COVID has brought human life and business to a standstill. While we try to figure out how to adapt to this unprecedented situation, companies are trying to navigate the uncertainties to understand how to operate and sell in the “New Normal”. And when businesses are struggling to operate and sell, marketing has not much to do. This is a common perception. But is it so? No, Marketing as a function becomes very critical, during and post COVID scenarios. Marketing will change from what it is today to a more evolved function. What and how we market our services, solutions and the company will decide the future of the organization.
Focus on Customer empathy: As per a recent survey, 76% of consumers have recently picked up new habits, behaviours, and routines in the wake of COVID-19. Of those people, 89% said they plan on keeping some of their new habits. Consumers are also trying new products, with 36% planning to continue using new brands they have tried after COVID-19. The market is changing, the consumers are changing, and therefore the businesses must change and adapt. Marketing as a function needs to drive research and create insights to create an empathetic view of consumers’ psychology for organizations to adapt their services and solutions to meet the current and future requirements and needs of the customer and the market.
Taking a Futuristic Approach: Marketing will need to take a futuristic approach and understand the requirement of it’s end customer post-COVID situation and build its narrative on those lines. The way markets and industries are operating is going to change drastically. The marketing functions need to deep dive to understand the future of industries and the different factors and disruptions in play. Will digital play an important role? Will travel return to what it was? Will organic products dominate the market? Will the production shift base from China? Getting answers to such questions will help marketers design their strategies. So look at the future with a new lens and ask the question that will lead to the answers you seek.
Leading with Digital Marketing: Scientists are predicting that some form of social distancing may need to happen until 2022. That’s a long time to put any marketing on hold. A more important consideration is the fact that the pandemic will have a long-term effect on the psyche and outlook of consumers. One of COVID-19 study found that 86% of Americans and 81% of Canadians agreed that the crisis would create a new normal and have a lasting impact on society. Digital Marketing, therefore, will become the primary channel for marketing. More and more brick and mortar stores will turn to digital marketing to reach out to their customers. Non-traditional channels, like influencer marketing, product placements, video series sponsorships, will take the front seat. Channels like LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Vimeo will be the go-to platforms.
Drafting the “Right” Narrative: Finally, storytelling will become critical to a brand’s success. The role of a storyteller has become tricky in the COVID era. The story, not the product, will become vital. “How” and “Why” will become more significant than “What”. The art of storytelling will be driving information through all channels and mediums. Thought leadership and points of views will reflect companies’ thoughts and approach towards the COVID situation and will create brand perceptions among consumers. Marketers must develop authentic, empathetic, and transparent stories as much as possible. This is the time to listen and forward and provide as much value as possible to your customers and communities using meaningful and Mindful content.
Define your Brand – Brand identity and marketing brand values will become the core of messaging. “Who are you” is going to be more relevant to customers than “what you sell”. For Instance, “Happiest Minds is a Mindful Company who cares about its employees and customer” is what a customer will relate to more, verses that “Happiest Minds is an IT company”. Personas, messaging, and even product strategies may need to evolve for the realities of the post-COVID-19 world significantly. And we will need to walk the talk. Actions speak louder than words, and therefore a brand must be empathetic and real to its customers. They need to be mindful, to say that they are mindful. Therefore, Marketing becomes more of a Human function to drive a brand to do things in a more meaningful and mindful manner.
Data-Driven Marketing: CMOs are hesitant to engage consumers in research at this time. But as per Gartner’s Frances Russell, many marketers who have deployed surveys specifically about COVID-19’s impact on customer experience have seen actionable responses. Customers should be approached with conversational studies, seeking their help in creating insightful data which would be helpful to understand the human impact of the pandemic. Fresh data and accurate insights have never been more critical. In these uncharted territories, relying on instincts alone is dangerous. Therefore, reaching out to the customers to understand their current challenge and needs will be very helpful to marketing as a function and to organizations as a whole, to navigate the unprecedented times and create meaningful solutions and services.
Making marketing agile: As the impact of COVID continues to unfold, Marketing needs to be on top of things, researching, understanding and adapting to changes, to cater to the consumers’ needs and emotions. They need to be quick in articulating messages, story, and agile in pushing it out to the right customer. Marketing cannot afford to take months to design campaigns and messages. They need to act soon and act now, in terms of research, communication, brand building and more.
No more ‘Just A Sales’ function: Marketing historically has been considered a sub-function of sales. But with disruptions in business, marketing will evolve to play a more significant role in Brand Building, CSR Initiatives, Customer Care and Employee Care. While Marketing continues to play the part of the lead generator, the focus will be to build 360 communications, to create a holistic view of company’s vision and mission and stitch it together with the offerings, objectives and markets to target.
Marketing to your employees: Internal communication will become a big part of the marketing function. Marketeer will be required to create a communication plan to build trust among employees, and articulate and communicate the initiatives, success stories, message from leadership in a manner that creates goodwill. The marketing strategies and initiatives should help companies create a symbiotic and connected ecosystem for all to work and contribute towards company goals and objectives.
While it’s essential to recognize the uncertainties and fears surrounding COVID-19, don’t let this crisis paralyze you. Enabling the team to understand customers and act based on timely insights is key to navigating the way through this crisis both for the marketing team and the company. Let’s all take a more humane approach to marketing, keeping our customers, employees and society first.
About the Author
Pragya Sugandha– Sr. Manager, Marketing, Digital Services at Happiest Minds. With 10+ years of experience in marketing, she likes to seek challenging position that needs innovation, creativity and dedication. Her areas of expertise lie in Digital Marketing, Marketing Communication and strategy, Content Marketing, Sales Enablement, Lead Generation and Vendor Management. In her free time, Pragya likes to paint, write and travel.