Keeping Your Brand in a Safe Position During the Pandemic

By John Oxford

Getting back to work, at least in the office, from a second 14-day quarantine is always interesting. After my second direct exposure to someone with COVID-19, the anxiety of waiting to see if you or your family have it can be frightening. Fortunately, both times we’ve all tested negative and have never gotten sick.

We’ve really learned to work with redundancy and separation during the pandemic. And there has been a big shift in both employee and client comfortability.

With the pandemic, if we’ve learned anything from working remotely and serving our clients without fully operating our locations, it’s that communication is more vital than ever. When we moved our 200+ branches to drive-thru and appointment-only at the end of March, we had many social media messages begging us to close and critical of keeping our doors open prior to closing to walk-up foot traffic. Some of the social media messages were angry, threatening and scary. People were scared and rightfully so as there was so much conflicting information in the public arena.

Fast forward seven months and we recently reopened our branches, with enhanced safety guidelines, to allow for non-appointment visits. It was like the good ol’ days but with a mask! Just as there were loud cries to close down our locations, there are now screaming voices on social media telling us to re-open. My, how the pendulum swings.

To get to the point: Marketers dealing with client communication have been challenged with mixed messaging for the better part of 2020 and, for one of the first times in recent memory, have had to ignore, or at least deviate, from the longstanding marketing cliché that the customer is always right.

Thus, the advice here is, in the age of a pandemic: Go with what’s safest and best for your employees even if you have to bat down some loud social media posts on both ends of the spectrum.

Pivoting to a more positive look at social media through our marketing lens, the super lucky Ocean Spray, Fleetwood Mac and crazy uncle on a skateboard TikTok post from a few weeks ago is a marketer’s dream. In short, a guy rode on a skateboard drinking Ocean Spray cranberry juice while videoing himself singing Dreams by Fleetwood Mac. While a decently interesting “thing” to view, the post went super viral and had 51 million views and 9 million likes.

We’ve discussed brands as well as music licensing issues before and how being overprotective can sometimes cost a brand from being human to an audience. While brand protection is important, brand amplification in the age of social media can be worth succumbing to the amateur hour marketing it often brings with it.

Ocean Spray took advantage of the video and supplied the skateboard dude with a truck and a literal truckload of Ocean Spray in appreciation for millions of brand views he gave them. Fleetwood Mac’s song, released in 1977, rocketed to the top of the charts again with 30+ million streams in two weeks.

It’s an incredible study in social media, branding, viral videos and how to surgically take advantage of a fleeting moment in time. And to end the discussion, TikTok bought traditional 30-second TV spots with clips of the original skater-drinker and his many TikTok copycats.

What lesson can we take from this? Don’t try to create a viral video per se. Instead, look for partners that have reach because it’s going to be really hard for you to get as lucky as Ocean Spray or Fleetwood Mac. As an example, for partner ideas, we do SEC Shorts on Renasant Nation and average over 100 million views a year. I wouldn’t say the idea is to be specifically viral, but to bring humorous value to our audience which in turn shares and views the content.

On an activation level if you follow my employer, Renasant, you know we sponsor the MLS’s Nashville Soccer Club whose players wear our name on their jerseys. When FIFA21 came out, the most popular eSports game in the world, we held a twitter contest for PlayStation and Xbox users to post their best goals on social media and the winner would get an official game jersey. Although it was nowhere near the Dreams Skateboarder or even a similar marketing play that Burger King did with FIFA20, we still saw thousands of views over a weekend for our brand in one of our bank’s key markets of Nashville.

Examples aside, looking into 2021, going on the offensive on social media and taking advantage of creating branding opportunities, as well as providing clear communication on branch “situations” which make your team members feel safe and protect your clients—even sometimes against their wishes—will help you to keep your brand in a safe position during the pandemic and top of mind in the social media channels in which you choose to participate.

To hear more of this topic, listen to this week’s Marketing Money Podcast with Josh Mabus of the Mabus Agency and me at

John Oxford, director of marketing at Renasant Bank, and Josh Mabus, president of the Mabus Agency, are  co-hosts of the Marketing Money Podcast.