How to prepare your marketing department for the Coronavirus – start by not panicking……yet

I’m a big believer in procrastination when it comes to panicking. Why panic today and steal all the pleasure out of panicking tomorrow? The coronavirus appears to be a great opportunity to panic but just not yet. As I’m writing this, and I have to qualify that considering how quickly the market is dropping, clearly investors are panicking. The Dow is down approximately 5000 points (17%) off of recent highs…..and it is still dropping. The financial pundits are blaming somewhere between most of the drop and all of the drop on the coronavirus. I’m not entirely sure that the coronavirus should get all of the blame, considering that the stock market has been growing double digits cumulatively since 2009.


The thing about the coronavirus is that we just don’t know how bad it could be. Right now, health officials are estimating the death rate of coronavirus is 3%, which is three times the rate of the flu. We don’t have enough information to know if the death rate will eventually be closer to flu levels of 1% or up to 20%. We don’t know if the virus will follow the flu seasonal pattern, which means it will largely disappear in the northern hemisphere in a month or two…..or not.

According to the CDC, there are only 15 confirmed cases in the US and only five states had any confirmed cases. Put in a glass is half full statement, there are 349,999,985 people in the US that do NOT have a confirmed case of coronavirus and there are 45 states that do NOT have any confirmed cases. Right now, the odds are with us.

Travel bans and restrictions have already been put into place and President Trump is considering adding more bans as more cases of coronavirus are being discovered around the world. The CDC is recommending people, businesses, organizations and schools plan for a significantly wider spread of the coronavirus. This means that fewer people will be traveling. More people are going to attempt to telecommute. My school has suggested professors consider how we will continue to educate even if live classes are discouraged.

What does this all mean to the marketer? It mean understanding your consumer and planning ahead for possible changes (good and bad), just like always. Consumers are starting to get nervous. I’ve heard of a number of people what are reconsidering their travel plans. Perhaps staying in the country for fear of a ban getting them stuck internationally. Some are avoiding trains, cruise ships and planes because they don’t want to risk exposure in such tight quarters.

Consider shifting your marketing efforts to (an ever greater degree) online. Be ready to shift even more of your efforts to online. If the coronavirus does not die down this spring, brick and mortar is going to be fairly empty. I also suggest that you pull as many campaigns towards the beginning of the year as possible. The risk of a recession this year has grown.

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