

Social Media

Every month, my goal is to set aside two hours where I sit down, brainstorm, and write 30 social media posts. I try to share our successes, blogs, videos, provide free tips and add humor. If a potential client visits your social media page and you haven’t posted in months, you look like you're not active in your business. If you look like you're not active, people are going to be less likely to contact you for work. Post anywhere from two to four times a week, and make sure your content is solid, engaging, and presents you as an expert in your field.


Video delivers the highest return on your investment. Did you know 64% of consumers make a purchase after watching a branded video on social media? If you do not have a budget for this, create 30 second videos from home, and post them on social media once a week. Again, your content has to be engaging, and one of the best ways to do this is to offer free tips to your customers. Emily Fisher, commercial interior designer at Vast Strategies, recently recorded some tips on hanging pictures, shopping for light fixtures, video conference backgrounds to use, and incorporating wallpaper to add a punch of color in a small space. Some businesses worry that if they offer free tips, they're giving away their secrets. Sure, you are! But, you should. Giving away free advice helps build trust with current and potential clients, and showcases that you really care about your community.


Update your website to include change in store hours or policies, and be sure that it is fully optimized for search. (This is something you should reach out to your web developer about.) Let people know how you’re working virtually right now, and let them know you're here to help. Bitsy McCann, one of our designers at Vast, gets a weekly list from me that says, “Stuff to do for Tam!" She updates our website on the regular, adds my blogs to the site (like this one) ensuring keywords are there, and adds link outs throughout the blog. All of this helps with SEO.


The next few suggestions do require an investment. However, with the increased audience for social media, random Google searching, television, and streaming audio (like Spotify), now is an exceptionally good time to focus your marketing budget - even if you have a limited amount.

Social Media Advertising

With social distancing in place, people are flocking to connect on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat - which are seeing an uptick in audiences of up to 40%. Usually, investing in a targeted social media campaign of sponsored ads will have a better reach than a general post or boosted post. Business social sites like LinkedIn are seeing increases as well and are great for business-to-business marketing. Search Engine Marketing

SEM is another affordable avenue. High volumes of online usage during stay-at-home orders include online shopping and searching for products or services. You want to be sure to capture target audiences by keyword, geographical location, demographics and interests.

Combining a social media campaign with a search engine marketing campaign the works wonderfully. Let’s say you run an ad on Facebook. The consumer sees it and thinks, "I should see who else sells their products. That looks pretty cool, but I’m not sure if I’m ready." Then, they go to Google and search for your products. Boom! There you are again. People love familiarity. So if they've seen your name before, they are more likely to click on your sponsored link.

Also, you can your campaign to retarget the same prospect repeatedly, so they will continue to see your ad in other locations to remind them of your offerings. Repetition is the key to success - building your frequency will build your brand and give you credibility. TV, Cable and OTT

For larger budgets, television, cable and over-the-top viewing (via connected TV, devices, apps or websites) are seeing increases of 40-60% in audiences. However, if you're going to pay for ad placement in these locations, your video should be professional or emotive. If your video looks homemade and doesn't have a great message, you're wasting your money. Streaming Audio Platforms

Local radio stations, iHeartMedia, Pandora and Spotify are all seeing increases due to online listening. Many people are not paid users and will hear your messages. Again, repetition is key. Having a consumer hear you once won't have much of an impact. Make sure that your target is extremely focused so that you can get the best return on your investment. If you have any questions about the above, feel free to reach out to anyone on the Vast team. Here's a snap of us from our Virtual Marketing Seminar on April 9.


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