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What marketers can teach us about navigating uncertainty

The Drum 21 May 2020 10:37
By Rebecca Vickery-21 May 2020 11:37am

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As predicted by the media, scientists, marketers and politicians, the number of possible outcomes of a ‘post lockdown’ world are endless. It's like an episode of Black Mirror with an infinite number of endings to choose from. The problem with future-gazing is that most of it is grounded in assumption than reality. Assumptions about how people and businesses will change.

Now, arguably more than ever, is the time for businesses to listen to their customers rather than making assumptions about their needs. Not just to be seen to be listening but to genuinely listen in a way that you can engage in meaningful conversation, empathise with and support others.

Focus on long term strategy over short term wins

Brands able to succeed in the current climate however, will be those ensuring that what they do now is aligned with their longer term business strategy and plans rather than those being reactive. Marketers should be favouring the creation of evergreen content that will be just as relevant now as it will be post lockdown, consistent with brand strategy rather than the virus.

Many marketers want to continue marketing but fear their brand might be perceived as being opportunistic rather than adding real value to customers. Admittedly, it’s a fine line to tread in terms of what brands do and don't have permission to say, both from the perspective of customers and internal stakeholders.

Choose words that will rise above the noise

Most marketers acknowledge a need for business as usual to keep moving forward but brands need to choose their words carefully to rise above heightened noise and ensure that what they communicate feels authentic, inclusive and relevant to emerging and existing audiences. If not, brands are in danger of communicating without having anything meaningful to say and may start to sound the same.

Stories help people make sense of the world by creating order out of chaos. So while the world around us might be changing at pace, timeless stories will always continue to ring true. A brilliant example of this is in action is Budweiser’s resurrection of their 1999 ‘Whassup?’. Despite having a lockdown spin, the ad speaks to an inner desire in all of us to stay connected with our family and friends, as true in 1999 as it is now.

Rethink brand stories driven by consumer behaviours and values

It is why marketers are beginning to consider how consumers' newly formed behaviours and personal values are likely to impact the way we consume products and services beyond lockdown. For example, as consumers have become more accustomed to buying products and services online out of necessity, it is likely that people are going to place much more value on how digital can augment physical spaces more so than ever before. Whatever happens, the world as we know it is continuing to change and brands need to be prepared to reimagine the stories they will tell in the future.

The global pandemic is putting a huge strain on business processes and systems and is shining a light on those that are simply not fit for purpose. Some businesses are finding their crisis management processes to be non-existence and others are struggling with a lack of joined up customer communications.

The Brave Spark team has been truly inspired by the resourcefulness and ideas shared by our clients over the past few weeks. Regardless of whether brands have stopped their day-to-day operations, furloughed employees or pivoted, what’s clear even without a post lockdown crystal ball is that customers still want reassurance that businesses are there for them, in whatever form that takes. Arguably the role of brand, marketing and client service teams has never been as critical to demonstrate to customers that brands are on a journey of change and are doing all they can to support customers, regardless of the ultimate ending.

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