Daily Insights

Instagram Marketing in the Time of the Coronavirus

By: Anirudh Bhardwaj | Apr 01, 2020

Marketers often get wrapped up in expert opinions rather than what their customers think, feel, and believe. But in the time of a pandemic, how brands are considering the customer is more important than ever. 

The past few weeks have been tumultuous the world over. As such, it’s important to understand how different brands build relationships and engagement with their audiences outside of the crisis and how that is now changing. In this social age, brands are the relationships. By defining a brand’s particular kind of relationship, companies can create greater engagement, differentiation, and loyalty. 

Recently, Opinium conducted an online survey of 2,006 U.S. adults aged 18+ between March 20th and 25th and found that customers actually want to listen more from brands during this time:

It is not surprising to see that consumers want to hear more from brands that provide the essentials: grocery stores, healthcare and pharma, household goods, and food and drink. But even brands less relevant to the current crisis, such as fitness, automotive, fashion and beauty brands aren’t being ignored.

Furthermore, brands across the globe can take notes from China’s experience.


Gartner analyzed Instagram accounts of 66 activewear brands and found that only 52 brands use different types of content marketing to drive engagement even when most customers are in lockdown or quarantine.


1. Respond: Most tracked brands have shown solidarity, expressed concern and care, and taken measures to drive engagement. However, some brands have explored innovative ideas to further strengthen their relationships with customers.

Alo Yoga, GymShark, and Sweaty Betty, for example, posted home workout videos on their brand handles to provide easy and convenient exercises to customers during social distancing. Athleta, Carbon38, and Sweaty Betty also partnered with their ambassadors and influencers to provide Instagram live workouts at home to assist customers in staying both fit and loyal during the crisis. Brands like Athleta, On Running, and Sweaty Betty have also marked these workout videos and daily workout challenges in their highlights for visitors, both old and new, to view and subsequently follow. 

Further still, some brands have realized that quarantine and lockdown can bring frustration and boredom, and have thus provided their customers with entertainment like song lists, movie lists, and more easy-to-use and easy-to-share content.

New Balance, Keen, and Under Armour also shared information about charity campaigns and donations they have supported during the COVID-19 epidemic. 

2. Reassure: In uncertain times, it is very important for brands to set clear expectations and share their preparedness with customers. While most tracked brands shared that they had acknowledged the situation, very few focused on setting clear expectations. 

3. Reassess:  Many brands have realized that it is very important to understand and listen to customer emotions, especially during this time, and, as a result, identify new marketing content that resonates with these evolving customers. 

Q&A stories are a great way to understand customer sentiments and figure out content that resonates with them. Merrell and Salomon ran a Q&A campaign to identify what its customers want to hear. 

Brands are always in a dilemma as to whether to promote products during crises or epidemics on ethical grounds. But such content drives engagement on social media. Lululemon, Puma, and Fabletics promoted their products’ usage inside the home environment. Lululemon collaborated with influencers and promoted shoppable posts of influencers doing workouts in Lululemon clothes while Fabletics highlighted that pockets in its leggings can also be used to keep the television remote handy. 

People are staying at home and have plenty of time to consume content. Brands across industries are sharing different types of engaging content to strengthen their customer base and earn loyalty. Brands should continue to reassess their social media strategies to understand what customers want and what gets more engagement in this particular climate.  It is also important for brands to formulate, maintain, and continue social media marketing with sustainable strategy to successfully stay afloat through the crisis.