To Promote, Or Not Promote During a Pandemic

In his book “Anatomy of an Illness”, Norman Cousins wrote about his early age diagnosis of a terminal health condition (he was 11). 

One of the greatest lines reads “accept the diagnosis but defy the verdict.”   Despite his diagnosis, Norman lived to the age of 75.

Right now, Wall Street,  Washington and every TV news anchor are weighing in on Covid-19 and its potential effect on the economy.  No one will argue that the short-term outlook is poor. 

But since history always repeats itself, know that there will be dealerships who come out thriving. 

The best thing you can do is what Norman did…accept the diagnosis but defy the verdict.

A look back at other challenging times shows it is possible to grow your dealership during turmoil.  In an uncertain economy, businesses fall into one of two groups:

Group #1 is made up by those who will reduce or eliminate their marketing budget and wait for better days.

This is where most dealers reside.  They believe this is a prudent move. A soft market means lower sales and lower net income. Cutbacks in discretionary expenses such as advertising can be easily made without having any impact.

Group #2 is made up by those that will do whatever it takes to keep their marketing messages front & center.

History always repeats itself.  Those who make up Group #2 always come out on top once things turn around.   And despite what all the experts say, things ALWAYS turn around.

Countless studies have been conducted measuring sales volume of companies during a recession.  The result is always the same:  Those who maintain their advertising continue to grow during the downturn.  Once things improve, these companies also grew at a faster rate when compared to those who stopped advertising.

Ad and marketing professionals have always told advertisers that a soft market provides a unique window of opportunity to gain market share and leap-frog their competition.

Because of decreased spending in the marketplace, now is the time when your marketing pistol can sound like a cannon.  Your dollars will go a lot further giving you an even greater advantage over those who cut their budget.

This brings us to how and where to spend those dollars.  In order to defy the verdict and generate more selling opportunities, you’ll need to do several things with your campaign:

#1) Deliver Meaningful Messages:  Your marketing messages need to reach deep into the emotional chasm of consumers.  Customers are people.  They are living, relational beings with needs and desires.   And they are concerned over the current Covid-19 threat.  Your ads need to speak to the customer and communicate what they care about.

#2) Offer Unique Solutions.  Private, in-home test drives.  Pre & post sanitizing of cars for service.  Pickup & delivery of cars for service. Paperwork & financial disclosures completed in-home.

#3) Keep Your Digital Footprint Alive.  This is perhaps the most important thing you can do today.   SEM ads on Google, hyper-targeted ads on FaceBook & InstaGram, video ads on YouTube.   This is where people will be hanging out the next few weeks.  You need to be there too.

By focusing your message and being where your potential customers are, you can “defy the current economic verdict” and come out on top.

Ronald A. Heider is the owner and President of HMA – Heider Marketing & Advertising. 

HMA serves automotive advertisers from its Virginia Beach office.  More automotive marketing articles & resources can be found at