10 media channels brands need to try as the world enters a “new normal”

2020 marks a turning point in global media history. The coronavirus has brought about a radical increase in the consumption of digital media channels around the world. So, brands need to adapt their channel strategy, fast.

Of course the crisis is damaging for many businesses. Yet, with audiences more captive than ever (no pun intended), it presents a unique opportunity for brands to make a real impact through creativity and experimentation with new channels. And while the coronavirus crisis will not last forever, it’s set to alter attitudes towards media consumption long term, with a faster shift to a virtual way of life.

After weeks of global lockdown, here are our top 10 media channels to invest in during the coronavirus crisis (and after). We hope it helps you with your marketing content planning:

1. Social

The channels

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Pinterest… as you can imagine, the usual media channel suspects are booming in terms of social usage. It’s not surprising, since 45% of global consumers are now spending more time on social media (source: GlobalWebIndex).

With social distancing measures likely to be in place for many months to come, it’s worth investing in these social media channels. But consider where to place your content carefully. Right now engagement rates on Instagram are 7x higher than that of Facebook (source: Campaign). However, with the situation always changing, you’ve got to keep up your eye on the figures.

Shifting audiences

There’s also an emergence of new social media players to consider. Houseparty, launched back in 2016, has experienced a huge boom. In April, it became the no.1 social media app in 82 countries, with 50 million new signups (source: TechCrunch). TikTok, although already hugely popular with Gen Z, has also seen a rise in use, with more and more older generations signing up to the platform. TikTok achieved 315 million downloads between January and March, the largest app download figure for a single quarter ever (source: Sensor Tower).

So with more and more people scrolling to pass the time, and social distancing measures likely to be in place for many months to come, now’s the time to get active on social.

What creative opportunities do these channels have to offer? There are lots of trending formats that brands can experiment with. On Instagram, AR quiz filters on Stories continue to spark excitement amongst users globally, and AR face filters remain incredibly popular. There are also numerous branded effects to explore on TikTok, Facebook and Snapchat.

This playful and interactive type of content can be beneficial to the brands in 2 ways. Firstly, it offers fans of the brand with a form of entertainment when they need it most. Secondly, if executed creatively enough, this content can be an extremely effective vehicle for brand awareness.

New types of content

Obviously brands have had to massively pivot their comms in reaction to their consumers suddenly staying at home 24/7. And while the situation is likely to ease-up over the next few months, they won’t be returning to “normal” life anytime soon. So, content must remain “home-based”, adding value to consumers as they lead their socially-distanced lives.

Stats from search tools Pinterest and Google support this theory. In Spring 2020, Pinterest has seen a 45x increase in the search for ‘yeastless bread recipes’, a 2.9x increase in the search for ‘home workouts’ and a 128x increase in the search for ‘easy lunch ideas for kids’ to help feed home-schooling children.

In the first two weeks of May alone, Google saw a 1150% rise in the search for ‘easy desserts to make during quarantine’, while the search for ‘buzz cut’ and ‘garden’ reached an all-time high worldwide. Clearly, consumers want content to help them maximise their time spent at home – cooking, gardening, trying new activities – but also to help them stay healthy and feel good in themselves. So when you’re planning your marketing content, keep the latest trends in mind.

The influencer situation

When it comes to influencers, the road ahead is fairly unclear. In North America, influencers have seen consistently declining engagement rates since coronavirus started hitting hard, and there’s no current sign of improvement.

However, some brands are finding that collaborating with the right type of influencer is helping them to gain traction. In an effort to encourage Gen Z to follow social-distancing regulations, P&G reached out to Charli D’Amelio to help them with their #DistanceDance campaign. D’Amelio choreographed and shared her #DistanceDance on TikTok, gaining 8.7 billion TikTok views and 1.7 million videos in response.

With influencers, it all depends on their industry and the type of content they’re producing. A pivot towards relatable, home-based content – like D’Amelio’s dance routine – is still likely to amass a lot of viewers. So, if an influencer can provide meaningful content that can add value to consumers lives as they social distance then it may still be worth collaborating.

Brand opportunity

Despite social usage being on the rise, there are less advertisers on social media channels. Companies affected by the crisis have been decreasing their marketing budgets, resulting in a drop of up to 47% in CPM and CPC prices, due to a decline in competition (source: Match2One). This offers an ideal opportunity for marketers to capture more eye-balls at a lower cost than before the crisis.

2. Video streaming

According to GlobalWebIndex, 50% of global consumers are watching more streaming services, with over 10% saying they are creating and uploading videos. This isn’t surprising, since we all have more time to fill with interesting content.

Brands around the world are providing engaging content via live video streams – from Q&As, to book launches, to concerts, to make-up tutorials, to yoga classes, to cooking lessons, and more. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter/Periscope, TikTok and Twitch are all platforms that have seen the use of the Live function double in the past few weeks. In fact, Instagram Live saw a whopping 70% increase in use over the last month (source: Business Insider). The lesson to be learned? Get streaming.

