Digital Marketing in The Days of Coronavirus : Daily Update

Jacob Brain


The intent of this post is to start collecting a perspective on what is happening in the digital marketing ecosystem and US economy for our clients and everyone who is thinking and considering how this international pandemic will impact digital marketing and sales efforts in light of the breaking news and activity around this virus and it’s spread. I’m planning to update this post daily with what I see to be some of the most impactful news and insights on what is happening around the globe and in B2B digital tech. I hope it is helpful to you and your team in planning your next steps.

Day 27: Wednesday 4/15/20

Today, the blog post comes to an end.

I’ve decided to put an end to this post for a few reasons. First, the pandemic is far from over and following it in this manner is not needed. Sections of our nation are reeling in tragedy, while others are managing the pandemic better than expectations predicted. We have a long way to go to fight this pandemic but a few core lessons about communication have come from this. Yet on a personal note, I can’t stomach following the news this closely anymore.

Our US news and media coverage of this pandemic has shown the emotional havoc that can be caused a free press nation that is allowed to sensationalize and report half-truths in an environment of fear. Losing lives is never trivial, yet the impact of the fear mongering and misreporting in the media has created an environment of growing distrust and needs to be addressed in a national dialog. I have never followed the media as closely as I had during creating this post, and I fell ill after two weeks of being on the media stream. In a similar sentiment of the documentary “supersize me” where the central investigator eats McDonalds every day and gets sick, the lasting effects of media on the human brain at this point in history is hazardous. As a journalist in a past life, I hardly see the resemblance to true reporting.

Second, the core communication lessons from this pandemic are becoming clearer. Most of the dynamic communications and marketing changes happened in the “shockwave” stage of the closures and shutdowns that happened all over the US in the first few days. Here are a few of those core takeaways.

  1. Most companies did a poor job communicating what was important to the consumer in the early stages. As we saw in the first week, updates on company’s status was overdone, and done poorly. In a world where everyone was impacted, I don’t think anyone wondered if the CEO of SaaS software company was thinking about. We were all thinking about the same thing; thus, the communication was overkill.
  2. Losing companies reacted to what could be lost, not what could be gained.  Companies like Zoom, MS and Google, and many others opened the doors to their offering to help those in need. Companies like 3M faced public criticism of anti-patriotism by withholding PPE to and send them to other countries over payables. In the times of crisis your company culture and leadership are exposed, like a hard pull on the blinds letting the eyes of the world see what really is going on inside. There was no time to make it “media ready” or make it “PC” or let marketing consult the CEO.
  3. It’s clear the expectation of “humanizing” of companies is part of the fabric of the US culture, and part of the ethos inside of all Americans. Those who went headfirst into helping out, found ways to benefit both the company and the public in the process.
  4. Companies who failed to embrace the idea of automation, remote work, or distancing before this are not fully engaged in the dialog.
  5. Those who were the “last to move” and communicate lost the ability to capture attention in the marketplace, possibly even criticism.
  6. What sells is always value? No one had to sell Zoom or MS Teams in the past few weeks. It sold itself as the market demand for the value it provided skyrocketed.

Third, the road out of this place for many people and companies is going to be long and diverse. Some industries that we work with are affected in different ways. Some companies are done, wiped away in a single day. Some companies are going stronger than before. There is no way to cover this climb out of COVID-19 in the macro sense. Every industry will have its own growth and challenges. It will require more detailed coverage and insight to provide good analysis. I may choose to follow up in more detail, but it will be a dynamic impact beyond a few weeks, ranging into months of time and energy for many businesses.

Thank you if you’ve been following along, I hope that the work and article has been helpful to follow. If you are reading this for the first time, you’ll see the first 30 days of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US from the view of a digital marketing company in Maryland, as this pandemic changed the face of business forever.

Day 22: Friday 4/10/20

Automation might be the next defense against the economic woes associate with pandemics. This is the discussion that all companies need to be having around what they will do to anticipate the next round or potential outbreak of something like this again. This interesting article in NY Times discusses the prospects of this happening.

Overall, I can’t help to view the outcomes of the pandemic from my own experience. About 1/3 of businesses I see are really struggling. Another 1/3 are doing “OK”, and the remaining actually gaining some market share and benefiting from the instability.

