CPG Promotion in Times of Epidemic - Part 1

The Coronavirus COVID-19 epidemic is currently posing unique challenges for businesses in virtually every industry. While it’s naturally human to fear the unknown, all the facts are indicating that this is not a virus that poses an existential threat. Nevertheless, it’s sparking panic and decisions like the postponement of Expo West 2020 – a huge hit to our industry. For an emerging consumer goods brand looking to grow their business in stores, what to do? It’s an interesting question, and one for which we have a pretty clear answer.

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Since at least as far back as Niccola Machiavelli, one of the most capable strategists in all of history, shrewd leaders have known that times of crisis (real or perceived) also present an opportunity to those who can remain calm in the face of the crisis, see the opportunity, and then take bold action to capitalize upon it. This couldn’t be more true today for brands in the Healthy, Natural, Organic products industry.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the people most susceptible to the new virus are the elderly and those with pre-existing severe chronic conditions. For the vast majority of people (that is, most of the market) the risk is low, and the best we can do is wash our hands thoroughly and often and maintain a state of good general health. It’s as simple as that: Good hygiene, optimal health.

…And this is why brands in the natural products industry exist in the first place: to help people be healthier! 

The fact is, many of the brands we serve should prepare to do better in an environment where more people are more focused than ever on optimizing their health. By preparing we mean investing more to educate consumers about why your brand will help them do exactly that. 

Not only do consumers need to be educated – but we need to do our part to reduce fear in the market. Fear can only be conquered by real facts and information. Spreading the Center for Disease Control’s message and guidelines (wash hands, be healthy) as far and wide as possible is a start – and building on that by showing shoppers how your products fit into that message will only add value.

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[For specific ideas on how specific brand categories can play offense in this environment, read Part 2 of this blog series]

It’s difficult, if not downright silly, to try to predict exactly what the future has in store for us. But what we can say with some confidence is that the majority of people tend to freeze in the face of uncertainty and run in the face of fear. In the face of an uncertain market, many of your competitors will freeze – and it’s a great opportunity to break from the normal reaction and take advantage. You can take advantage by anticipating what consumers’ normal reaction will be, and meet them there with a smile on your face and a product that will help out.


UPDATE, March 15, 2020: Things are moving very quickly throughout the industry and the economy at large. As of press time, several retail chains have suspended in-store sampling, and it is foreseeable that more will follow suit. This has obviously been very traumatic to the entire promotional industry, and many important details remain to be seen. In the days and weeks to come, we will be working with retailers to return to allowing demos in stores as soon as it is safe to do so. We remain hopeful that even before the point where actual sampling is has fully returned, they may allow non-sampling demos and promotions to be performed. To this end, many of our suggestions for what can be done in-store will still be valid; additionally, we are recommending that brands take this down-time as an opportunity to more thoroughly train their ambassadors so that they are more effective at consumer education once the doors re-open. We will, of course, keep you fully apprised of any new developments as they occur.

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Starlet, Promomash Brand Manager Extraordinaire