Yes, this is yet another thinkpiece about pandemic marketing. I promise it won’t be that bad, and sadly these types of articles will never be out of vogue. I already wrote one of these earlier in the pandemic, and it’s as relevant today as it was when I finished the first draft six months ago.
It’s said that no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy, and certainly no marketing plan survived the first week of the pandemic. Every day since has presented a new crisis or new (usually regulatory) challenge to conducting business.
Supply chains have been disrupted, and brick-and-mortar shopping has taken a hit. Your customers are consuming more and more hours of content on streaming services and only want to shop via a mobile app.
These are permanent changes to how marketers plan their campaigns, but they don’t have to be permanent obstacles. To help adjust, here are three interconnected disciplines that every marketer needs to adopt.
1. Understanding local data
As some areas of the world have been more affected than others, it’s vital to understand the effects of the pandemic at the local level. In the United States, you see dramatic differences between individual states, and even between cities and counties within those states. Because of this, your existing market research data might be destined for the dumpster. COVID-19 is trashing everything you thought you understood about consumer buying power, employment status, retail foot traffic, etc.
A fun question everyone is pondering right now: Is consumer affinity for a particular brand still strong, or are they willing to accept Brand X because they can order it online instead of buying their preferred brand in person? How loyal are customers to their favorite local brands?
Remember: even in areas which have been heavily affected by COVID-19, marketing is still okay. Keep in mind that it’s important to know when or if your messaging needs to change — to be more empathetic, or to highlight new or different services — but you still have to market.
2. Take Risks
Because of my background in politics, I’ve worked for a lot of organizations that are severely risk averse. “Getting it right” is the primary goal, which mires a lot of marketing strategies in weeks or months of debate and approvals. In politics, getting it wrong can mean a bad story or a lost election. Similarly in brand marketing, it can mean a drop in revenue, or losing your job. This leads to a lot of marketers finding themselves mired in too much process and a low ceiling for success. Now in the pandemic, emphasize to your teams (and clients) the fallacy of being overly risk averse.
The old assumptions may no longer work, but taking chances on new products and services, new ad channels, and new markets could have major payoffs. Value testing over getting it right every single time. Raise that ceiling!
To identify the best opportunities, you have to understand how your market is evolving (see the prior point on local data.) Otherwise, industry changes and lucrative opportunities will be lost to competitors. If you stop looking for new opportunities, you take on the biggest risk of all: becoming obsolete.
3. Have Patience
This might be a “Part 2” of the prior point, but it’s important enough to stand alone. Have patience with new strategies, especially if it’s just a test and learn scenario. If something doesn’t appear to be immediately delivering results, give it more time. Be certain you have statistically significant results before you change up. Otherwise, not only will you fail, but you come away having learned nothing.
Remember, marketing isn’t all about selling; it is seeding the future.