• Lindsay Grace Kinniburgh

5 powerful reopening marketing strategies!

Updated: Aug 12, 2020

2020 has been a year like no other - and we've only reached August.

Reopening marketing strategies by Outsourced imagination

Social distancing, lockdown laws and new regulations have left most businesses in a flurry of uncertainty. Companies are wondering when and how to launch effective reopening marketing strategies that will drive back consumers and keep business ahead of the ever-fluctuating curve.

While it’s highly likely COVID-19 will continue to impact life into 2021, on a positive note, all is definitely not lost.

This unprecedented time has created a monumental learning experience that will hopefully drive us toward meaningful and long-overdue reform in certain areas, such as healthcare, environmental policies and the criminal justice system.

The global pandemic has also taught us how able we are to adapt in a rapidly evolving ecosystem.

However we adjust in this new era, there is one thing we know for sure: the way consumers make decisions has fundamentally shifted.

When it comes to travelling, service expectations, activities and experiences or simply buying groceries, consumers are now taking a more conscious approach to purchasing. A new standard is being driven by the customer. Trends toward meaningfulness, whether in an environmental, social or political sense, are moulding a new ‘normal’.

As we acclimatise to a new way of working, there are five powerful reopening marketing strategies that will help small businesses and big brands thrive through the pandemic.

1. Safety first - Keep your marketing communications up to date!

Hotel reopening marketing strategy by Outsourced imagination

As venues including retailers, restaurants, bars and hotels plan their reopening marketing strategies, people must remain at the heart of every action. Businesses likely to flourish during and post-COVID are the ones that understand the changing needs and increased sensitivity of today’s consumers.

While the fear of outbreaks are likely to continue, marketing messages and brand touchpoints must be closely examined and updated to fit with our new environment. Business models must address human safety and security for both employees and customers.

There is a tight checklist of new processes, from wiping down surfaces and sanitising menus, tables and chairs after each use to proactively managing social distancing, providing regular health screenings for staff and introducing sneeze guards and touchless payment options. Such actions must sit alongside continued training and education on how to prevent the spread of the virus.

Teams and customers must feel reassured that their safety is of primary concern. They must also believe that your business is following through on brand promises.

Failing to ensure safety commitments are implemented correctly could have a long-term effect on your business. If an outbreak were to take place at your venue, the repercussions could be costly, not to mention the harmful PR impact.

Remaining proactive about safety measures during COVID-19 is critical to any reopening marketing strategy.

Relevant safety efforts must be threaded throughout appropriate marketing communications, such as your website, email communications, social channels and venue signage. Although such tactics are fundamental, marketers must remember to communicate in a way that’s tactical - the goal is to gently reassure returning guests, not scare them away!

From an operational and marketing communications standpoint, always ensure every team member is aware of any new measures and protective policies. Even if their department is not directly affected, good internal communication adds an extra layer of trust.

While reactive communications are beneficial to reopening marketing strategies, social listening is an excellent proactive marketing tool.

Make sure your marketing team is doubling down on social listening and responding to customer's needs. Expand your reach from your current customer circle. Join online conversations, webinars and local associations. Understand people’s fears and new behaviours, look for ways to step up and do things better.

If, for example, customers are worried about the sanitisation of door handles in restaurants, why not provide eco-friendly disinfectant wipes near all bathroom doors? Although the provision of wipes isn’t exactly an award-winning marketing campaign, it does show that your brand is listening, empathising and taking action to protect your customers. Such thoughtful measures could make the difference between consumers choosing your establishment over your competitor - they may also tell their friends about this new benchmark.

As we continue into the second half of 2020, customer expectations will shift on the spectrum of safety. But, as of right now, the priority is to make your customers feel safe, show your team you care and keep communicating through tactful marketing messages.

2. Acknowledge your brand heroes - Celebrate your team

Restaurant reopening marketing strategy by Outsourced imagination

The pandemic has disrupted our lives, but it has also brought to light the growing importance of human connection.

