Concerns over COVID-19 have dominated the internet lately, across both official news outlets and social media. This can be a dual-edged sword as brands and individuals turn to social platforms to educate people about the virus and run the risk of spreading disinformation. From a marketing perspective, the conversation to be had among brands and business owners: are we taking responsibility for the content we’re producing and marketing to our audience?

To us, “responsible content” means producing value-based content for users that takes the current social climate into consideration. While your brand shouldn’t shy away from joining conversations surrounding COVID-19, keep in mind that the content you create can have a much larger impact than you may realize. 

Here are some examples of brands currently evaluating their content and whether that content is “responsible” in the current climate. 

Kentucky Fried Chicken

KFC has recently suspended an ad promoting users to lick their fingers after eating their fried chicken. This content arc from KFC is not new, but the message behind this content (that KFC Chicken is “finger-lickin good”) in the current social context is dangerous. 

There’s nothing nefarious behind this campaign. However, with current health recommendations not to touch your face, suggesting that your customers lick their fingers is irresponsible at the moment. KFC has wisely pulled the ad campaign despite the clear understanding by their audience that they are in no way recommending spreading the virus. 

Bravo to KFC for understanding that the overall value of their brand is worth more than one campaign and that the content we produce as marketers should never put our consumers at risk. 

Axe Body Spray

With a predominantly younger male demographic as their purchasing audience, Axe has always pivoted their content campaigns and embraced a form of “micro-shock value.” March is a huge month for sports fans, a captive audience of the Axe brand. March Madness is one of the most-watched sporting events and the costs associated with marketing during the event have been rising. 

Like KFC, Axe recently pulled an ad that might be seen in the current climate as “irresponsible.” The ad tells a story of a person whose body odor induces panic at a basketball event, causing the stadium to be evacuated and oxygen masks to drop above the fans. While the premise is a clever concept considering the Axe purchasing demographic, at the moment, the idea of mass chaos in a public space is not a laughing matter- and it’s certainly not a responsible message to display to the masses of media consumers. 

While the ad did run previously on NBA broadcasts, Axe has since pulled the commercial moving forward- another example of a brand evaluating whether or not their content is responsible in the current environment. 

The content your brand creates matters. 

Understandably, people are concerned at the moment and announcements from credible resources need to take priority over our content as marketers.

In the United States alone, the social media reporting tool Hootsuite reports that over 19 million mentions of COVID-19 have occurred on Twitter in the last month. For Digital Marketers, we are now responding to a conversation that has been at the forefront worldwide. The reach of conversation about COVID-19 online is unprecedented. 

But again, this reinforces the necessity for responsible content. Here are three things to consider when evaluating your content: 

  1. Is the content providing value to the end consumer? 
  2. Does the content promote the end consumer’s well being, or promote methodology to improve their wellbeing? 
  3. Does the content put the consumer in any form of risk? i.e. Health, Security, Financial. 


While these are not the only three factors that should be considered, they are a start. Brands that have been posting “irresponsible content” have been called tone-deaf, insensitive and have received overwhelmingly negative feedback. Irresponsible content puts everyone at risk. 

We’ll get through this, because as human beings we have a pretty long track record of resiliency. However, in marketing, we should never take social and cultural situations lightly or us them to capitalize. We owe it to the consumers engaging with our brands to always prioritize their wellbeing first.

Sometimes the hardest situations illuminate hard conversations. If there’s a silver lining, maybe it’s that now as a society, moving forward we will take a more intensive and comprehensive look at the impact the content we market can have on consumer’s lives. 

Let’s improve the conversation online — not promote chaos.