10 Truths about Marketing after Pandemic
| 7 minutes read
It’s quite clear to say that 2020 was a year like no other, and due to pandemic, almost everything has been changed the way we use to work or do business. We mean everything; the market trade pundits have told us how uncertain the market will respond in the next couple of years. When it comes to marketing, the marketers are in deep thought about bouncing back or what we can do to help companies grow faster? And how is marketing being redefined in the age of Covid-19? Answering these questions during the pandemic is tuff and critical to marketing success in the next couple of months or even years. In particular, we have identified 10 truths about marketing after the pandemic that challenged crucial truths about marketing and gave us a new set of rules moving forward.
1. Old truth: Marketing begins with knowing your customer.
New truth: Marketing begins with knowing your customer segment.
The Covid-19 crisis has reinforced what we already know: that brands must communicate in very local and precise terms, targeting specific consumers based on their circumstances and what is most relevant to them. That simply means understanding the actual situation on the ground, country by country, state by state, zip code by zip code. Some businesses, such as banks, restaurants, or retailers, may even mean couture communications store by store.
Beyond geography, we have learned marketing messages need to be personally applicable, aligned to an individual’s situation and values, as opposed to demographics, such as age and gender. Creating a personal, human connection within any commercial message requires defining consumer segments that describe people according to multiple dimensions that influence their purchasing behavior — from their psychographics to attitudinal characteristics.
2. Old truth: You are competing with your competitors.
New truth: You are competing with the previous best experience your user had.
Remember you’re competing with the user who previously had an outstanding experience with your competitor before COVID-19. Direct-to-consumer companies (like Glossier or Parachute) were already conditioning us to expect a level of hyper-personalization since they were particularly adept with our personal data.
But when the coronavirus hit, digital transformation accelerated overnight. This, in turn, sent consumer expectations skyrocketing in terms of what companies could do for them with a more digital experience. The customer expects so much more than just a seamless digital transaction, as Carla Hassan, chief marketing officer of Citi, explained earlier this summer. Now that companies have their personal data, they want anticipatory, personalized experiences across the entire customer journey.
3. Old truth: Customers hope you have what they want.
New truth: Customers expect you to have exactly what they want.
Time has changed so as the demand, customers don’t hope, they expect you to have exactly what they want or what their need is. The bar just keeps rising; we must value the customer’s needs and enhance the customer buying experience. Consumers today expect that any experience will be frictionless, relevant, anticipatory, and connected. In other words, they are concerned only with getting what they want, when they want it. And they insist nothing gets in their way.
Creating these experiences requires companies to place data and technology at the core of their organization. This likely means building some degree of machine learning and/or artificial intelligence into the mix. Why? Because data enables us to create more relevant experiences across one or more dimensions of the four Cs:
1- Content (that can be provided in experiences like emails or mobile apps);
2- Commerce (such as physical retail, and e-commerce,);
3- Community (such as convening B2B buyers at a virtual trade show or hosting a webinar on home repair for consumers); and
4- Convenience (like offering consumers coupons or benefits from a loyalty program).
Today, most of the 4Cs are delivered in “one-size-fits-all” approaches, but as consumers increasingly demand greater personalization, companies will need to use more data and intelligence to sharpen their decision-making and drive greater relevance in their customer interactions to build stronger human connections to their brands.
4. Old truth: Courting customers is just like dating.
New truth: Courting customers is just like online dating.
For a long time, marketing was largely about buying mass reach or targeted reach at the best rates in the media and hoping to convert it. So, it was like going to as many parties or bars as you could in the hope you would find that special someone. It was a world of spontaneity, serendipity, and frankly, a lot of face-to-face encounters.
Enter online dating and swiping through apps. Now, finding your perfect match may be less about chance and more about data and algorithms. We have seen a shift from brand marketing to build reach to performance marketing to generate leads in marketing terms. The pandemic’s acceleration of digital channels only exacerbated that trend.
However, while performance marketing enjoys a strong and crucial position in the mix, leading CMOs to recognize that it is a fine balance of brand and performance marketing that delivers the best results, and they must fight hard against a bias toward that which is most easily quantified. Many are bringing their customer relationship management (CRM) team closer than ever to their media teams to see the full continuum more easily and realize efficiencies. CRM, which is powered principally by first-party data, or customer data that the company owns (with the consumer’s consent, of course), is the driving force for initiatives like coupons, personalization, or email marketing.
5. Old truth: Users must sit at the heart of your marketing strategy.
New truth: Users must sit at the heart of your customer journey.