Everywhere, people have stepped up to support one another. From the champions on the frontline and humbled heroes doing what they can to help neighbours, to business leaders fighting to maintain staffing levels despite venue closures and cutbacks.

Countless brands have pivoted. Gin distilleries suddenly produced hand sanitizer, clothing factories upskilled to manufacture much-needed PPE, companies launched online platforms to keep supplies moving.

For many, there is a sense of being part of a global community like never before. This trend is backed by a special report on ‘Brand Trust and the Coronavirus Pandemic’ by Edelman, published in March 2020.

The report, based on responses from12,000 participants from around the world, confirmed that we are entering a new world and that there is a new role for brands.

71 per cent of respondents confirmed that brands and companies that place profits before people during COVID-19 will lose their trust forever.

Smart businesses advancing through the pandemic are shifting focus away from surface-level marketing campaigns and moving towards thoughtful reopening strategies that put people and the planet first.

Customers are looking for genuine connection and authentic communication, they are demanding human responses from brands and marketing messages that demonstrate what is being done for humanity. A recent article in Harvard Business Review labelled this period an 'ethical revolution'.

To keep up with this growing trend, more businesses are taking to highlighting stories from real employees and sharing genuine acts of kindness in order to meet the heart-felt needs of their customers.

In July 2020, US food store and pharmacy, Giant, launched a new people-first marketing campaign. The creative ad shines a spotlight on the people the brand employs, serves and supports.

Starring current and retired employees, the strategic marketing message showcases Giant’s efforts to create a brighter future for the next generation.

Giant is just one brand of many that are taking a people-first approach; a direction picked to become the ‘new normal’ and an integral part of a brand’s reopening marketing strategy during COVID-19.

Success during difficult times isn’t just about clever, kind and strategic marketing. Recovering from this crisis requires full-participation from every team member. To be successful, leaders must walk the walk and talk the talk when it comes to providing guidance, trust and emotional support to their staff.

#InThisTogether doesn’t just refer to some of us, it means all of us - from CEOs to junior staff.

Re-humanising the workplace must be done with authenticity, transparency and thoughtful communication.

Is it time to review your current internal marketing channels alongside external marketing comms? Is everyone on the same page? Are you sharing strategies, praising and supporting staff and making job roles clear? How are you communicating with your team? Is there frequency and consistency?

Human metrics are, of course, challenging to evaluate. However, brands willing to carve out a better culture are likely to reap the benefits. Loyalty, motivation and being a first-choice when it comes to attracting and retaining the best staff are just a few of the benefits more purposeful businesses will receive.

3. Leverage partnerships - Expand your marketing reach with new purpose-led partnerships.

Business reopening marketing strategy by Outsourced imagination

UN Sustainable Goal number 17 to ‘Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development’ is needed now more than ever.

Strong international cooperation will ensure that countries have the means to recover from the pandemic. Building back business may mean building back together, not being afraid to ask for help, increased sharing of resources and utilising natural collaboration.

In a recent interview, Jeremy Lott, president of global apparel brand SanMar, discussed the importance of leveraging partnerships.

"The biggest lesson I learned is that when you're in a crisis, it’s time to leverage partnerships you’ve built during good times. In good times, I think businesses can think of the world as transactional. They’ll move from one vendor to the next because it’s five cents cheaper. That comes back to bite you during tough times. When you treat people right, you build social capital that allows you to call on people when you need them most and they respond."

Lott also shared details of a successful alliance between SanMar and UPS. At the start of the pandemic, Lott reached out to the chief sales offers to ask for urgent aviation support at UPS. Through the unprecedented partnership, the brands worked together to transport fabric from the Dominican Republic to the US in order to make urgent protective equipment. The outcome of the initiative helped protect frontline staff and bring some employees back to work.

In addition to working with new partners, businesses can benefit from reconnecting with existing partnerships. If you’re planning your reopening marketing strategy, remember to include past partners in your communications and remind all counterparts you are open for business.

