Recessionary cycles present difficult challenges for almost everyone and marketing world is no exception.
COVID-19 has brought about breakneck pressure on marketing, and marketers have no other option than to chest the pressure with great pain. The development of crisis or pandemic like this goes back to thousands of years.
Walking on the memory line, the world have witnessed in the last 100 years numerous crises such as Great Depression 1932, International Debt Crisis 1982, Global Economic Recession 2007-09 and now coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, to mention but a few.
Marketers are always good at marketing many things but recession marketing isn’t always one of them because in those periods markets change faster than marketing. Buyers change in their numbers, wants, and purchasing power in response to changes in the economy, technology, and culture. The pandemic has really brought change swiftly like a falcon strikes it target and it space continues to accelerate. The marketing division of every company could move only as fast as their feet can carry them. Companies often don’t notice these changes and maintain marketing practices that have lost their edge. The marketing practices of many companies today are obsolete because of the pandemic.
One of Jack Ma’s favorite sayings proved to be true: “Today is tough, tomorrow is tougher, and the day after tomorrow is beautiful. But most companies die tomorrow evening and can’t see the sunshine on the day after tomorrow.” For people to remain oriented to the long term, they must recognize that just as joy is part of a startup company, so is pain. But the only way to build something great is to endure a lot of struggles. The pandemic has already thrown marketing into enduring a lot of struggles but hoping to sunshine the day after tomorrow (post-pandemic world), even though it’s hard for marketers to know where to begin since the economy is still looking gloomy. With so much speed of change during this difficult time, what’s the lasting impact (changes) it’s making on marketing?
Change in Media Consumption
People are staying at home and there’s a shift from out-of-home media consumption back into in-home media consumption especially now that many people are working from homes. Many people are now glued to their TVs for new updates on the pandemic, making TVs as consumer’s first choice of screen these days. This is because people’s tolerance and love for screen has significantly increased which is not likely to change now. This swift media consumption change will impact on marketing. Marketer has to revisit their drawing board to study which media their core target audience are consuming to help them get the message in front of the right eyes.
Change in Channel Mix
Due to government’s directives such as physical distancing, avoiding crowded areas, total or partial lockdown, stay at home and among others has led consumers began to avoid in-store channels way of buying into online or virtual buying. To avoid the risk of being infected, many consumers are now looking up to online stores as their only hope of life. This will make brands or businesses that can’t adapt swiftly to meet this new channel mix suffer unduly.
Change in Consumer Behaviour
Covid-19 is not only health and economic pandemic but psychology as well. People are fearful and full of anxiety, how they shop, how they spend and how much they spend has change dramatically. Consumer behaviour experts have already predicted that in time of crisis like this, consumers will change from mindless consumption to mindful consumption. Consumers will now be calculative and mindful how they buy and what they buy. All this will negatively impact on marketing activities.
Change in Marketing Content
Covid-19 has really defined marketing content for marketers. In the midst of Covid-19 marketers are forced to change their marketing content or language from influencer marketing into empathy, emotional and authentic content. For instance Nike is asking consumers during the pandemic with the crafted message “play inside, play for the world.” People want to see a brand as being seen as responsible brand and trusted brand. In this manner brands will do quite well by changing their taglines, mantra and even logos. Customers want to see your brand and believe that your goal is to help them and don’t believe your goal is to take or make money from them. They want to see you concern about their safety, health, welfare and truly helpful.
Change in Marketing Budget
PIMS (Profit Impact of Market Strategies) study reported by Haymarket publishing U. K found that companies that maintained their marketing spending during the recession emerged stronger after the recession than those that didn’t. But case is always different on the ground; it’s of this reason why Drucker asserted that “when a recession strikes, most companies rush to cut their expenses, the most obvious one being advertising. Those in top management (mostly finance guys) don’t believe in advertising, anyway; they tolerate it as a form of defensive insurance, not as a profit generator.” A decrease in ad spending has a lot of negative repercussions on the business survival, and this seems to be the practice in crisis like Covid-19, hence impact on marketing activities.
