COVID-19 PLAYBOOK2020-05-14T08:15:32+00:00



By now most people have gotten used to what they used to call new habits a few weeks ago. 
COVID-19 changed the way we behave, not only as people, but also as businesses
We are now approaching deconfinement slowly, step by step. And even if the road ahead is still long, we finally see some light at the end of the tunnel.

At blue2purple we took the time to read, analyse and compile many studies and trends that were published over the past period. 
This playbook is made to help you navigate through these extraordinary times. 
The topics below will give you an idea of what has been observed most in all the different studies. 
To make it simple for you to navigate, we’ve subdivided all the topics into different categories. 

Happy reading !


I. General

From a business perspective, we haven’t all been hit the same way. 
Some industries have flourished during this pandemic, some have been extremely negatively impacted.

The Board of Innovation released a study: “Low Touch Economy” containing a matrix, dividing business into twelve strategical responses to COVID-19. Two factors are at the center of this classification: the impact of the pandemic on your business and your ability to adapt and secondly the severity and duration of the economic crisis.

This categorization helps you understand how to better: grow your business or relaunch your business

The two first categories: “positive” & “mildly negative” will have to either maintain or increase their market share won during confinement, whereas “severe” and “catastrophic” will have to think about how to relaunch their business based on owned data, but mainly dependable on external data.

  • Define what category you are in
  • Define your action plan for a V-curve rebound (as this is the scenario we’re actually in), ask yourself question such as:
    • What usable information do I have at my disposal?
    • Where are my opportunities of growth or relaunch?
    • What barriers should I lift to increase user experience
    • What products or services should I focus on?
    • How is my competition moving

II. Timeline

Even though the first measures were only taken in March when it comes to Belgium, COVID-19 has been present long before this. 
Here’s a timeline to refresh your memory


III. Economical impact

The lock down impacts the financial situation of many Belgians.

The VRT reported that there is a temporary unemployment rate of 30% in Belgium in the month of April. In other words, 1,25 million active employees were on temporary unemployment.

VTM conducted a study across Belgian people, and 16% of the respondents fear to lose their job permanently once the crisis is over. And almost 1 Belgian out of 5 can’t save money at the moment. Belgians stay positive, as the majority (63%) of them expects the impact on the economy to be limited to this year.

IV. Industry Focus

The board of Innovation study,  Low Touch Economy, defined factors impacting the outcome for your industry

We see that the two most impacting factors are hygiene and human interactions. If these are critical, they will have severe consequences for your business. 

Being able to pivot when facing these obstacles, is the only way to turn the tides. There is no doubt that the outcome is strongly led by the change in customer behaviour due to the situation and the restrictions put in place

Industry Focus

We know that this crisis has a big impact on industries that are now closed due to the lockdown. 

When we look into the categories that were reduced in the crisis of 2008, we can only expect that these industries might continue to suffer once the lockdown is stopped and the economical crisis will follow.

V. Consumer Behaviour (during lock down)

From a webinar given by the global Web Index, it is no surprise to learn that the majority of people are delaying major purchases (such as: concerts / theater / Flights / events / vacation holidays). Only the basic needs such as insurance are not being delayed. 

1 out of 4 consumers are planning to buy their normal purchases once the outbreak is over in their country. Most people are looking at China and how they are evolving after their lockdown.

As in most countries people are still in lockdown and only starting to see measures softening, 20% of them spend more time online for shopping. Of course, shopping is focussed towards essentials (Food, HH products, personal care). This increase of time online has resulted in changed expectations towards types of servicing, examples are: adding essential products to your offering that aren’t normally in your product range, click & collect services (outside the store), avoiding cues by booking specific time slots to pick up your orders. 

These changes are mainly coming from High income households and younger aged people (Gen Z & Millennials). 

Gather data around your customers to understand their needs & expectations. 

  • Do you see differences between segments? 
  • Where do you notice the biggest decrease? How does this decrease manifest itself?
  • What’s the impact on your business? Do we see some products/services selling better?
  • Are there any differences between behavior from people in your CRM and people online? What trends do you see?

VI. Media Consumption

According to the Global Web Index there’s a clear increase in media consumption and people are more active online.

95% of surveyed people are consuming more media, mainly because they’re watching news coverage (67%), but not only, half of people are also enjoying movies and shows via streaming services.

Media cunsumption

It’s clear that people spend their time consuming video content channels. Not only digital, broadcast TV is the winner.

Media cunsumption 1

And even if you think this is only a temporary phenomenon, people do expect to continue to consume more online videos, music streaming & read books once the crisis is over. 

Don’t forget it takes a certain number of days to change a habit, people now have time to do so, but once life catches up, they’ll have the tendency to stay in those newly acquired habits. 

Posting videos to social media is not just popular for the youngest audience groups anymore. 1 out of 5 parents with young children (compared to 14% of all consumers) are also embracing this new way of expressing themselves. No doubt there’s a shift in platform usage, and some will have accelerated their growth during COVID-19 (think about TikTok). 

Social media platforms aren’t only used for entertainment, they’re also used to follow information about the Coronavirus.

Media cunsumption 2

According to a Havas study, mobile is the major device used by Belgians

Media cunsumption 3

And newsbrands outperform broadcasters on the web in the north of the country. When looking at the south, main TV sites lead, but there is an increasing reach for digital newsbrands

So it’s clear, there’s an increase in potential audience reach, unfortunately this trend isn’t followed by advertisers. A huge collapse in advertising revenues is seen due to cancellations or deferral of campaigns. 

