COVID-19 / 08.31.20 / By Chase Howells

Marketing your Five W’s

Share This Post:

The COVID-19 pandemic coupled with the social justice movements have dramatically changed every business since March. Some have seen record revenues, many others have gone under and the majority have had to pivot to survive. Likewise this period has had an impact on consumer behavior, we’re seeing dollars spent very specifically. Because of the changing climate of the last six months, we’ll look at what marketing looks like right now using the five W’s and how we can analyze how we market for the next 6 months (and possibly beyond).

Who, what, when, where and why are the “five W’s” and are often used for journalism to serve as the questions needed to be answered to complete a story and in detective work to solve a crime or determine a motive. They are often coupled with one H, “how.” For use in a marketing context, I believe the how is the response to an evaluation of a brand against the five W’s. Let’s look at the five W’s in a marketing context:


Being a faceless corporation is far less appealing in the modern climate than before. The who represents the people behind the brand and how it is personified. Consumers like knowing who their dollars are going to, or in instances like the recent push to support black-owned businesses, they require it. Being woman-owned, minority-owned or veteran-owned used to be more important to securing government opportunities, but now it has grown in importance in the private sector. Generally though, you can’t change who owns the company, but you can highlight diversity initiatives within your organization. Being a small business, or family-owned has also gained traction as again the focus is knowing who dollars are going to. Find a way to highlight the who in your organization.


This was the most important feature prior to March. Seems obvious, market what your product/service offering is first and foremost and build from there. The issue over the last six months has been demand for many industries, whether by force or just nature of the moment, disappeared, and has become hyper-focused in a few areas (food, ppe, supplies). For that, companies have had to change their what. Our what at FrontLine Exhibits for instance was centrally focused around trade shows and live events which have been nearly non-existent. We’ve increased our efforts in our branded environments category and had to add a new section of PPE and COVID safety products. We’ve had to make our “what” relevant to the time and market accordingly.


Similar to the points made in the “who” section, “where” has become critical in the minds of the consumers because they want their dollars focused in their community. We’ve seen a big push to support local business throughout the pandemic. Even American Express has started a “Shop Small” initiative supporting small, local businesses. And where a product can’t be localized to a specific community, buying American made products has become focal as well. Here in Richmond, Phlow made headlines and scored a major contract for committing to make pharmaceuticals in the US. So where has very much become a marketing leverage point as well.


The last six months have hammered the supply chain. Whether sourcing raw materials was an issue, or mandated plant shutdowns, demand spikes or a combination, lead times have become unreliable. If you’re stocked and able to supply a high demand item, your “when” can become your most marketable feature.


The “why” is applying the purpose behind the brand, again creating relatability to the consumer. Being a non-profit, faith organization or company centered around community service is very meaningful as people want their dollars to generate community value as opposed to just profit. This is not just a consumer demand, but an employee demand as well. Companies now offer paid time in community service as a benefit, or just commit their employees to service efforts. I’ve worked alongside corporate teams in different local efforts and seen how it is great for teambuilding and moral within an organization, but also creating roots within a community. Illustrate the greater purpose of your organization in your marketing efforts.


Answer the five W’s for your company and find the areas of strength to generate a marketing message relative to the moment we’re in. The biggest takeaway I’ve seen is that people want to help out and work with people, not companies. In some ways, this is refreshing and I’m excited to see how this carries forward in a more “normal” business climate.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in purchasing in-stock, USA manufactured safety products and/or displays from a woman-owned, small, local business with employees active in the community, contact us!