So, What Do We Expect To See In The Marketing Landscape Post Covid-19 And Beyond? I’ve Highlighted Five Areas That I See Emerging for Brands Looking to Reach New Audiences through Marketing:
We are now in a global environment where everything and everyone is digitally connected to everything and everyone. It’s evidently clear that this digitally momentum is here to stay. The digital world isn’t coming; it here. Businesses are now using digital tools to survive amidst covid-19 and expected to use these tools to recover post pandemic world. Connected Commerce Council report revealed that “digital tools frequently acted as a “safety net”, helping many small businesses avoid closing, downsizing, and severely reduced revenue.” So it’s no surprise that the internet and rapid advances in digital have taken the marketing world with strong storm.
Post pandemic world is going to experience a shift from out-of-home consumption back into in-home consumption. Digital marketing tools such as websites, social media, mobile ads and apps, online videos, email, blogs and other digital platforms need to be used to engage customers everywhere, anytime via their computers, smartphones, tablets, internet ready TVs and other digital devices. Businesses have to learn how to use digital tools and possible online marketplace to help them keep their operating. Growth minded companies need to begin using internet of things (IoT) as a vital business processes providing a competitive advantage across the business units.
In post pandemic world, for businesses to survive, grow quickly and continue doing business successfully for number of years, they must use digital tools to find customers, grow their customer base and pivot their online sales. Post pandemic world businesses should use the digital tools to constantly and consistently communicate with their customers to help them penetrate their market and sell more of their products. The business must also be interested in using those tools to gain greater visibility, increase customer satisfaction and deliver benefits to customers. It is time businesses take advantage of surging digital opportunities since its becoming a fertile ground for businesses.
Build Agility and Customer Responsiveness into the Company
Business agility is not something coming, it’s not the thing of the future; it’s here. Businesses must face the reality, act on the reality and more quickly. Stick your head in the sand, says Jack Welch, and you will fail or stick your head in the sand and your business will stay stuck in the past. To navigate post pandemic world businesses must learn how to build agility and face reality, adjusting to that reality and moving quickly. To build agility into the company this is what GE, CEO Jack Welch have to say “what we are trying relentlessly to do is get that small-company soul-and small-company speed-inside our big-company body”. The world is moving at such a space that control has become a limitation, become agile and you may turn a bad situation into a great one and business leaders who avoid this are doomed to failure.
Post pandemic world businesses must begin to reduce their cycle-time in terms of manufacturing, materials logistics, distribution, product development, decision making cycle and more importantly customer responsiveness cycle time. “We’ve discovered a new responsiveness in Unilever that I wish we had unlocked years ago, but it’s taken this crisis to do that. We’re actually moving away from scenario planning and trying to focus on building agility and responsiveness into the company” Unilever CEO, Alan Jope told Bloomberg BusinessWeek. To build customer responsiveness into the company you must desire it, thrive on it and nourish it. In post pandemic world if you focus on customer responsiveness cycle time, the payoff will be a reduced need for assets, lower cost, quick response to the market needs, increase in efficiency and profitability.
To navigate post pandemic world businesses must also improve the speed with which the company fixed customer satisfaction problems. They must not wait believing that if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. According to PepsiCo CEO, Wayne Calloway “that is one of the worst rules of management. “In today’s economy, if it isn’t broke, you must as well break it yourself, because it soon will be.” By responding to customer satisfaction problems, the company can show it stands behind its product and ready to remedy and problems that may have occurred.
Real-Time Marketing/ Moment Marketing
This involves real-time engagements with consumers and skillfully injecting the brand in to consumers’ lives and conversations. Thus aligning marketing content with real-world events (like Covid-19) and trending topics through timely tweets, videos, blog entries, and social media posts. Many real-time marketing efforts center on major media events and these events let marketers engage huge, ready-made audiences.
Companies need to set up temporary real-time command centers, or “war rooms,” to create rapid responses during major events like pandemics or even to counter competitor’s moves. It’s of this reason that one strategist said, “Keeping pace with the speed of digital culture actually requires marketers to plan ahead.” The war room has given way to a campsite-real-time marketing needs to be a built-in strategy all year round.