I think this proves the maxim I hear in times like this, that markets don’t die, they just move around. So this begs the question, where are you moving to capture market?

Another, more academic phrase, is how are you innovating?

This is what all businesses will need to do now more than ever, is to innovate to capture market opportunity based on the shape of the market. The needs did not dissolve, they were either barred, blocked or legislated.  Yet when the markets return in general, how will you be prepared for the shape of the market to come?

Day 22: Thursday 4/9/20

The US Government tells workers not to use Zoom over the security concerns, a bit of a blow to the company that has been in the limelight and become a household name in the midst of the crisis.

Also the much needed PPP and SBA relief is long awaited with rumors of slow delivery and failed expectations.

[See Full Post with Updates >>]

Day 22: Wednesday 4/8/20

Unmonitored day in the news and markets as I focused on work with the team internally. Finding that taking a break from media is a good habit in these times.

Day 21: Tuesday 4/7/20

The news around the virus, there is plenty, including the end of the 10-week isolation in Wuhan. In the US, the search for a treatment continues as news of new PPE become available for many of the front line workers.

In Marketing News:

[See Full Post with Updates >>]

Day 20: Monday 4/6/20

Busy day as the professional world moves into the adjustment of the US economy post the 2T dollar stimulus package. The PPP (payroll protection program) opened last Friday, yet banks and even the government was not ready for the transition.

We’ve been focusing on keeping clients moving in the right direction to capture opportunity in the marketplace. The market is still moving. Deals are being struck, clients are buying, money is changing hands. What is happening is that the buying reasons are changing.

What is most critical for us all as businesses is to adjust to the new landscape of why people are buying. The reason we are buying food from restaurants is not for the same reasons as months ago. The reason we are buying online resources or training is not the reason it was two months ago. This pandemic has changed not the products themselves, but the initial buying mechanisms and why for those products and services.

What you can do right now is figure out what the new “why” is for your product or service and adjust immediately. The old “why” might not come back for a while.

Day 16-17:  4/2/20-4/3/30

I took these days off as a break from social media and media in general as the constant stream of media and news around this is record setting and never before experienced by mankind.  It’s 24/7 on every news channel, every media source is talking about it and the amount of content being produced is clearly overwhelming.

Day 15: Wednesday 4/1/20

“Some horrible days ahead”. A paraphrase from our president as the CDC and Whitehouse release notes on projected pandemic peak occurrences in the next days as we find out how social distancing and other strategies pay off to flatten the curve.

My Notes:

Keeping up with the general pace of news and marketing trends feels like a unending race that was expected to be a sprint.  Marketing and advertising is very low on the priority list as companies are still try to navigate the general slowdown on the economy. Many are using the existing channels to help keep awareness up and stay engaged with their audience, yet the buyers are fewer in many markets.

With all the projections on the pandemic coming out in the past days, it does not seem like normalcy with occur in Q2. Peak values and downturn may occur through May into June. This is going to be an extended challenge to all businesses and markets. The CARES act will be a help to many, but true hope is only in the defeat and reestablishment of the markets after this has passed.

The news has slowed down as well. The frenetic pace has given way to the long winter of isolation and bedding down in our homes to see how this comes to bear on the market. We are all trying to help each other, and hopefully there is enough of us left after this to help and be helped.

[See Full Post with Updates >>]

Day 15: Monday 3/30/20

We are entering into the third week of isolation here in the US. In Maryland specifically, today our Gov. Hogan put into place a statewide “shelter-in-place” order that would make it criminally liable for those traveling outside of the house for non-essential reasons.

We are bucking in for a long month of continued growth and spread of the coronavirus. Dr. Birx predicts up to 200,000 U.S. coronavirus deaths ‘if we do things almost perfectly’ . Doing this perfectly sounds like a very tall order for a nation of over 600 million people, considering compliance at this point has been moderate. The scramble for hope in medicines continues as FDA approves emergency use of malaria pill for COVID-19 treatment.

In Business;

Total cases reported as of Monday Afternoon; 156,391, over 2K deaths. (NYtimes)

[See Full Post with Updates >>]

Day 12: Friday 3/27/20

NYTimes staff along with a team of epidemiologists put together this interesting case and model for the spread and its containment. It has an interactive slider to help you see what another 4 weeks of isolation could do for the US outbreak.

