As Delta Variant Impacts Marketing Strategy, Change Your Creative Approach

The word on every marketer’s lips over the past 8 months has been “re-opening” -- or the phrase we have been colloquially using -- “the new normal.”

Although the COVID-19 vaccine brought tremendous hope that we would soon emerge from our stay-at-home bubbles, the rise of the Delta variant has thrown a wet blanket on many marketing organizations’ post-COVID “new normal” re-opening strategies.

The world is learning more about the Delta variant (and subsequent variants) with each passing day. How common are breakthrough infections for vaccinated individuals? How quickly can re-imposing mask mandates curtail this surge of Delta cases? How are young children reacting to this variant? More data will yield more lifestyle changes, either more restrictive or less.

While these answers develop, marketers must begin updating their content and creative strategies, but should hold off on making any major changes to media plans until more information is available about how the Delta variant will impact consumers’ day-to-day realities over the next several months. 

How Can Marketers Shift Their Re-opening Message?

The challenge for marketers during these tumultuous times will be enacting flexible creative assets with messaging that can be iterated upon to continuously address the reality of consumers living in a world that is constantly in flux. Here are a few ways marketers can manage their marketing plans:

Flex Agile Muscle Memory: First and foremost, tap into that agile muscle memory developed over the past 18 months and remember we are more prepared this time around to meet the challenge of this critical COVID-19 variant. Working nimbly does mean brands must work fast, but it doesn’t mean they have to start from scratch.

Creative that ran in 2020 is readily available in content libraries. Marketers should pull some of the best-performing content off the shelf, update messaging if necessary, and re-introduce it into campaigns using a test-and-optimize mindset. Content that inspires a renewed sense of community, safety, and hopefulness is particularly important to test at this time.

Tone Down “Return to Normal” Message: Until the world has a better understanding of how long the Delta wave is expected to impact our grand “re-opening,” brands shouldn’t make dramatic changes to their media plans -- not yet, at least.

Instead, marketers should review creative and ad copy to tone down any explicit “return to normal” messaging, especially in regions where restrictions are being re-imposed. This is vital for marketers because if they do not reframe their messaging, brands risk showing themselves as out of touch with their customers’ realities.

Use Geo-Specific Approaches: Similar to large organizations managing hybrid work models across different regions, the same must be done for how you manage your marketing. For example, with newly imposed mask requirements in some regions, consumers may not be shopping in-person as much as they were a few months ago.

If your ad creative shows consumers shopping in-store without a mask, tweaking that content to reflect the on-the-ground realities of that area is paramount to building trust and credibility in your brand. Geo-specific creative is also an effective way to educate customers on different policies brands may have in place locally, such as buy-online-pickup-in-store or altered hours. 

Delta Variant Takeaway

The fact is that no one yet knows exactly how much the Delta variant will impact the second half of 2021 and beyond. What we do know is that it is absolutely necessary for brands to reevaluate their current marketing messages and make sure they are remaining sensitive to what their customers are experiencing.

It may become necessary to tweak media plans to best capture consumers’ attention. But as agile marketers, let’s take a data-driven approach to that decision week-in and week-out.

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