The study shows there’s a real paradox between what consumers are doing with the media, while advertisers are holding back, and questioning how they should handle their campaigns. It’s noteworthy to mention this fact, because all studies show the importance of continuing to communicate with your customers in times of crisis

  • Understand that pricing of inventories are now at an all time low, but unfortunately this is already changing and returning to normal (as more and more advertisers are activating campaigns)
  • There’s a massive reach opportunity as people spend more time online, and less advertisers are present. This is changing quickly, as more and more advertisers are starting to communicate again.
  • Adapting your message is key !

VII. When to communicate & how

Brandbuilding is something that is built over time. It’s image communication that is maintained on the long term.

Sales activation is key for a brand, but only generates a short term uplift, and has no impact on a long term growth.

When to communicate

There’s an impact of your share of voice on your market share. Reducing a brand’s share of voice often results in a significant decline of its overall market share over time.

when to communicate

If you ask yourself WHEN you should communicate, this is what you need to take into consideration:

  • The choices you make on media planning today will have an impact tomorrow on your business and brand’s KPIs
  • This period with less advertising is an opportunity to launch an offensive in terms of market share and prepare future recovery
  • Anticipate a reduced inventory to come by remaining active today and capitalize on the short/medium term effects to maximize chances of success at the end if the year

The majority of people approve for brands providing information and Corona focussed advertising. The highest approvals come from advertisers providing useful & practical information or tips to help people cope with the situation. Brands that continue on advertising normally, with no message adaptation and brands that focus on selling non-essential products online score very badly.

Majority of people

Light hearted funny videos can still be shared by brands to entertain people. 

There’s an increased demand for more video content due to increased in-home media activities that are spiking (certainly broadcast TV). 

More particularly for Belgium, a study from Kantar shows that people expect from brands that:

  • Only 8% find it a priority that brands should stop communicating
  • 77% Think that brands should communicate how they can be useful 
  • 70% Expect a reassuring tone of voice 
  • 75% Think it’s not done to use the corona crisis to promote their own business
  • 40% Don’t think it’s appropriate to use humor in their communication

Google implemented some marketing principles (in their deck about understanding what matters to consumers) that give good guidance for further communication & advertising:

  • Global guidance, local decisions
  • Evaluate your channels & creatives
  • Prioritise & value
  • Use each opportunity to help

Both Facebook & Google confirm that proactive communication is key in these uncertain times. Their elements for success: be transparent & trustworthy in order to reassure your customers. Deliver real value, act in a responsible way and deliver a purpose in an ethical way. And lastly: continue to communicate with your customers

  • Do I provide clear communication on my website?
  • What can people expect from my business (opening/ impact delivery/..)? 
  • Help with refunds, cancellations,  customer service  
  • How can I support my clients through my content?
  • What can my business do to support others during the crisis? 
  • Do I foresee ongoing organic / mailings to my clients to stay connected?
  • Do I help create connections among my customers?

VIII. Optimising your campaigns

  • Know who your audiences are, segment them in a proper way
  • Build different scenarios when it comes to advertising
  • Audit your accounts, ask yourself how you could improve your campaigns
  • Review when you schedule your communication, don’t forget people changed their habits
  • Take advantage of the potentially cheaper reach
  • Make sure you communicate the right information on a local level
  • Test, test and keep on testing:
    • Understand what used to influence positively your campaign previously and test this in your customers’ new habits
    • Keep notes of modifications you do, in order to make sure you can still analyse properly in the future
    • A/B test different messages, schedules, images, .. 
    • Be flexible with your investments on each channel, switch to more performing ones !

IX. What after the Corona crisis?

Belgians think to keep on changing their behavior after the lockdown*. A quarter of the respondents indicated the desire to leave their car behind more often in the future, and 70% of respondents say they want to live more ecologically in the future. These are positive forecasts, showing that people are ready to embrace a new way of living.

Even if some of those habits were initiated due to rules and policies, people also developed new habits of their own. People & organizations will  discover the benefits of a new way of living and working, challenging business & lifestyle norms, such as: 

  • Remote working
  • Mixed work/life balance
  • Access to e-commerce & logistics
  • E-health

Qr rate


Changing your communication during and after the crisis, 10 takeaways:

  1. Implement messaging about healing and rebuilding society on the right digital channels for your audience, those are used and trusted. But it’s also important to use direct messaging to stimulate sales.
  2. Increase PR to maintain reliable brand image.
  3. Increase in social ecommerce
  4. Look out for marketing and business opportunities during the accelerated development of smart city construction.
  5. Invest in ecommerce, digital presence, D2C, Short video, O2O, key opinion leaders/consumers seeding and social media
  6. Be ready to act, the cost per click, cost per impression will be lower so that will be ideal for players with a smaller ecommerce presence to do online advertising.
  7. Be aware of TikTok. It could have moved to a next level of advertisement maturity due to the high interaction of the last months.
  8. Retarget loyal customers with specific promotions and messages that look personal.
  9. Recognize that travel to another country will only be done in highly urgent cases. Many companies now have seen the possibility of using video conferencing resulting in a significant reduction in the booking and planning of physical meetings which require employees to travel by plane. This at least for the upcoming 6 months.
  10. This is THE moment to invest in content. Canceled competitor campaigns also trigger something else, namely: lower costs. This means the following for persistent and smart advertisers: if you spend money on advertising while the competition stops and the costs are lower, you are actually doubling your ad spend without spending any extra money.


X. Sources

GWI Coronavirus findings March 2020

Coronavirus: how consumers are actually reacting.

Facebook COVID-19 playbook

Navigating your campaigns through COVID-19

Inside Google Marketing: 5 principles guiding our media teams in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak

Comm score Corona behavioral shifts