For example, according to Kotler with each new Apple iPhone model, at the very same time that Apple executives are on stage unveiling the features of the new phone, Samsung marketers are flooding social media with clever real-time “The next best thing is already here” responses. The strategy lets Samsung capitalize on the buzz surrounding the Apple introductions to promote its own wares. To be consistently successful, real-time marketing must be part of a broader, carefully conceived strategy that makes the brand itself an engaging and relevant part of consumers’ lives.
The times we’re living in has brought immaculate innovation changes to the business front. The innovation change is like thunderclap. When thunderclap comes, there’s no time to cover the ear.
Products, services, ideas, etc. have also seen a continuous change. The pace of innovation is already fast but will grow even faster in post pandemic world.
Marketing innovation is a continuous journey, but many businesses have failed to adapt and adopt the marketing activities to meet the changing times. “Innovation is the calling card to the future”, Robin explains, is either you innovate or die. To survive post pandemic world organizations need to rekindles their marketing innovation magic to get the ticket to stay in front. To stay afloat in post pandemic world your marketing innovation should help you come up with big idea, fresh idea, and creative ideas. The challenge for you is to continuo to come up with awesome ideas that will touch the hearts, the minds, hands and purse of the consumers. When you think of marketing innovation, it’s a kind of “how can I come up with new fresh ideas that will entertain, that will get people to talk, and that will get media attention. This means driving innovation that people love and are inspired to get associated with. Many marketing leaders capitalize on these by becoming more innovative, more competitive and more relevant, setting a strategic course for sunnier days. To stay ahead of the curve post Covid-19 world, businesses must innovate or die permanently. Even though, some businesses are at the neck breaking point of shutdown, businesses must use this period putting in measures, plans strategies, tactics to help them stay ahead of the curve when the pandemic is contained or brought under control and business community resume full operation.
Purpose is everything; purpose led businesses are changing nature of business day-in and day-out. The only true way to control your firm’s destiny is to drive for relative market dominance and marketer has to play a lead role in this. As Drucker asserted many times, “the true purpose of a business is to create and retain customers”. Profit is not the main purpose of business; you will endanger your business if you begin to do that, because profits are only a reward for creating value for customers. A purpose will not be successful if it does not provide benefits to customer. The more crucial component of purpose is how it will result in greater appeal to customers; thus purpose with an impact.
In an interview with Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s, Unilever CEO, Alan Jope sees purpose-led businesses only gaining relevance. He observed that “brands with purpose grow companies with purpose last, and people with purpose thrive”. To stay ahead of the curve post Covid-19 world, businesses must not waver one iota in their commitment to purpose-led business. A business purpose provides a guiding view of the future that influences employee’s decisions, priorities and ways of working. People like to do work that is meaningful to them and that has a purpose. People work better and achieve more if they believe in what they are doing and have confidence in the direction the company is going. Purpose makes a valuable contribution to employees’ commitment, engagement, productivity and creativity.
To navigate post pandemic world, businesses must be purpose-led to help people to always think fresh thought, make it a habit to think about their businesses and don’t rest on their laurel. Businesses must be purposely and systematic in their search of opportunities, the future of profit is purpose. Marketing strategies and programs must be developed to support these purpose and every efforts will need to be spelled out carefully from these purpose.
As the health experts are working tiredly with tightened belt, we’re sure that they will be able to contain the virus or bring it under control and permanently find a cure for it. But the impact of the pandemic on marketing will be tough (if not impossible) to forget. As the world began to swift from fear to a gradual state of restart, but the question of how to navigate post pandemic world is stark.
Mali Albert Shiebila is the Lead Marketing Consultant for MarketWell Ghana Ltd (MWG) in Bolgatanga, Upper East Region. He is also the CEO of Reliance Bookshop. He holds BSc in Marketing, Chartered Accountant (from ICA-Ghana) and a member of the same institute. He writes about relevant marketing topics and pieces.