Search for cross-promotional opportunities or partner up to provide solutions to a new marketplace. Now is the time to mobilise whatever resources you can from inside and outside your business.

If COVID-19 has forced staff cuts, look for ways to leverage partnerships in order to support your internal teams where you can. Aldi and McDonalds, for example, created a ‘personal pact’ that allows McDonald’s employees to help Aldi’s understaffed teams during the crisis.

The temporary contracts offer quick staffing solutions, provide employment, and permit people to return to their original position once the crisis is over.

Many brands are also turning to purpose-led partnerships with charities and non-profit organizations.

In Australia, the company behind the all-in-one disinfectant spray, Glen 20, teamed up with the food assistance organisation Meals on Wheels Australia. Glen 20's new COVID-19-inspired campaign was introduced to encourage Australians to get behind the non-profit food delivery organisation during these challenging times.

Tripadvisor released new features to assist local and small businesses during the crisis. The famous online travel platform also announced a US $1 million donation to support COVID-19 relief efforts focused on the travel industry.

In the UK and Ireland, Unilever donated £3.5 million worth of products to charities, food banks, hospitals and frontline workers. They made and donated hand sanitiser to the NHS and focused their expertise in 3D printing and laser cutting technologies to produce protective visors for staff at local hospitals.

Even small businesses can do more to make a difference. As a purpose-driven marketing agency, Outsourced imagination believes everyone on the planet should have access to clean water, a basic need that so many of us take for granted. As such, we pledge 5 per cent of every client invoice directly to the inspiring non-profit organisation, charity: water.

4. Follow your North Star - embrace purpose-driven marketing

Back to business reopening marketing strategy

There is a surge in demand for openness, transparency and doing better. Purpose-driven marketing and messages of giving and of hope are more relevant than ever and should be included in your reopening marketing strategy.

During COVID-19, organisations that embrace meaning before profit are found to deliver better results.

Such strategies are no longer just considered a simple CSR initiative or tick-box exercise. Instead, good businesses are injecting brand purpose into the core of the business and weaving purpose into marketing strategies and communications.

During critical times, building a purpose-driven brand may be the key to elevating your brand over another. Making money and making a difference shouldn’t be mutually exclusive.

Giving meaning to why you do what you do can motivate employees, boost your brand likeability and online presence, and give customers a reason to get behind your brand.

Whatever gives you a reason to spring out of bed, your brand value must be aligned with what customers believe. Your purpose must make them feel validated or leave them with a sense of contribution - this is exactly the reason so many are converting to ‘Who Gives A Crap’ over more popular brands.

The colourful toilet tissue brand focuses on two brand purpose promises: offering a more environmentally friendly product and giving back to the people living on the planet by donating 50 per cent of profits directly to causes that include building bathrooms and providing water, sanitation and hygiene projects in developing countries.

Because of Who Gives A Crap’s quirky branding, well-crafted marketing messages, and strong purpose-driven character that focuses on people and the planet, it’s no surprise many consumers have said goodbye to traditional toilet tissue and moved to a more thoughtful brand.

Watch the story of how this brilliant brand began:

As we look ahead to a complicated 2020, companies are given the opportunity to become bold in their marketing messages and limitless in their creative thinking.

Ikea has been consistent at baking purpose into everything it does since the Swedish furniture maker was founded in 1943. In their 2020 ad campaign, the brand highlights the corporate decisions made in order to be a better business. Ikea's purpose-driven actions include planting trees to replace those used in their products and making sure employees are from a diverse range of ethnicities.

A brand that has successfully activated brand purpose to underpin its competitiveness is KIND® Healthy Snack. The snack bar maker has become known as the world’s third-largest producer of gluten-free, non-GMO, tasty treats. KIND’s brand purpose promise covers three pillars: for your body, for your taste buds, for the world.

