The Covid-19 pandemic has been the biggest test and the greatest opportunity for marketers as they seek to maintain, expand, and enhance awareness of their brands and relationships with their customers.
The lockdown and the uncertainty it brings, has seen a need for creative and innovative marketing that addresses the fears and realities of the pandemic, all while showcasing the solutions and services that can give customers a sense of normality.
Marketing strategies from before the crisis have had to be adapted, some torn up and scrapped, while others have forced a reset and a reimagining of how marketing will work during and post-Covid-19.
I believe marketing is transforming and changing at a speed never seen before. Strategies and plans made last year or at the beginning of March have had to be changed. Just like industries have had to find a new way of doing business, marketing has had to transform and pivot.
The coronavirus impacts everything: every brand, every industry, every aspect of ‘normal’ life. We cannot ignore that and simply believe the same methods we used in business and marketing before the pandemic, will work during this time.”
In a new book, The Future Is Faster Than You Think by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler, the thesis is that when it comes to tech breakthroughs, we have only just begun.
We are seeing it in online learning, we are seeing it in the increase in automation to safeguard employees and we are seeing it in the use of tech to reshape post-Covid Cities.
No time to panic
There is a sense among marketers that they are at the forefront of reshaping their brands to ensure they not only survive the Covid-19 crisis, but the economic one. Some have compared this time to the global financial crisis of 2008, when there was fear in the economy around the world, with those companies who implemented necessary change and continued with clever marketing coming out of the recession better prepared to thrive.
Now, said marketingweek.com columnist Mark Ritson in May, is not a time for companies to panic.
“The brands that keep a marketing budget see a payback in market share post-recession,” said Ritson.
We agree. BCX launched a brand-new PR-driven campaign during lockdown, with the first TVC flighting on11 May 11. The campaign is based on how great innovation thrives in hard times, with South Africans being at the forefront of showing how necessity is the mother of great inventions.
Messaging needs to be empathetic to the feeling of the time, and deeply aware of the emotions and needs of customers. Marketing that preys on the fears of the public, pushing them to, say, panic buy can and has backfired spectacularly. You need to have a strong sense of the sentiment this pandemic has wrought and tailor your marketing to that.
Pivoting and restructuring
You should have a sense of the trauma that companies are going through as they pivot their ways of working and restructure internally. These are incredibly difficult times for business leaders who have worked in a certain way for all or most of their lives. Now they have staff working remotely and have shifted more towards ecommerce than ever before. At BCX we can see that this pandemic has accelerated digital transformation in Africa, a very necessary transformation, and transformation is never easy.
Globally, the growing awareness of social justice with the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements has contributed to a consumer base looking to the messaging of brands around these issues. Some brands that have not read the room correctly have seen a backlash on social media and boycotts of products. Marketing is, now perhaps more than ever, not just about selling products and services, but also about being seen to take a strong moral stance.
Facebook’s share price dropped eight percent after the likes of Unilever, Coca-Cola, Ben & Jerry’s suspended their ad spend on social media to protest how they moderated hate speech. “We will take this time to reassess our advertising policies to determine whether revisions are needed. We also expect greater accountability and transparency from our social media partners,” said Coca-Cola CEO, James Quincy.
The Covid-19 crisis has intensified the need for clever, well-structured, innovative and well-meaning marketing. This time has changed everything across all facets of society and marketing is not only just a part of that but, I believe, perhaps the leading aspect of building the new normal.
We are learning all the time. We have learnt that we can take decisions a lot quicker and smarter. Plans can change quickly. I’m also finding you sometimes have to go with gut feel and instinct as well as marketing data and analytics. The world is going through something of a reboot. Marketing has also had a bit of a reset and will be all the stronger for it.
Mandisa Ntloko-Petersen is chief marketing officer at BCX. With more than 25 years of experience in marketing, she believes in the importance of working within a collaborative environment, surrounding herself with talented people. She expects delivery and accountability but is never afraid of getting her hands dirty. Ntloko-Petersen’s key interests lie in brand strategy, content marketing and driving sales through opportunity-centric and personalised marketing, which she has been working towards for BCX, since taking on her current role in August 2018.
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