How brands are welcoming consumers back to post-COVID normalcy
This past 4th of July weekend for many perhaps felt like a return to normal as fear of COVID-19 transmission wanes and restrictions on mask wearing have lifted across the U.S. (though cautionary measures continue in some areas). As we start to go back to business as usual, brands have increasingly welcomed consumers back to normalcy in their marketing messages. Here, a look at some of the trends in post-pandemic marketing we’ve seen so far.
Extra Gum and Energy BBDO historically have been known for their heart-tugging, tear-inducing tales of love, but they changed their tune and went with a raucous, all-out orgyfest to celebrate life opening up again. In a spot that debuted in early May, people from all walks of life abandon their homes to enjoy the world—and each other—again, all set to the spirited vocals of Celine Dion. The ad comes as gum sales rebound as masks come off.
Dining-meets-entertainment chain Dave & Busters had to close its doors for an extended period during COVID-19, but back in September of last year, it started to advertise once again with a new campaign created out of Mother New York. Though the ads came out months before vaccinations in the U.S. began, the spots barely acknowledged the coronavirus and instead centered on the fun to be had at the brand's restaurants. One, for example, depicted how a woman’s “perfect” moves on a dance video game empowered her in the world beyond. Only a shot in the final few seconds of the ad showed her wearing a mask, perhaps so it could easily be edited out later.
During the Super Bowl, Anheuser-Busch InBev debuted this sentimental ad that imagined a return to life as we knew it. Created out of Wieden + Kennedy New York the spot featured scenes of people back at work and back to socializing and explored the true meaning of the line “Let’s grab a beer.” The scenarios seemed a bit odd at the time, with not a mask in sight, but the voiceover acknowledged the spot was looking ahead to “when we’re back.”
In the U.K., Uber debuted an ad from Mother London depicting people re-emerging from lockdown life, abandoning their puzzles and pets for the thrills of life on the outside. This spot, however, was a bit tempered in its celebration, with people still wearing masks as they jumped into their Uber rides.
In the U.K., Google used its search bar to illustrate consumers’ mixed emotions about going back to their pre-coronavirus routines in an ad from Uncommon that depicted searches such as “Is kissing safe?” and “how to talk to people.”
Uber's U.S. spot also depicted people getting together once again, eating, studying and singing together, but sans masks. The endline reveals what makes it all possible: “Thank you for getting vaccinated.” The message comes full-circle from the ad the brand debuted in the throes of the pandemic, which thanked people for not riding with Uber.
Like the AB InBev Super Bowl ad, this Budweiser campaign from David Miami optimistically showcases people enjoying each other’s company once again. Scenes depict friends cheering together at the pub, in backyard barbecues and at sporting events, all set to Jimmy Durante’s classic tune “I’ll Be Seeing You.” But it's all part of the Ad Council’s “It’s Up to You” vaccination push and features the lines: “Good times are coming. Now we have a shot.”
Pepsi, too, leveraged a classic song for its forward-looking ad that subtly promoted vaccination efforts. Set to “Tomorrow” from “Annie,” the film from VaynerMedia opens by saying, “If we do our part, one day we’ll be back together” and goes on to show people emerging from their homes into the world, kissing at the movie theater, singing at the karaoke bar, getting fingers sticky with wings at the bar and even sharing a can of Pepsi. “Let’s find our way back to a better tomorrow,” the endline reads.
The return of travel
Travel was one of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic, but brands have gradually geared up for people’s wanderlust to start kicking in. In May, British Airways and Ogilvy debuted the company’s first brand campaign since 2019, which featured its mask-wearing employees, racing, dancing and gliding their way back to the airport.
Before cruise lines slowly started to resume operations, Princess Cruises tried to stay top of mind with travelers with a social campaign reminding them of the benefits of travel. The aspirational film from Omelet and the company’s internal team compiled scenes of customers and employees sharing how seeing the world has enriched their lives.
The country of Iceland, meanwhile, took a clever approach to attracting travelers once again: it offered to turn their lockdown sweatpants into hiking boots, in a campaign from SS+K and Peel.
Throughout the pandemic, marketers incorporated into their campaigns initiatives designed to help businesses that struggled during the pandemic. That trend continues in post-lockdown efforts. In a Pride campaign, Bubly heralded the return of New York City nightlife while supporting historic lesbian bar Henrietta Hudson. A Match campaign from Ryan Reynolds’ agency Maximum Effort conceived a push to help out wedding singers. The shop tapped A-List Broadway talents to create an original tune, sung by wedding entertainers, who appeared in a film encouraging singles to “get back to love” and hopefully get back to getting hitched (so they can hire the singers to perform at their celebrations).
Burger King extended a hand, of sorts, in this campaign, which did double duty in welcoming customers back to its restaurants while reminding them of the items they had left behind in store. Actually, it had a third purpose—it served as yet another dig at BK's main rival McDonald’s.
Back in the Saddle
More recently, we’ve seen brands remind consumers how to behave properly in civilization after coming out of their quarantine bubbles. A campaign from Forsman & Bodenfors for Seagrams tapped comedian and actor Iliza Shlesinger to give pub-goers a refresher on bar manners while also extending aid to dive bars.
Boston Pizza and Canadian agency John St. made a similar move with the “Patio Re-training Manual”, which includes tips for diners on basic skills such as dressing properly and placing food and beverage orders.
Meanwhile, malt beverage brand Four Loko wanted to make sure consumers are properly protected before they go out to party and created its own STD testing kit.