Marketing in the Time of Coronavirus

September 29, 2020 by Andrew Woods

The coronavirus has and continues to create considerable losses for numerous industries, notably those contingent upon in-person interactions. One such industry, the creative and performing arts, suffered estimated “losses of 2.7 million jobs and more than $150 billion in sales of goods and services for creative industries nationwide,” according to an August 11th report from The Brookings Institution. The study, which focused on the national, state, and metropolitan levels over the period of April 1 through July 31, 2020, also emphasizes the human dimension of this year’s pandemic. For example, the authors state,

Based on our analysis of creative occupations, we estimate losses of more than 2.3 million jobs and $74 billion in average monthly earnings for the creative occupations. These losses represent 30% of all creative occupations and 15% of the total average monthly wages.

As readers are likely aware already, state-mandated stay-at-home orders and shuttering of different businesses, coupled with limited financial support to supplement losses, led to such drastic outcomes. Six months into the corona-verse, the creative fields remain hindered and there’s no shortage of people offering their “the sky is falling” takes. Yet, amid this situation, some artists persist through skilled marketing tactics and are using this period to experiment creatively. It’s these dogged individuals that are the focus of this post and their collaborations with brands willing to try new things aligned with the times.

Travis Scott’s Marketing Tactics: COVID-19 Era Renaissance Man

Rapper Travis Scott has never shied away from exploring new ways to connect with his fans and attract new ones, especially when in-person concerts are prohibited. His marketing efforts as an artist have only continued to expand. In April 2020, for instance, a giant, digital version of the performer appeared in the online video game world of Fortnite to deliver a show attended by more than 12 million people.

More recently, Scott partnered with fast-food juggernaut McDonald’s to develop a specialty meal consisting of his favorite items. Check out the launch video for this marketing campaign below. Additionally, the two parties released limited-edition merchandise, including Travis Scott action figures and t-shirts, to accompany the food’s debut.

What I Love About This Work

  • Scott’s desire to experiment with established and rising brands in engaging fans
  • Each collaboration comes off as an authentic marketing tactic and makes sense given the rapper’s personal interests
  • The creative teams at Fortnite and McDonald’s showed exceptional marketing acumen by rolling-out their respective content across multiple channels to draw in large audiences

Koio and Young Chicago Authors Marketing Tactics: Shoes with a Message

American shoe company Koio, which specializes in high-end sneakers, is among many brands who spoke up in support of racial justice earlier summer. What sets them apart, however, is the company’s willingness to put their values front and center on a shoe line decorated with poet Taisaun Levi’s “Untitled 2018.” The Koio team shared this about their partnership:

A year and a half ago, we started building a collab with Young Chicago Authors. YCA provides a safe space dedicated to the voices of young people who face segregation and injustice on a daily basis. YCA’s programs serve as an introduction to and immersion in a vibrant literary community that transcends cultural and socio-economic boundaries.

Originally, we were planning to release this collab in August to celebrate the beginning of the 2020 school year. We decided that we cannot wait to support organizations that are doing this critical work and want to provide much needed financial support. Our goal is to donate $25,000 together with you.

KOIO and YCA collaboration sneakers

What I Love About This Work

  • Koio put their money where their mouth is by backing political activism
  • This is an innovative means of showcasing a poet’s work and initiating a conversation about current events through marketing

How to Launch an Album with Left-of-Center Merch

Debuting new music in the pre-coronavirus world, particularly for newer or independent artists, relied heavily upon touring and selling merchandise directly to fans at live performances. The 2020 shutdown of event spaces, however, made this conventional method of generating money not possible and left many musicians scrambling to make up for lost income.

Enter bands and other artists releasing small-batch merchandise drops featuring items beyond t-shirts and sweatshirts. One of the most unusual and creative marketing examples comes from Portland, Oregon’s Soft Kill (full disclosure: I am an avid fan). With their new album’s release date approaching in November, the post-punk band unveiled unique memorabilia to celebrate the moment. From a board game aligned with the music to a customized pair of Nike Blazers, Soft Kill epitomizes tenacity in the face of unparalleled challenges.


What I Love About This Work

  • Soft Kill identified a new way to bring their music to life through a themed-game
  • The choice of marketing mediums, ranging from the standard vinyl album to shoes, offers different price points for supporting the band
  • It’s admirable that an artist is willing to take risks with their merch and try to stand-out, especially when they can’t tour