With events canceled, Out-of-home currently out of favor, and Experiential in RIP mode, brands have to figure out how to do business in a post-pandemic world. 

“If you don’t like where you are, move. You’re not a tree” – John Rohn.

It’s easy to forget this reasoning in the midst of a crisis. I find that companies tend to go one of two ways when faced with uncertainty. 1) They act quickly—moving to where their consumers are which right now is almost exclusively digital. Of course, that also involves pivoting from inspirational to actionable marketing strategies. Or 2) they simply stay put—stuck, paralyzed, and clinging to favored old school marketing tactics, which were effective some 10-15 years ago. And THAT, ironically enough, involves no marketing at all, but rather stopping all their advertising, sheltering in place, and waiting to take stock only after the storm passes. In actuality, the middle of a crisis is precisely when brands should be active with their messaging.

Communicating in a crisis requires brands to be agile, honest, humble, and aware. Even quick-witted if that’s on message with the brand. But it needs to be done JUST right. There’s a lot to consider with every post. But the narrative has changed in the past few weeks too which goes to show how quickly everything is moving. My sense is that crisis fatigue is setting in. Do we as consumers still want to be reminded of the situation on a daily basis? Or is it time to start considering a post-pandemic landscape? That is, a landscape that’s moved on from the hue and cry of the crisis, but acknowledges the very real hardship we’ve all endured. It’s new territory.


During this crisis, the entire world has been nesting indoors and getting its news, entertainment and, perhaps most importantly, comfort on-line. Usage of Facebook Live and Messenger Live has shot up (50% and 70% respectively) since January. Snapchat’s fortunes have also continued to improve in the pandemic, gaining 11million new daily users in Q1; Up 20%YoY. And let’s not forget TikTok, the current social media darling, extending its appeal beyond the Gen Z crowd with a record-breaking 315million downloads in the first three months of 2020.

View voices in this expanding digital refuge have been more widely heard and trusted than influencers’. The savviest and most scrupulous influencers intuitively understand our collective emotive state and it’s reflected in the content they produce. It’s why audiences are even more engaged in influencer content than they were before the pandemic. Nearly 80% of influencers reporting higher engagement from their followers state Later the marketing platform for Instagram. In particular, engagement on sponsored content increased by over 40%.

Last month, there was a general feeling that sponsored content was risky, and if not suspended or canceled altogether should have at least some very strong message pivots. Now we’re seeing content in which influencers clearly address our collective crisis without beating their audience over the head with it. In fact, there’s a clear trend here: smart influencers who continue to cultivate a rapport with their followers will check in with their audience to find out if they want to see paid content. Surprisingly, the audience doesn’t seem to mind. Rightly so.

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Instead, they are working to create a sanctuary for their audiences—an escape, if not a safe space for a little levity, part of which incorporates product recommendations and sponsored content. Consider this ambassador post by Ashlee Rose Hartley for a well-known self-tanning brand. After a brief, non-overpowering nod to the state of affairs at present (“during these times” / “get your glow on at home”) the influencer moves on to promote the product in a natural, relaxed and authentic way. The results speak for themselves; The post garnered 4% engagement (or if we’re basing off true views/impressions, over 12% engagement) and over 100 comments, 100% of which are positive in sentiment, and the vast majority of which is product/partnership centric. With the entire globe stuck at home, influencers are now more influential than ever, regardless of whether the content is organic or sponsored.

The Adjustment Phase

You might think fake tan would be a tough sell right now, but you’d be underestimating the power of influence in today’s climate. While there are brands that are still wary about sharing sponsored content, I’d argue they’re not viewing things from a broader perspective. Right now, in the midst of this crisis, the consumer mindset is changing. Just look at what’s on people’s minds. Keyword searches for “COVID”, “corona” and “social distancing” are declining, while “quarantine” is still rising. To me, this shows that the initial shock is waning and the conversation is turning toward how people are adjusting to self-isolation.

