The Rest of 2020: Adapting Seasonal Campaigns in the New Normal

Credit: Getty Images by Imgorthand

In these extraordinary days of COVID-19, long-term planning for marketing campaigns feels like flying blind. While we expect medical and technological advancements — from widespread testing and contact tracing to an eventual vaccine — will return us to varying degrees of “normal,” we expect some changes to stick. After all, consumers have now discovered the convenience of virtual events, working from home, and online grocery shopping.

Let’s look at how consumers are thinking about the remainder of the year, and how that should influence campaign planning between now and the end of 2020.

According to an Aki Technologies survey of 1,200 U.S. adults, 60% of people believe social distancing and shelter-in-place orders may be advised through the end of the year. Former McKinsey analyst Viacheslav Matskov predicts the world will be in a state of soft lockdown 12-18 months more.

CPG and shopper marketing experts report that the biggest pandemic-inspired consumer shift is with loyalty. Supply chain challenges have inspired former brand shoppers to buy private label products instead. While brand loyalty is in flux, it’s a critical time for brand advertisers to campaign for consumer loyalty, and an opportunity for smaller brands to gain market share.

When asked for his advice to brand marketers in this pandemic climate, Tom Foreman, associate director of experience design at Starcom, advised to get rid of preconceived notions and only look at data from the last month. In the spirit of his advice, here’s what our May 2020 surveys of 1,200 U.S. adults unveiled about seasonal marketing campaigns for the rest of the year.

Long Holiday Weekends

Fifty-one percent of consumers reported celebrating Memorial Day at home this year. For 4th of July and Labor Day, we predict limited air travel, socially distanced gatherings, and more stay-cations and road trips taken with housemates, but not others.

Tip for Brands: Offer creative solutions for socially distanced fun, and right-size product promotions for smaller groups. Leverage dynamic personalization to address regional variances in stay-at-home recommendations.

Summer Break

At present, 56% of people don’t plan to book a non-essential flight before August 2020, with 25% not anticipating a non-essential flight until December 2020 or later. This will be a summer of camp closures and fewer vacations, and a related increase in demand for kids’ programming, gaming, and virtual experiences.

Tip for Brands: Focus on creative executions with high entertainment value and promote products, from meals to technology, that empower kids and teens with self-guided projects.


At present, 31% of parents with school-aged children are unsure about how to prepare for back-to-school, with 22% expecting to home school this coming year. Expect more demand for remote learning tools and less demand for clothing, shoes, and backpacks.

Tip for Brands: Leverage dynamic personalization to ensure your media accounts for regional variations in in-person or at-home school orders.


In 2020, 44% of parents do not plan to let their kids trick-or-treat from door to door due to COVID-19 concerns, but 60% still plan to buy candy. Expect to see novel experiences emerge around candy giving and receiving.

Tip for Brands: Align with parents’ intentions by promoting fun and safe alternatives to Halloween traditions, both through product promotions and ad creative.

Black Friday & The Holidays

About 60% of people plan to spend less on holiday gifts this year, and this Black Friday promises to see decreased in-store traffic, more ecommerce activity, more purchases informed by buying method preferences, and more direct-to-recipient shipping. In general, people will be giving fewer and more cost-efficient gifts.

Tip for Brands: “Coupon and rebates will be driving purchases in more categories, not just low consideration categories,” says Amie Owen, head of shopper at Universal McCann.

Regardless of how quickly normalcy returns, there will be lasting changes — like virtual gatherings, ecommerce, and regional nuances — for marketers to embrace. It’s imperative that brands look at fresh data that reflects current consumer behavior and, to the greatest extent possible, plan for varying outcomes using “if this, then that” logic in strategic discussions.

Above all, brands who can should avoid the temptation to “go dark” or “wait and see.” Instead, pivot your efforts to support consumers in an authentic way.

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