(Lost time to make all the updates.)

Day 11: Thursday 3/26/20

The rise of the entrepreneurial spirit. Countless companies are stepping up and innovating their business models to adjust to support the COVID-19 effort. Here is a short list of the most notable. But hundreds of breweries and distilleries are creating hand sanitizer and other companies are creating masks to help the effort.

And in similar fashion after 9/11 and rightly so, the american medical worker is the new hero of the day. Businesses are following suit supporting as they can.

Virus Stats:  More than 68,440 cases have been reported in the US as of Thursday afternoon.  Deaths have surpassed 1.5% of tested cases. (CDC)

Day 10: Wednesday 3/25/20

The internet is starting to show some cracks and loads as multiple reports and companies try to change settings to deal with the online volume. One of the articles goes to shed some light on the issues and why we might see more of this in the future, esp. if this type of home-based living continues and massive internet usage follows suit.

We are starting to see reports that the market for advertising is slowing down. Two reports highlight ad spending cost, which are usually the first of advertising budgets to be cut, are declining. From my own experience, marketing and advertising budgets are being cut or considering evaluation until a more solid understanding of where the market goes in the coming weeks. I call it a “retraction” as budgets are being pull in, not cut completely as a moderation is being applied to the overall approach to the market until we get a real sense of when this might end.


School are closed in MD for another 4 weeks, as Gov. Hogan extends the school closure until April 24th.

We have a bill. The bipartisan efforts are producing a bill that is developing by the hour in the depths of the government.

More than 1/2 of our cases/deaths in the US are in NY.

Further Reading:

Virus Stats:  More than 54,453 cases have been reported in the US as of Wednesday afternoon. An 8x increase in one week.  (CDC)

[See Full Post with Updates >>]

Day 9: Tuesday 3/24/20

We have a date? Trump pushes to get the work world back by Easter, and the opinions fly as NY is seeing doubling rates every 3 days. The US reaches #3 in overall world cases.

The general sentiment is that we’re all waiting, wanting business to get back to working. Marketing efforts are still riding rough as they are trying to get things detailed on when this is back to normal.

Further Reading:

Day 8: Monday 3/23/20

This will be the week of the winnowing.  Companies will move from reaction to proactive into cutting costs and creating stability in operations as the weakest and most affected businesses have fallen. China is reporting a surge in the economy now that they are getting back to work, seeing a rise in many sectors of business. Could we start thinking in this same way as a nation?

The issue remains, can a debt laden economy and businesses survive the unknown in the weeks ahead? Does labor become more reactive and flexible? Does this create a massive gig economy in the end? Does this change the small businesses focus on growth to sustainable long term cash vs revenues?

We are all wondering will this two weeks of isolation be the end of it? I think not. I think we’ll have another two weeks with changes in the overall structure of the economy. It might actually be better if they (government) put out a date in the far future to allow for a right size compensation/relief package and encourage the long term commitment vs the daily unknown of our current situation. What would you do if you knew we’d all be back to work and business “as normal” on May 1st? How would that change your view of right now?  It wouldn’t change much except I’d stop thinking about today and start planning for tomorrow.

In marketing, the world is online. There is massive user and impression counts going on in the online forum. If you want to be noticed, there has been no better time. Of course this comes with a rub. The rub is this, very few people are buying. People are still buying, but only in sectors that are either booming or seeing positive impact or no impact from this event.  It’s still a worthwhile investment to be online right now, and its producing return. You just need to know how to be in the right place at the right time.


The US turns full focus on the government response and incoming stimulus to help the thousands of businesses that have been impacted and continue to be impacted by #socialdistancing and other measures of shutdown to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Further Reading:

Day 5: Thursday 3/20/20

It’s on.

The marketing push has started as I’ve seen more messaging now start to blend the lines between “we’re here to help” in a crisis mode, to “we’re here to help you with our products and services” under the blanket of the consumer concerns and fears around the virus and its implications. Tisk tisk…

The media-fueled panic continues to push our attention to social media and outlets to try to track this pandemic on our soil, while businesses have been heads down all week trying to keep employees and businesses operating. The big fear – cash flow – and how to keep receivables and payments moving in a time of uncertainty.