Content has been king for as long as anyone can remember, but context in the Corona age is changing the narrative for brands. More than ever, brands need to be useful. If you’ve adapted to the situation in a meaningful way you’re more than likely reaching your audience right now. Nike, always on point with their emotive messaging, has pivoted quickly to unite the world (both pro athletes and the humble jogger alike) with its ‘Play inside, Play for the World’ campaign. Featuring ordinary people working out at home, as well as celebrities, such as Lebron James and Cristiano Ronaldo completing their fitness regimes in confinement, the campaign reinforces Nike’s own core purpose to inspire, while facing challenging circumstances.

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Other brands have opted to calm anxiety or to offer a source of comfort. American hotel chain DoubleTree has cleverly tapped into the home baking trend by revealing their secret chocolate chip cookie recipe, much to the delight of their fans. The video has been viewed over 250,000 times already. Social media mentions are up. Win-win. Elsewhere, we’re seeing fashion brands shift their strategy online, with updated messaging to demonstrate that even if their physical space is closed, online is still open, rewriting their bios on every platform to reinforce this. TV commercials now have a creative flavor when commenting on the current situation. IKEA Spain offered a tribute to our humble home, whilst Honda’s #StayHome advert was written, directed, and edited entirely at home.

Introducing a New Kind of Influencer Breed 

OK, let’s speculate for a minute about what all this change means for the future. Our content expectations are already different. We’re now drawn in by more raw, ‘in the moment’ snapshots, because our reality is not some filtered perfection. Escapism is great, as long as it’s authentic. As such, influencers who can work across multiple content categories, and reach audiences with BTS creative work for brands will thrive. (Look at how Aimee Song, founder of the popular account Song of Style, has diversified in the wake of this pandemic, swapping fashion for home baking content).

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Brands, in response, could move away from the more traditional ad-led content, perhaps even forgoing highly polished and highly expensive productions. Instead, they might evolve by giving creative license to camera-armed influencers at scale. Whatever happens, going back to the old way of doing things just won’t work. Covid-19 has forced our hand and literally jolted the learning curve. The rising adoption of influencer marketing is the one curve I just don’t want to keep flat right now.

The influencer industry has certainly suffered some growing pains. Back when we didn’t have the technology to thoroughly analyze an influencer’s audience and thereby determine his or her fit with a particular campaign, brands relied on vanity metrics such as likes, comments, and number of followers. Wannabe influencers were easily seduced by the temptation to buy fake followers or swim in the seedy waters of engagement pods. In no time an entirely promising marketing discipline got a bad rep.

There Will Be No Going Back To Normal

But, in reality, influencer marketing is extraordinarily effective. Especially when it’s done right. So much so, that before Corona was a thing Mediakix predicted a $10bn budget allocation for influencers for 2020. The entire advertising industry is about to experience a revolution. There, I said it. And I believe for the better. Although influencer marketing was already on the road to widespread acceptance, the pandemic has hit the throttle. It should now be the natural selection for brands trying to be creative with their budgets. And make no mistake about it. Moving forward we’re all going to be more sensitive about social distancing. Brands will no doubt look for ways to keep staff and agency partners safe.

This is the biggest shake-up to happen to marketing. And it’s not because I belittle the Mad Men era or other advertising innovations. It’s because of the lightning speed with which the entire industry has changed and will continue to evolve. This also means the influencer profession itself is at a crossroads. It will become imperative for professional influencers to understand marketing, to approach the profession as genuine business people might, and to serve as trusted partners for brands just as creative agencies have done for years.

The industry is on the threshold of real evolution in warp speed. Call it Influencer Darwinism. Bad apples will be left to rot. Business savvy influencers will lead the way out of the current content creation dilemma for organizations. Brands that adjust now—that have the vision to pivot and then pioneer the next wave of marketing —will ride the crest in a post-Corona world.

by Jeanette Okwu, Co-Founder & CMO at 1nfluencersmarketing
MMPWW Exclusive MENA Reseller of 1nfluencersmarketing