3. Gaming

There are 2.5 billion active gamers worldwide, most of whom are now at home 24/7. So, it makes sense that gaming is booming right now. Add to that the millions of people trying out games as a way to pass time. As a result, weekly game sales have increased between 40% and 60% (source: Futurescore).

Virtual interactive gaming

New releases like Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Call of Duty: Warzone, which allow players to meet up virtually in-game have helped boost game sales. These games present a great opportunity for brands, thanks to in-game advertising. In Animal Crossing: New Horizons, players can download branded virtual goods. In China, Net-a-Porter has created avatar outfits inspired by its Spring/Summer 20 range for Animal Crossing players to wear, while Getty Images has created an Animal Crossing Art Generator meaning users can create art for their island homes. Brands should jump at this opportunity, sharing their products and services in-game across both new and old releases.

In-game advertising

The great brand collaborations don’t stop there. With live sports fixtures off the cards, Adidas is working with EA Games to provide an alternative. Their ‘Uncancelled Cup’ is an in-game recreation of the cancelled European tournament, taking place inside Fifa. Full of in-game Adidas branding, and guaranteed to capture the attention of both games and sports fans, it’s an effective way to boost brand awareness during the strange times. Something for brands to think about.

Mobile gaming

Mobile gaming is also seeing a huge rise in interest. According to POKKT, March saw a 39% increase in global mobile game downloads, with users spending an extra 15 mins (on average) playing these games. POKKT also revealed that ad requests for mobile gaming increased by 31%. Clearly many global marketers are refocusing their marketing content strategy into mobile gaming during the coronavirus crisis. A wise strategy to follow.

4. Audio


For many, the podcast situation might seem a little hazy. While some platforms are reporting that podcast listening is down, others say they’re experiencing a boom. However, the overall consensus seems to be that podcast consumption is on the up.

The listening figures

Acast experienced their biggest weekend ever on March 21st-22nd, with an extra 750k listeners (source: The Irish Times). Decreases in certain podcast categories, like sports, is mostly due to audience listening habits shifting towards more news related and comedic content.

In Australia, over 1 in 10 Australians are now listening to more podcasts. 32% of these listeners opting for news and politics podcasts, and 31% tuning into comedy (source: Commercial Radio Australia). Acast revealed that this is true of the situation in Europe too. Listening figures for comedy podcasts are up by 21.5%, while Science and Medicine figures have risen by 14.5%. Clearly, in countries either in lockdown or practicing social isolation, listeners are turning to lighthearted entertainment and informative content to help them deal with the situation. So brands should seek to sponsor or place their ads inside this type of podcast content.

Podcast production

When it comes to podcasts, the pros don’t stop at rising listener rates. Podcasts are also one of the easiest forms of entertainment to create in isolation, as equipment can be sent to the podcasters’ home and the episodes can be produced very quickly if needed. So, if you’re looking to produce your own brand podcast, or just want to sponsor/place an ad inside a podcast, this can all be done with relative ease and speed. When life eventually returns to a more “normal” routine, listeners are likely to return to podcasts on their daily commutes as they did before. So, there’s little risk of losing out in the long term.

Music streaming

Over the past few months, countries entering quarantine or lockdown seemed to face a sudden drop in music streaming. For example, in Italy, the demand for Spotify streams initially dropped by 23% (source: Forbes). However, a week later, Italy’s interactive audio streams remained fairly consistent at a lower rate of 683.1M (source: Music Business Worldwide).

It’s no wonder that demand has decreased. After all, music plays a vital part in consumer’s daily commutes and outdoor activity. However, for many, listening to music at home is still the perfect way to pass the time. Gen Z, in particular, are turning up the tunes right now. In fact, there’s been a 71% increase in Gen Zs listening to music during this crisis, and they are the only generation choosing music over news (source: Forbes). So, now might be a great opportunity to reach younger audiences via ads on music platforms.

5. Radio

Similarly to podcasts, lots of people are turning to radio for its mix of entertainment and regular news updates. In the UK, Global (who own hit stations Capital and LBC) have seen a jump in listener figures, with reach up by 15% in mid-March.

This increased interest in radio is not just a UK phenomenon. In India, radio listening has gone up 23% during lockdown and is seen as a more trustworthy source for news updates than TV (source: The Media Online). Equally, in Australia, Commercial Radio reports that 72% of people are listening to the same amount of radio, or more, to keep updated on the Covid-19 situation. So, with plenty of listeners to reach, radio is a great format to try right now. As with podcasts, VO can be recorded with ease at home, without any crew. Producing radio ads is a very safe way to create content while social distancing.

6. Email

Insight from BounceX suggests that, during the early weeks, email open rates increased by 40% as people went into lockdown mode. However, website visits and conversion rates are now 10-20% lower.

A consensus among consumers seems to be that brands’ emails during Coronavirus can often feel more opportunistic than genuine, which might explain the reduction in conversion rates. Brands should tread carefully when it comes to email marketing. Here are a few tips:

  • Rather than make your email about coronavirus, just reference the situation in a note, especially now that consumers are starting to grow tired of “coronavirus content”.
  • Ask your consumers what they want to see in emails and what they’d like to be informed about right now.
  • Keep up to date with what’s happening and change your tone to stay relevant to the local situation. Make sure an automated email from last month isn’t going to suddenly hit consumers inboxes by mistake.

