Sorry we are Closed sign

Marketing in a Pandemic

Chances are, you’ve received an email in the past two months that begins a little bit like this:

“In these uncertain times…”

“I hope this email finds you healthy and safe…”

“Under these unprecedented circumstances…”

The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the world, showing a profound impact on countless industries. Among those hit the hardest: tourism, travel, and retail. How do companies within these industries stay in touch with their consumer base amid worldwide closures? Let’s take a look two companies that are doing it right: Disney and Target.


Cinderella's Castle at Disney's Magic Kingdom
ARTIST CONCEPT ONLY: Cinderella Castle is about to become even more magical inside Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. In honor of the 70th anniversary of the Disney Animation classic film “Cinderella,” the princess’ namesake castle at the heart of Magic Kingdom Park will receive bold, shimmering and regal enhancements. The royal makeover begins in the coming weeks and continues throughout summer. (Disney)

While individual Disney parks have closed for various reasons throughout the years, COVID-19 closed every park around the globe indefinitely. Never before have all Disney parks been closed at the same time, and never for so long.[i] The company furloughed 100,000 employees due to the outbreak as well.[ii]

Despite the closures, the famous Disney spirit prevails. Disney’s cast members have been connecting online using hashtags like #VoicesFromHome, featuring performers from groups like the Voices of Liberty and the Dapper Dans, who sing in the parks, and #DisneyMagicMoments.

Throughout their closures, Disney has maintained constant contact with their Annual Passholders via email and in-app notifications, and they’ve published content every day on their social media platforms. Reopening safely will be a struggle – Disney parks are high-touch, high-contact environments[iii] – but the company has been very open about their plans to operate at limited capacity and the partial reopening of certain attractions.[iv]


Among the retailers hit by pandemic restrictions is Target. Though Target is able to remain open as an essential business, they’re supporting their employees and promoting informed decision-making among their customers.

Target pledged $10 million to COVID-19 relief for its employees and communities and increased hourly wages by $2. The company also waived their leave policy and extended 14 days of paid leave to those quarantined or diagnosed with the virus. They also offered 25 days of backup child or elder care to all team members and allowed at-risk workers to stay home for 30 days of paid leave.[v]

In their messaging to their customers, Target is encouraging maintaining a safe distance from other shoppers and communicating clearly the extra precautions the company is taking to keep their customers safe.[vi] They recently ran a campaign in anticipation of Mother’s Day that featured Target affiliates creating hearts with their mothers by superimposing photos together. You can view the advertisement here. The video closes with the phrase, “No matter the distance, you’re always in our hearts.”

The Takeaways

So what have Disney and Target done that set them apart? In short, they’re communicating with their audiences, and they’re focusing on bringing people together in any way they can. It’s hard to imagine what a quarantined lifestyle would look like without virtual solutions like Zoom, WebEx and FaceTime. Disney and Target are both using these types of technology to connect not only with their consumers, but also with their employees.

When the class of 2020 finishes celebrating their virtual graduations, they’re going to enter the workforce, as are the millions of other people currently facing unemployment. One of the biggest questions they’re going to ask during that interview? How did your company treat you during the pandemic?

While it can be tricky to market products and services that people can’t use immediately, it’s important to identify their needs before addressing their wants. Right now, people need to feel secure and safe, and feeling connected to others helps them realize this.

Questions for Marketing Managers to consider:

  • How hard have your customers been hit by COVID-19?
  • How hard have your employees been hit by COVID-19?
  • How can you keep open lines of communication with your customers?