In digital marketing, media placements online are doing boom business right now as the internet usage has increased. No stats in the US, but the UK reports a 30% surge in internet use from one provider.

States are following NY, by considering stay-at-home orders.

Further Reading:

Virus Stats:  More than 15,000 cases have been reported in the US as of Friday afternoon.  (CDC)

Day 4: Thursday 3/19/20

The US is starting to focus on trying and testing associated drugs, like a malaria drug. The climate in the state of MD continues to tighten as our Governor decides to close the airport to non-ticketed travelers, and all malls and public venues to close today at 5.

Cases in the US continue to rise as more infections are noted as testing becomes more widely available. Its a critical time in the spread of the virus, and more so the testing of the virus.

The long awaited strain on the internet is showing some cracks as governments in the EU start to monitor the amount of traffic used by streaming services such as netflix.

Microsoft teams rolls out a background noise filter as the competition between work chat platforms heats up.

Further Reading:

Virus Stats:  More than 10,000 cases have been reported in the US as of Thursday afternoon.  (NyTimes Interactive Coronavirus Map)

[See Full Post with Updates >>]

Day 3: Wednesday 3/18/20

We entered into the third day of the #remotework and #quarantine in the US.  There is a sense of adjustment with much of the concern still on when this might be over and how fast and severe the virus is spreading in the US. Many are calling for more dramatic measures, while many abroad are not taking the quarantine seriously.

The President of the US invokes “Defense Production Act” to improve the availability of supplies toward fighting the pandemic in the US. While in the same day working with Canadian officials to close the US-Canadian border to non-essential traffic. And the long awaited 2020 US census has stop operations until April.

Italy reports highest single day toll of 475 deaths.

Stocks reach a new low as the market volatility continues. Industries in the entertainment, travel, restaurants and tourism are bracing for the unexpected. Simon, the largest owners of shopping malls in America announces a closure of all properties at 7pm today.

Layoffs and limiting of time and other employment strategies are driving many to the unemployment offices, breaking the tech that supports it in Colorado.

On the marketing side of things, every technology company and services seems to be releasing “A letter of concern from our CEO” and is filling inboxes creating a bit of a backlash. Companies that were once serving in the background have brought attention to their unsubscribe links and subsequent bad taste and appeal to a false sense of caring.

Further Reading:

Virus Stats:  7,047 cases have been reported as of this, Wednesday afternoon. Deaths increasing show a leaning toward 60+ and those with existing health issues. (NyTimes Interactive Coronavirus Map)

[See Full Post with Updates >>]

Day 2: Tuesday 3/17/20

More responses are coming from tech companies who are sending out emails and communications on “being here to help” and make the transition to work from home life. What makes the situation more complicated that a voluntary work from home situation is that the public schooling systems are closed, leaving many parents battling both working from home and the unusual life at home during the week with the kids.

Phishing scams and internet hackers are presenting threats to information and systems as most of the world turns to the internet for just about everything. They are even trying to hack the US health administration systems.

The state of Maryland, under the direction of Gov. Hogan, has moved to prevent any utility from being disconnected during this time and many americans start to feel the impact and layoffs and releases from work begins in earnest.

Further Reading:

Virus Stats:  5,303 cases have been reported as of this afternoon. (NyTimes Interactive Coronavirus Map)

[See Full Post with Updates >>]

Day 1: Monday 3/16/20

This is the first day of the MD state isolation and postponement of schools. This two week forced isolation pushed most of our New North team into #remotework.

Social media is teaming with #WFH and #remotework hashtags as most of the US is moving to remote work. Much of the white collar workforce has had the ability, yet many sectors are facing this new challenge.

The general response from tech brands is a response of “We’re here to help”. Here are five companies that are giving away free tools to help the push towards an economy and workforce moving online and in the home.

The President of the US, Donald Trump releases “15 Days to Slow the Spread” Campaign. Releasing some guidelines that you can read here. Slow the Spread.

The first clinical trial of a vaccine started today in Seattle.

Lots of MarTech Stocks (Hubspot, Google, Salesforce, Facebook, Twitter) continue to dive as tech stocks follow the trend as the market sees instability in unpredictable times.

Further Reading:

Virus Stats:  900 new cases are added to the talley on M0nday  (NyTimes Interactive Coronavirus Map)

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