The concept of customer-centricity is not new; every customer wants that the brand should focus on them, they should listen to them and offer the products what they expect. The question is: How can we obscure these internal disconnects from the customer, who assumes that the whole company knows them holistically? We have all called customer service and spoken to a call center rep or chatbot that was not operating with the same information as a retail location — and vice versa.
We must remember that marketing is just the beginning of a relationship with the customer. For example, in a B2C context, we go through a journey of engaging them, converting them to a sale directly or indirectly, and then hopefully retaining them. Hence, they become advocates and potentially open to upsells and cross-sells. Marketing must be viewed in the context of the full end-to-end journey and, where possible, work to connect the remaining dots.
6. Old truth: Relationships matter.
New truth: Relationships only matter.
It is vital to building relationships with customers established on trust. Advertising, for example, makes a brand promise, and it then falls to the product, service, and customer experience to deliver on that promise.
But Covid-19 had turned the table, particularly in B2B sales. Faced with a virtual sales environment, teams with existing relationships have maintained revenue momentum, capitalizing on the strength of their prior bonds. In contrast, prospecting for new customers has required an evolved set of skills focused on selling solutions, not products.
In both cases, trust and reliability are fundamental to driving market momentum. For sales and marketing leaders in B2B organizations, this has required a serious recasting of talent to identify people best suited to driving relationships in this new world of online interactions — a world that relies less on the charm and more on insights and solutions. Trust will be built by and rewarded to those that listen to customer needs and then build solutions to meet those needs.
7. Old truth: Agility is a technology process.
New truth: Agility is a modern marketing approach.
For years, we have heard that technological development benefits from agile cycles instead of sequential or linear “waterfall” approach. COVID-19 created an irreparable trend for marketing to embrace a similarly nimble mentality. As the crisis has unfolded, a company could quickly find its message was wrong or its supply chain not in a position to deliver, immediately creating an advertising and public relations crisis. Imagine a commercial showing people clustered together, not demonstrating social distancing, for example. Suddenly, long-lead-time creative processes and annual budget cycles felt anachronistic while all the traditional approval dynamics became constraining.
The privileged outcome of the crisis was to create a mindset of marketing agility that is likely to be permanent. This includes continuous consumer listening and demand sensing, not only for the benefit of marketing but for the whole company to capture the zeitgeist of consumer sentiment.
8. Old truth: Your brand should stand behind outstanding products.
New truth: Your brand should stand behind great values.
The pandemic truly challenged brand loyalty. The EY Future Consumer Index found that up to 61% of consumers, depending on the category, became willing to consider a white label product, let alone switch name brands. That dynamic coupled with growing consumer awareness and activism precipitated during the social unrest of 2020 should make brands very focused on the values they express.
In fact, key themes from EY research show that while quality, convenience, and price still very much matter to consumer choice, factors like sustainability, trust, and social responsibility are increasingly crucial to how consumers choose their products and services. Marketing has an opportunity to educate the broader C-suite on the importance of brand values when it comes to differentiating in a post-pandemic marketplace where brand preferences have been overturned.
9. Old truth: You need the right tech stack to drive modern marketing success.
New truth: You need the right balance of factors to drive modern marketing success.
As an abundance of advertising and marketing technologies increase, it has been easy to focus on the proverbial “tech stack” as an end-all game-changer for marketing. However, having a Tesla that you can only drive 40 miles per hour is not much use.
For technology architecture to drive results, it must be matched with sufficient scale in data and the right approach to human enablement. Human enablement involves understanding how data and technologies will be used across the organization. Adoption by the organization means the right measurement approach is in place to motivate innovation and success.
10. Old truth: Marketing is important for growth.
New truth: Marketing is at the center of the growth agenda for the full C-suite.
Unquestionably, there was a time when marketing was a cost center within companies for which the principal accountability was to maximize return on investment. In a crucial time when topline results were compromised, it was often one of the first areas to get cut.
However, during the COVID-19, marketing has been elevated within the C-suite as a driver of digital transformation, a key leader of the customer journey, and the voice of the consumer — all of which are of paramount importance to other functional leaders. Without understanding the zeitgeist of the marketplace, in good times and bad, the C-suite cannot adjust to the threats and opportunities at hand and successfully navigate the future.
So these are the ten marketing strategies after pandemic everyone should consider, especially during the pandemic. Indisputably, there was a time when marketing was a cost center within companies for which the principal accountability was to maximize return on investment. During the pandemic, marketing has come out as a driver of digital transformation, and the primary leader of the customer journey is of paramount importance to other functional departments.