Who would have thought just a decade ago, that media companies and advertising agencies around the world, would start losing revenue to an online search engine also running a social networking platform? If this phenomenal game changer in marketing during recent years is not enough, then came late December 2020 and the beginnings of what would soon be known everywhere as ‘the new normal’. We are talking about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Nothing could have prepared the normally bustling leisure industries such as travel, and hospitality for these current hard times. Millions of lost lives, mass lay-offs and business closures have been some of the more devastating consequences of the pandemic.

H. G. Wells once said we have to ‘adapt or perish’. Being adaptable enables people and companies to make the necessary steps to embrace change. Those who remain rigid or skeptical about change face the danger of losing their livelihoods. In the new normal, businesses that sell food and drinks have adapted by starting door-to-door service. A host of companies, especially those dealing in consumer products, quickly adapted by embracing online applications that allow customers access to their services in spite of lockdowns. But well before the pandemic, some media and marketing firms had already began changing. They offered clients more digital media channels in their marketing mix, as opposed to just relying on traditional offline channels.

On the other hand, the pandemic has not generally caused positive changes in marketing. Instead, there has been a shift by some big brands on how they empathize with the public. For instance, Dove Soap demonstrated compassion and empathy in their campaign ‘Courage is Beautiful’. This was a salute to the frontline medical workers battling the pandemic. It depicted graphic portraits of American doctors and nurses in their scrubs with face masks and goggles. The close-up detail showed the dark marks and indents on their faces due to the protective gear they had been wearing whilst working under immense pressure and long hours.

Undoubtedly, post-pandemic consumers expect their brands to stand for something noble while also maintaining decent values. Nonetheless, price, variety and convenience still remain important factors for consumer choice irrespective of a company’s high-sounding Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy. This does not mean companies downplay CSR. In a world where such issues as income inequality, climate change, gender equality, violence against women and racialism are increasingly topping the global social agenda, companies have to think more about being trustful as well as being ethical in both trading and sourcing.

As the outbreak spread across the world, CSR obviously took centre stage. Companies began posting news online reporting of their financial support and the charity events held as contributions towards fighting the disease. After a year and half, this formula will no longer cut-it as headlines news. Consumer cynicism, on top of their other frustrations, has set in. Brands will need to adapt and work harder on their marketing strategies.Consumers are not fools. They can often see through most attempts at attention-grabbing. What they want to see and believe is that companies are authentic and actually caring right across the spectrum even in the marketing of their products and services.

The Kantar Group is a data and brand consultancy based in the UK. In one of their surveys, it was found that 77% of consumers wanted brands to talk about how they are helpful in everyday life; 75% want brands to talk about their efforts to face this situation and 70% want brands to offer a reassuring tone.
Brands will also need to be more customer-centric, focusing and finely tuning into exactly who their target audience is, and what they want.

In the new normal, customers will demand more than ever from their brands. A one-size-fits approach will never be effective, so adapting to a post-pandemic conscious shift is where we should all be going, particularly with more ideas centered on the consumer. To help ensure their clients get meaningful engagement during pre-pandemic times, some digital marketing companies had began to include Online Value Propositions (OVP) in their digital marketing strategies .Creative and digital strategists develop and use an OVP to help find and underline the following key attributes of a businesses’ brand/product/service.

What unique benefit they provide and how they do it well

Describing exactly who their target audience are and what they want

What problems they solve for them

Why they are distinctly better than the alternatives.
So now that you have cracked the OVP, it is time to take your big idea to the market. Let us first look at our options to get you there. We can use multi-channels to get our message out there, but these can be quite rigid as they do not change or grow with customers’ needs. Multi-channel marketing usually starts with the company and moves outwards to various channels. Omnichannel marketing is another option. This usually starts with the customer at the centre interacting between channels ensuring your brand’s presence is delivered across multiple online (website, app, social media, email, SMS,) and offline (retail store, events, call-center) channels to ensure consistency across multiple touch points. Recent studies show advantages of Omnichannel marketing automation, including 250% higher purchase frequency and 90% higher customer retention rates (ClickZ). Whenever consumers around the world emerge from lockdowns, there is this deep urge to make some distance and physically catch up with someone or something and compensate for weeks of close confinement. The owners of the Snapchat app see an opportunity and have forecast an 80% per cent rise in revenues for the next quarter.

It is a telling fact that the coronavirus has adapted into different variants and a major reason why it remains such a implacable and deadly foe. In a way, this is an object lesson. Many marketing strategies adopted during the pandemic will continue into the new normal, but it is always wise to expect the unexpected and remain flexible. For marketing companies, this is the time to review your client’s current needs. Where appropriate redesign the value proposition with more empathy and compassion to the suit the prevailing circumstances. Adapt or perish!

About the Author: Paul Akins

With over 20 years’ experience as a creative director with such top agencies as Saatchi & Saatchi London, JWT South Africa, JWT Kenya, Leo Burnett Kenya, Leo Burnett Prague, Saatchi Uganda and Ogilvy/TBWA Uganda, Paul is driven by briefs and big ideas to deliver fresh and compelling work. He has spent over 12 years in East Africa in various creative/strategic roles covering social marketing programs for USAID, CHC360/CHC (Obulamu), MOH Uganda, Tobacco Advisory Council, Marie Stopes Uganda (Life Guard condoms), SNV, KMCC, PSI Kenya, Cystic Fibrosis SA, African Union and GIZ.

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!