How COVID-19 is changing marketing

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How COVID-19 is changing marketing

As the global pandemic continues to radically change the way consumers behave, how are marketers coping? And what is the way forward?

Here at Catgraphics we decided to investigate. We found that authentic and purpose-driven brands are predicted to succeed, while marketers need to be speedy, adaptable and thoroughly digitally competent.

Here’s a brief summary of what we unearthed, with links to the full articles:

Writing for BizCommunity, local marketing guru, Glen Meier of Boomtown, says “we have to think digital-first, mobile-first, automated personalised communication, and ensure deep digital is ingrained into every part of your business.”

He notes that the past few months sped up digital transformation by at least 24 months. “Where we could create brand plans and forecast 4 to 6 months ahead, we can often now only see 4 to 6 weeks ahead.”

This means agencies must

  • consider their business strategy daily
  • be resourceful and agile, able to adapt to changing market and economic conditions
  • innovate and re-invent to adapt to the changing industry environment, and
  • remain lean and improve efficiencies further.

“To move our business and brands forward, the skills we need include a mix of creatives, digital thinkers and strategists who work together,” adds Meier. “Strategic, creative partnerships will win – those who listen, who understand consumers and uncover the human truths to connect.”

International marketing company, WARC, notes five major trends:

  • The chief marketing officer (CMO) is becoming a vital role. The C-suite is fast realising the crucial role marketers play, especially in managing the relationship with consumers. Some large brands that recently did away with CMOs, such as McDonalds, have reinstated the role.
  • Purpose really matters. Brands must walk the talk and make a positive difference. Many are aligning behind initiatives to tackle climate change and racism, or leaning on social media giants to remove harmful content on their platforms.
  • Condensing marketing processes. As Marie Gulin-Merle, a senior marketer at Google noted, the ability to react in real time will be an important skill for marketers going forward. Marketing companies are slashing internal red tape to move faster.
  • E-commerce platforms are attracting investment. Brands with the budgets to do so are looking toward e-commerce as a major advertising opportunity. Amazon has seen record growth in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • A renewed focus on brand experience. Experience is an increasingly important part of long-term brand building but COVID-19 has upended how many brands are approaching it. Health and safety has emerged as a key differentiator of brand experience.

Francois van Dyk, head of Operations at brand intelligence research company Ornico, also writing for BizCommunity, notes that the demise of print media in SA is forcing media owners to look at alternative sources of income. He says many sites are now moving to subscription-based services, and predicts it “will become a greater challenge for traditional public relations practitioners and communicators to get free media coverage. Though the traditional press release will probably never disappear, we can expect much more paid-for…. advertorial content.”

He concludes, “The reality is communicators are best placed to navigate this ever-changing crazy world we live in – but we need to start focusing on creating strategic brand value instead of just sending out stuff.”

According to an article by a number of European and American McKinsey partners, consumers vaulted five years in the adoption of digital in just eight weeks following the outbreak of COVID-19, with many trying digital for the first time. In Latin America, for example, 13 million people made their first-ever e-commerce transaction.

Here in SA, van Dyk points to the Online Retail Industry in South Africa 2020 report, which shows that the coronavirus lockdown had a huge impact on the online retail industry. It is estimated that online retail sales grew by around 40% by September 2020.

This shift to online shopping is likely to stick, according to the McKinsey article, “Our ongoing consumer sentiment surveys confirm that customers throughout the world intend to increase their share of online shopping across most categories.”

According to them, this means that marketers must rethink how to connect with consumers. Clearly a stronger emphasis on e-commerce and digital channels is crucial. This speed to market is one reason that digital has become such a crucial component of rapid revenue recovery for brands navigating an economic downturn.

The situation in SA, however, may be a little different. According to research conducted by brand communications agency HaveYouHeard last year, loyalty to online shopping was low during the lockdown. 81% of respondents stated that safety from COVID-19 was the biggest benefit of shopping for groceries online ,and only 27% claimed they were likely to continue once COVID-19 was no longer a threat. This highlights how brands need to proactively innovate further if they want to entrench ongoing online purchase.

Researcher Kimberly A. Whitler, writing for Forbes, interviewed executives to gain insight regarding how marketing will change after COVID-19.

Brands will be expected to be clear on their values, according to Amy Vale, CMO at Dosh. “In 2021, vocalizing your values will no longer be the exception for brands, it will be the rule, and marketers need to be prepared to stretch their authenticity muscle.”

She notes that 2020 increasingly saw brands speak up for what they believe in — from showing their support for the Black Lives Matter movement, to increased transparency on sustainability practices.

She adds that any social impact initiative should have one or all of the three following pillars: money (are you putting forward a meaningful donation behind your support?), time (are your brand’s executives volunteering for this initiative?) and knowledge (helping to increase awareness of the initiative).

Simialrly, Scott Holden, CMO at ThoughtSpot, says brands should focus on authentic, data-driven storytelling.

“The COVID-19 crisis has put pressure on every marketer’s budget. So it’s critical we shift our focus to only the most pressing needs of our customers.”

He says now more than ever, storytelling is critical for linking the value of your product to the challenges your customers are facing, but notes it must be done authentically and supported by data.

“Marketers must craft narratives that reflect what’s happening in the world and are supported by evidence that will connect authentically with your customers. This marriage of data and fact-driven storytelling should be a priority for every marketer in 2021.”

Be transparent about your purpose-driven business strategy, advises Kevin Seller, CMO at Ping Identity.

A main priority for CMOs is to “authentically establish purpose-driven brands. Companies that clearly articulate a vision for doing good as a part of the delivery of their goods and services are ones that will succeed.”

So that’s what some of the marketing experts are saying. Is your marketing on par to succeed in this new world of ours? We hope this round-up gets you thinking! Feel free to chat to us at Catgraphics about your marketing needs.