KIND’s mission is to improve public health with nutritious snack foods while offering complete transparency on the sourcing of the ingredients. The brand has also established a not-only-for-profit® to instil kindness and empathy in kids and communities.

According to a report by Accenture, “Purpose-led brands have the potential to create stronger and more resilient customer relationships. That translates into more sales and greater customer lifetime value. Purpose also bolsters confidence in a brand. That provides an extra layer of protection from the almost inevitable “trust incident”—and ultimately protects the bottom line.”

Whether you’re passionate about addressing the climate crisis or eager to support social change for good, there are plenty of opportunities to propel your business from a traditional money-making organisation to a money-making organisation that contributes to a better world!

5. Be visible - Boost your online marketing presence

Digital reopening marketing strategies by Outsourced imagination

Being visible is an important part of your reopening marketing strategy. With lockdowns and so much uncertainty surrounding regulations, the complexity of potential decision-making pathways has grown


During the start of COVID-19, it was common for businesses to pause their social media marketing, digital communications and marketing goals while they regrouped and strategised on what’s next.

If you’re planning on reopening soon or you’re in the process of preparing your reopening marketing strategy, make sure all online marketing channels celebrate your 'open' status.

Investments in digital outreach, digital experience and social engagement will support businesses in the months and years to come - there is great power in simply showing up!

Being present and in front of consumers in moments of deliberation can be enough to win or retain consumer preference.

For example, if a consumer is searching for a local restaurant or considering a staycation and your brand shows up on multiple platforms, your consistent presence will offer a sense of reassurance.

Online marketing tactics and marketing questions to consider:

  • Review your current social platforms and strategic marketing messages - when was your last Facebook post?

  • Have you been investing time in Facebook or Instagram Live?

  • Are all your social media profiles and brand messages up-to-date?

  • Have you tried social media and/or pay-per-click advertising?

  • Are you building trust by talking to online communities?

  • With many consumers remaining in the planning stages of travel, are you utilising Pinterest to showcase your venue and local area?

  • Do you have a Google Business Profile?

  • Is it time to invest in an e-commerce site or eat-out-at-home option?

  • Have you emailed your customers lately?

  • Do you have a strategic content strategy?

  • When was your last blog post?

  • Do you have any new case-studies to feature?

  • Have you considered voice search optimization to drive referrals?

  • Do you have any lead-generation tools on your current website?

  • Is it time to update your website?

  • How are you communicating your brand purpose online?

When it comes to consumer behaviour and understanding purchasing decisions, there is a complicated web of touchpoints that differs from person to person.

Focusing on multichannel marketing, multichannel commerce and embracing new, interactive ways to engage with customers will ensure your business stays connected with its customers' pre and post-reopening.

As you move forward, review your marketing budget and consider the best way to reach existing customers alongside new business opportunities.

The best approach to reopening and securing your brand positioning may mean working with a strategic marketing consultant to create a bespoke marketing plan. A purpose-driven marketing agency such as Outsourced imagination can also help build your brand presence, assist in developing new concepts and create impactful purpose-driven campaigns and communications.

Reopening marketing consultancy by Outsourced imagination

Quick round-up

As small businesses and big brands begin to welcome back customers, marketers must keep ahead of the curve and take full advantage of opportunities. Recognise the importance of safety policies in your marketing communications, humanise your brand by celebrating your team, expand your reach by leveraging partnerships, embrace your brand purpose and invest in your digital presence.

Top 5 reopening marketing strategies:

  1. Put safety first

  2. Acknowledge your brand heroes

  3. Leverage partnerships

  4. Follow your North Star

  5. Be visible

Are you ready to get back to business?

If you require support with your reopening marketing strategy, learn more about our strategic services.

For more marketing strategies and brand purpose support, check out other Outsourced imagination posts and pages below:

Thanks for dropping by our brand purpose blog.

Stay safe out there!

Lindsay Grace Kinniburgh

Founder & CMO at Outsourced imagination


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