7. Direct messaging and video call platforms

Direct messaging

Naturally, people are turning to direct messaging platforms and video calling media channels to stay connected while social distancing. Activity on Facebook’s messaging apps has increased more than 50%. Voice and video calling has more than doubled on Messenger and WhatsApp in the countries hit hardest by the crisis (source Facebook). Similarly, a study of Italian media consumption showed that time on group calls (with 3 or more participants) increased by over 1000% in March.

Video calls

But one channel that seems to be zooming ahead of the rest (excuse the pun) is, of course, Zoom. In the first 3 months of 2020 – when Covid-19 started to take hold globally – Zoom’s daily active user base increased by 67% (source: NewStatesman).

Microsoft Teams is also seeing a huge rise, with a new daily record of 2.7 billion meeting minutes taking place a day. Microsoft Teams is also reaching a new demographic – students and teachers – with 183,000 users in 175 countries now using Teams for Education. (Source: Microsoft).

Brand interactions

So, how can brands maximise on this trend? Well, many are providing branded backgrounds for hit messaging platform Zoom. Audi, Lego, Nickelodeon,Yorkshire Tea, Oatly are just a few of the big brands offering up their own exciting backgrounds. With messaging and video call platforms, brands can cater to different demographics, from the more professional, to the educational, to the purely social. Content is fairly easy to produce (even in lockdown) using existing product shots and graphic design. Branded backgrounds are a simple yet effective way to raise brand awareness and to reach different audience types during this crisis.

8. VR

When it comes to media channels, your first thought might not be virtual reality. But VR is no longer just for gamers. Indeed, many believe that social distancing will allow VR tech to truly shine. More and more industries are starting to adopt VR, from workplace professionals looking to hold video conferences and health care professionals using it for training purposes. So, there’s plenty of opportunities for brands to reach new audiences via VR.

Experiential VR marketing

For brands that rely on experience – like travel, music, gaming and events – these technologies are worth pursuing. HTC, a Taiwanese consumer electronics company, is taking their 16th International Symposium on Hyphenated Techniques in Chromatography and Separation technology virtual this year. Users can join via headsets, or just watch a livestream if they don’t own the tech. Equally, keen travellers can keep exploring with VR on platforms such as Google Earth or Sólfar’s Everest VR.

With the Google Cardboard and Facebook’s Oculus Quest making VR headsets far more affordable, and mainstream – more and more people will have access to VR tech soon. So, taking your events and your marketing virtual will be vital in the next few years as the world remains fairly closed-off.

9. E-commerce

With stores unlikely to operate as normal for some time, and many consumers hesitant to return to stores once they open their doors, e-commerce will continue to play a vital role for many months to come.

Of course, with such economic uncertainty right now, it’s tricky to get consumers to commit to their purchase. A way to reduce cart abandonment rates is to include more promotions into your e-commerce offering. According to a survey by Global WebIndex, around 1 in 3 people worldwide are waiting for sales before buying certain products. This is especially true in Brazil, Canada and Singapore. One promotion certain to grab consumers attention is free delivery. The same report revealed that free delivery has become more important to  51% of consumers.

Since the current economic situation is so uncertain, reassuring customers that their online orders will be safe and that they are buying the right thing is essential. One way to do this is to give your brand community the opportunity to share more of their customer experiences and product reviews. As a result, potential customers will feel reassured.

10. TV

During the past few weeks, there’s been a net increase in the viewing of news coverage, with an increase of 124% during the first 3 weeks of lockdown, according to BARB. TV, it seems, has a new purpose: to serve as a trusted source of information.

The family effect

TV is also acting as an uplifting and social tool during these days of social isolation. It is allowing households to come together (BARB revealed that shared TV viewing has grown by 37%). Cooking, crafting and exercise TV shows seem to be performing particularly well. For brands in these industries, there’s an opportunity to get involved, via sponsorships, collaborations or by creating relevant ads.

Of these families tuning into TV, it appears that parents are the ones most receptive to advertising than other demographic groups (source: IPSOS in the US market). Something for brands to think about when planning TV content.

The nostalgia trend

Nostalgia is also a key trend emerging, with families rewatching old classics like Friends and The Office. Brands can play on this nostalgia viewing trend, incorporating it into their creative content. And it’s not just old movies, old sports matches are also being played on TV for those looking for their sports fix. To remain relevant, brands can produce content that nods to the lack of sporting events, showing empathy towards those missing the usual fixtures.

The takeaway

The world’s future remains hard to predict. But now is the time for brands to be brave and try new media channels. There’s no one-size fits all to the current situation, but we hope these insights into current trending media channels will help you try and test new formats and make the most of a difficult situation.

If you found these insights useful and want some more help with your marketing content strategy for the coming months, please feel free to get in touch.