The COVID-19 pandemic is, by far, one of the biggest challenges this generation has faced, and its implications will reverberate for years to come. Since January, the coronavirus has presented the world with an unprecedented medical, economic and human challenge. With the chaos of new updates flying in every minute, many businesses are faced with huge uncertainties in terms of what steps to take to mitigate business risks and protect employees, while staying in touch with their customers. This has prompted marketing leaders to rethink how budgets are to be allocated.
Recent research from the World Federation of Advertisers found that 89 percent of multinational brands are deferring their marketing campaigns this month, with over half looking to freeze ad spend altogether for the next six months.
Even Facebook and Google, the duopoly that accounts for more than half of the spending in online advertising, are expecting to face a slump as companies big and small hunker down and slash their ad spending to save costs.
Despite the effects of the coronavirus on the advertising ecosystem, it is important for CMOs to recognize this crisis as an opportunity.
Though it is certain that this period of difficulty is likely to test us all, it also gives marketers the breathing room to focus on optimizing internal operations while adapting their customer engagement strategies in new, innovative ways.
Here are some strategies to keep in mind in order to make the most of your marketing during this time of uncertainty:
The pandemic has caused us to fundamentally rethink the way we work and live. As digital experiences replace in-person ones, marketers must adapt to significant changes in consumer sentiment and behaviors.
Depending on current public health advisories, some consumers in certain markets may be slowly easing out of lockdowns, such as those in China and Germany, while others remain in their homes, leading to a stark contrast in needs and preferences.
Whether that’s a shift in spending habits or how media is consumed, the past few months have shown that ecommerce and digital media are likely to transform the way consumers shop and see advertising. Some of these habits will likely become the new normal—even after the crisis passes.
With the sudden increase of people staying indoors, it will be crucial to pivot strategies to ensure that ads reach the right audiences irrespective of where they might be.
Beyond that, marketers should also take the opportunity to re-establish trust through customer-centric actions. Keeping the focus on customers is essential as their needs and expectations will change amidst the ever-evolving global health crisis.
Businesses need to be especially considerate about what and how they are communicating to customers while staying true to their brand and their overarching mission during uncertain times.
For some brands, this may mean creating inspiring advertisements while others might take a more practical approach, opting for educational, informational content to share with consumers.
In line with Gartner’s findings, marketers should invest in resources to improve the consistent monitoring of customer values and sentiment across geographical markets, while ramping up “real-time listening” to detect any shifts and react immediately.
Employees are a company’s most valuable asset, and having good people behind the wheel and manning the pit stops is key to thriving through a crisis.
For organizations that are trying to stay lean during challenging times, maintaining, or even growing, talent quality might seem like a luxury.
However, it may be beneficial to take this time to identify the gaps that may be present within your team and focus on building the skills that will drive future growth.
Talent is the heart of every organisation, and as we navigate the COVID-19 crisis, it is important to maintain a clear view of the long-term growth and the future of the company in a post-coronavirus world—and one way to do that is by building a team that is resilient, competitive and better prepared to handle future challenges.
With COVID-19 disrupting marketing and advertising initiatives, it may be worthwhile to review your existing marketing toolkit to evaluate whether your current strategies are effectively reaching your consumers.
Take a look at the current technologies you’ve invested in to date and ask yourself, “when’s the last time we used this?”
Oftentimes, marketing teams will invest in tools for a campaign-specific purpose or if it’s because a one-off vendor preferred it for a specific task. Use this current period as an opportunity to clean house and evaluate what’s worth keeping and what isn’t.
As consumers spend more time on over-the-top (OTT) streaming platforms, social media, and ecommerce portals, digital marketing may well be a brand’s best defense against the disruption.
Dentsu Aegis Network China reports that 61% of the marketers surveyed are making strategic shifts for the near term, keeping their plans fluid and tweaking their ad-spends to reach customers where they are—through channels such as display ads, social media, and online video, for instance.
Additionally, marketers seeing a cut in budgets will benefit by moving toward cheaper and more flexible channels such as programmatic advertising, where consumer presence and available impressions are increasing.
The ongoing global health crisis is undoubtedly accelerating us towards an increasingly digital future and leaders should now think critically about ways to leverage technologies with long-term value to proactively prepare for the new normal.
Strategic investments in your marketing toolkit will be important to allow your teams to stay agile amid a shifting commercial landscape and ensure that your business is future-fit.
However, a drive towards automation simply isn’t enough—companies would benefit from investing in technologies that increase transparency, productivity, and efficiency, enabling them to make smarter and more strategic decisions.
For instance, technologies such as blockchain allow for greater transparency across the digital media supply chain, enabling all campaign stakeholders to have a full view of campaign performance and make real-time optimizations.
Amid the push to digital, marketers must also keep a shifting regulatory landscape in mind. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, for one, has renewed discussions surrounding data privacy rights as governments explore contact tracing solutions.
In recent years, the marketing industry, too, has had to re-evaluate its relationship with data, adapting existing infrastructures in line with legislative changes such as the enactment of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act.
Now, more than ever, would be a prudent time to explore privacy-preserving enhancements that can ensure marketers are performing targeting and personalization efforts in a compliant manner.
With such considerations in mind, these tools are primed to outlast any crisis and give companies the solid foundations needed to accelerate out of them.
No firm has been immune from the economic impact of COVID-19. From agency consolidations to furloughs and job cuts at some of the leading firms in the marketing industry, businesses are being tested as budgets are stretched thin and brands put their marketing spend on hold.
With a focus on fighting short-term fires, long-term relationships that may have previously stood the test of time are now being called into question. As such, agency relationships should be one area to look at in terms of saving costs and increasing efficiencies.
By building more trust with key agency partners, marketers can work with them to anticipate how disruptions will affect business operations and develop a strategy to protect and adjust their marketing budgets.
Additionally, having successfully navigated the lockdown, companies should also be on the lookout for learnings from brands and businesses in China that might be moving out of the worst of the crisis.
The world is certainly going to look different on the other side of COVID-19, but in the meantime, CMOs should focus on boosting digital capabilities and developing agility across their marketing teams.
Companies that invest the time to do so are going to come out the other side with a huge competitive advantage and emerge better prepared for the future.
Prateek Dayal is the Chief Strategy Officer of Aqilliz, a blockchain solutions provider that looks to restore trust, transparency, and efficiency to a fragmented digital marketing ecosystem. With his expertise in building and leading cross-functional teams across the innovative sectors of payments, mobile, and digital, Prateek’s career spans across leading organizations such as the Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays Bank, and McKinsey & Company.
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