During the 1990 to 1991 recession, Sam Walton, who ran a small supermarket business in the States, decided that although the country was in turmoil, he would forge ahead with his business and continue his advertising efforts. His hope was that once the recession had lifted, the business would have built some exposure and be in a strong position to prosper.

Within two years of the recession lifting, Sam Walton had increased his business’ share price by 200% and the globally-recognised supermarket, Walmart, was born. 

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While we are living through quite different times at the moment, I feel this sends a message to all small businesses out there, faced with various challenges as a result of Covid-19, that there is light at the end of the tunnel and, by working together in strategic and mindful ways, we can weather this storm and ensure that as many businesses as possible continue to prosper when we get to the other side of the pandemic. 

Gathering tips and advice from our colleagues and peers, we have pieced together some tips below which will hopefully provide some insightful ways to approach advertising, specifically outdoor advertising, during this time.

 

Be mindful of your moral duties 

There is no hiding from the fact that Covid-19 is having many serious affects on our personal lives and the lives of those in our communities. At this time, our collective priority must be to stay safe, stay home and adhere to all government guidelines.

With this in mind, we must first and foremost be mindful of how our businesses are represented through advertising: your messaging must be responsible and sensitive to the severity of this pandemic at all times.

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Simple things to think about include ensuring your campaign does not promote anything which centres around human contact such as events, visitor attractions, (off-line) retailing etc. It’s important that you and your business are seen to be adhering to the lockdown and social distancing restrictions so that your customers and peers view you as a responsible brand, which in turn will instil positive associations with your business going forward. 

Think more about your online offering if you’re a retailer or how your business can help its local community beyond its usual remit during this time. Can you use your fleet of vehicles to offer home-delivery services or can you help vulnerable people with their errands and shopping? These are all things that position you as a brand that cares and everyone needs to feel cared for at the moment!

 

Review your advertising commitments strategically

In these uncertain times, many small business may be inclined to halt all spending and cancel any live or future advertising commitments. While every business is unique and in a different situation, our advice would be to go ahead with your advertising schedule as planned.

Studies have shown that small businesses who continue with their advertising efforts during an economic downturn, do fair better when the economy picks back up. This is because they have maintained their exposure to their target audience and already have the ball rolling, meaning they can begin to make profit sooner rather than having to start again. 

 

Consider our new habits

Following the Prime Minister’s official lockdown announcement on Monday 23rd March, people’s lives and their routines have changed dramatically. For now, life centres around our homes but, we can still go out to the supermarket or go for one walk a day.

We now need to think about people’s new habits and try adjust advertising accordingly. Think about where people will be going for their walks – parks and other open spaces – and anticipate the routes they will take to get to these places. People may be driving or walking through towns and along main roads where billboards will be located so think about placing your billboards in these areas. 

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We are all going to be taking in our outdoor surroundings much more during this time as simply being outside, will feel like a luxury compared to being bound to our homes so much.

As a result of people appreciating their surroundings more, you could even find that you begin to reach a more diverse range of audience demographics: think millennials and Gen Zs who usually get their exercise fixes in gyms, and who will now be exercising outdoors.

 

Going the extra mile for customers 

At this time, brands might like to consider going the extra mile to look after their customers. People need to feel cared for and not forgotten at the moment so perhaps think about ways you can make your customers feel special. 

Think about discounts and special offers that your customers can redeem online and then be creative with ways to get your products to them too. Can you offer a delivery service or can you post your products in inventive packaging?

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Also ramp up your e-newsletters and social media activity and offer customers ‘added value’ tips or fun things to do at home: become their ‘friends’ and be a brand they look forward to hearing from.

When times are tough and people are feeling a little lower than usual, customers will remember you as the business that really thought about their wellbeing and happiness.

 

Playing the long game with outdoor advertising 

Although it’s hard to think this far ahead, as businesses we need to keep thinking about life post-Covid-19 and how we can boost our businesses effectively to help parachute us back down to our feet again. 

In order to do this, customers need to have faith in the system again to help them feel confident about spending which means your products need to be out there, ready to consume. And by out there, we do literally mean, out there, with a billboard. 

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Whet people’s appetites for the things they can enjoy now and post-Covid-19 through targeted outdoor advertising: keep in touch with people and keep your brand front-of-mind so that you can flourish again. 

Try think to the future as much as possible. We’re not sure how long we will need to stay in isolation for but the moment restrictions are lifted, people will be itching to get out, see the bright lights of the cities and return to the lives they had before. 

 

Final thoughts 

Although investing in outdoor advertising (or continuing with your current contracts) may not immediately feel like a necessity at the moment, making sure your business is in people’s minds throughout all this, will give you a great head start when the economy lifts again. 

If you would like to chat through any thoughts or ideas relative to your billboard advertising plans, we are are always here and happy to help however we can. We have in-house design and copywriting resources, too, so if you need some creative support, we’re on-hand to help here too.

 

Stay safe and let’s ride this wave together!