Inside Marketing: How to Adjust Your Strategy During COVID-19

Busy marketer working from home with her cat
Oak Tree Business Systems Inc.

7 minutes

Examine and adapt your marketing campaigns effectively by focusing on these four areas.

Worries of an economic recession loom as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep across the globe. While the everyday routines and the future of your credit union may be uncertain, it is possible to prepare for a successful recovery when normalcy returns. Businesses that adjust their marketing strategy during financial unrest are more likely to rise above businesses that simply cut their marketing department during difficult times.

Executing your marketing strategy successfully in today’s environment requires the swift adaptation of your products, tone and messaging. If you leverage the following strategies in the short term, it will be easier for your credit union to prosper in the long term.

Products & Services

Take a look at what products and services you are (or were) scheduled to introduce. Are any of these products currently inappropriate to release during a pandemic?

It’s important to remember that people have a lot on their minds. The coronavirus has changed the way we work and socialize—even how we wash our hands.

Focus on products and services that will be helpful to your members, such as loan modification agreements, delayed loan payments, extension agreements, increased credit limits, in-app check deposits, online bill pay options, skip-a-payment programs, subsequent action forms, rewards programs, drive-thru services, branch lobby signage, loan rate updates and commercial products available for your local community.

Marketing campaigns that focus on new business ventures or multi-step products that take time and effort to sign up for will likely fall flat.

Reassess your content calendar. Shelve those untimely product release dates—you don’t have to completely scrap pre-planned marketing campaigns, but consider waiting until the pandemic has passed before highlighting those products. Instead, invest your marketing time into new or existing, perhaps overlooked loan products and financial education services that could help your members weather this time of uncertainty.

If you have branches in different areas of the U.S., keep in mind that some geographical areas may return to business as usual quicker than others. Keep track of each area’s timeline so you can be quick to switch your products when the pandemic has passed.

Redirect in-person event funds. Even if a steady work environment is possible soon, large, populated events might suffer well past this date—in fact, many summer events have already been canceled. If your credit union had in-person promotional or community events planned for the near future, earmark those dollars print publications and digital marketing, such as social media advertising, Google Ads and account-based marketing. ABM advertising can target a select group of businesses or contacts based on your specific financial product.

Stay focused on members. It’s important to focus on your members in this unprecedented time. You can provide helpful ways to save money or flexible small business loans for those who cannot operate. Cater to those business members who have chosen to safeguard their employees and members who need assistance navigating a world with little to no income. Focus on your field of membership and market to their needs.


As a marketer during a crisis, it can be easy to feel helpless. However, it is the marketer’s job to recognize changing consumer behaviors and find new ways to engage with your members. Be proactive. Once the pandemic has ended, members will need messaging that inspires them to thrive in a newly formed economic culture—but there is still plenty to do right now.

In everything marketers do, tone matters. Beyond providing the necessary content to inform employees and members during COVID-19, CU marketers should virtually aid the community experience. Global pandemics not only shift economies, but cultures as well. Credit unions should take this opportunity to address the issue directly and with empathy.

In early 2009, Coca-Cola created an “Open Happiness” campaign. The aim was to remind people of the simple pleasures in life—in this case, enjoying an ice-cold Coke. The marketing campaign increased soft drink sales after the financial crisis of 2008 by creating an uplifting approach in a time when people needed hope and renewal in humanity.

Adapt written and visual content. Adapt current campaigns to be socially relevant. For example, your current campaign might have the slogan “Build community with your members.” You could change the campaign to “Support your members” to be cognizant of social distancing.

Visuals should be also addressed. Avoid using imagery of people in large social gatherings such as in offices, shops, restaurants, gyms and schools on social media, blogs, emails, etc. Leaving such images on your existing website and advertising imagery is generally acceptable; however, images should still be adjusted if there is too much emphasis on large public gatherings or visuals that promote physical contact.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to strip your credit union marketing of all positive or optimistic visuals. People are looking for some good news. It’s OK to show a picture of a person smiling.

Don’t add to the panic. Don’t use COVID-19 to invoke additional fear and emotional distress. Stick to your lane and avoid over-the-top language. Always use credible news sources. Present facts, not opinions. You can bring up COVID-19 in your emails or written content, but avoid using the pandemic to sell your product, i.e. “COVID-19 personal loans now at discounted rates.”


Credit unions must remain committed to helping their members. Members are scared, frustrated and overwhelmed. Offering to waive fees and provide emergency loans and extensions can help ease financial stress. Send a positive message of compassion—let your members know you are actively working in their best interests and support the #CUcommunity.

Personalize your message. There are a plethora of affordable email marketing automation tools on the market. If you don’t already, take advantage of these platforms. Members will appreciate personalized, targeted information that coincide with their financial pains.

Connecting with your members is even more important during state-wide shutdowns and social distancing. Without the convenience of face-to-face sales opportunities, targeted messaging can help boost sales while staying socially responsible.

Integrate video into your marketing. While addressing the everyday needs of physical branches, creating member-focused videos may have been placed on a to-do list that never came to fruition. However, finding virtual ways to connect with members is more important today than ever before. While you are working from home, consider learning how to leverage video software that will allow you to connect on a visual level. A couple of our favorites include Animoto and VideoScribe.

Enlist your employees and members. We are all in this together. What are you doing in self-quarantine? Coming up with creative ways to express our new way of life can create an instant connection. Post Netflix recommendations, join TikTok, share video conferencing fails. People are spending even more time than usual online and on social media, so meet them there. Use humor in an uplifting, non-“salesy” way for maximum impact.

Focus on What You Can Do

While we experienced a strong financial market before COVID-19 (much better than before the financial downturn of 2008), credit unions were still scrambling to compete against big banks and fintech before the pandemic. Keep your passion for increasing market share kindled while being mindful of current events.

Engage your community by providing medical supplies, food drives or enhanced online support to cut down on wait times. The more you pour into your community now, the more willing they will be to listen to your announcements in the future.

While normalcy may seem ages away, the pandemic will end. Don’t get overwhelmed by the long-term picture. Modify and improve your current marketing strategies now so you can be more competitive in the future. Keeping up with marketing in a mindful way will allow you to increase membership, retain valued employees and drive revenue. This too shall pass. Like Albert Einstein said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

Richard Gallagher is CEO of CUES Supplier member Oak Tree Business Systems Inc., Big Bear Lake, California. With over 37 years’ experience serving credit unions, Oak Tree offers a comprehensive line of membership documents and lending forms along with marketing services that speak to your credit union demographics. Take advantage of our easy-to-use forms and top-notch customer service, plus stay compliant nationwide.

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