By Asia Hunt and Casey Halter, Strategists at Trollback+Company

For many of us in the creative community, it’s been weeks since we’ve seen a new face, gathered to strategize, shook a client’s hand. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a responsibility as marketers and brand managers to keep up with the times. 

As we’ve seen over the past few weeks, the response from our peers post-pandemic has been vast and chaotic. While some run headfirst into the crisis, others stay silent. And while there is no rulebook for how to react as a studio, agency, or company in these uncertain times, a pattern for success is quickly emerging.

Adapt, engage, inspire. Those should be your creative mantras for the next few months. Since the pandemic started, we’ve been collecting advice from brands, studios, clients, and studies around the world on best practices and strategies for adapting to the chaos, and wanted to share them here so we can all make more meaningful, purposeful, impactful expressions as long as this lasts.


  • Expect long term effects. This virus is going to have a lasting impact on how audiences consume media, so implementing well thought-out systems and strategies now will help in the long run. This is not a temporary solution, but the new normal.
  • Think digital and mobile-first. This may go without saying, but the consumption of social and digital content has skyrocketed (an independent survey by Social Change estimates 120% more usage). And content that is raw and home-made, i.e. that acts in solidarity of all those on their phones stuck at home, is over-indexing. For example, this past month there were an estimated 3.6 billion live stream views on content containing keywords around COVID-19.
  • Think regionally. Keep in mind that countries are experiencing this pandemic differently, in both severity and regulation. Each is at a different stage of outbreak and response toward the crisis. Audiences in lockdown are responding more favorably to serious messaging than those that are not. Thus, blanket content may not work for global brands.


  • Deliver messaging that is clear, concise and cuts through the noise. Content that has true intentions and is actively trying to help audiences learn more performs much better than clickbait content that simply states facts or mongers fear. Remember now that kids are home from school, a lot more little eyes will potentially be viewing your content. Make sure it can be universally understood.
  • Focus on visual content. Visual-first platforms like Instagram and Tiktok are currently dramatically surpassing text-based platforms like Facebook and Reddit.
  • Measure your response. The quantity of posts regarding COVID does not immediately ladder up to increased growth. Publications like NYT, which staggers their COVID articles, have earned a higher growth rate than those mentioning Coronavirus exponentially. Understand that people need a break from the crisis as well. 


  • Underscore positive, human-centered messaging. Now is a time where everyone is a little more sensitive and empathetic towards each other. Appeal to this with positive, holistic messaging that highlights coming together with compassion, support and solidarity. This does not mean you should sugarcoat or downplay the pandemic. Instead, give your audience actionable steps they can take or things that they can think about that will make a positive impact on their lives and the lives of people around them. A Twitter study by NetBase found that expressions of love and affection have increased at a rate far higher than expressions of negative emotion.
  • Be wary of advertising as normal. In a survey carried out by Global Web Index, less than half agree that brands should continue messaging as normal. Globally, people are in favor of brands responding to the outbreak with some sort of offer; whether that is flexible payment, free services, producing essential services or closing non-essential operations. Inspire people to engage with you through targeted action, not just words of advice.
  • Think future-facing: Right now, we are dwelling on the past and comparing this virus to historical events. Not enough brands are thinking and messaging about the future, but now is the time to start addressing what will happen, and plan for what’s in store. It not only helps brands to internally map, but keeps messaging positive and motivating for audiences.