This blog post has been contributed by John Lawrence, VP Global Consulting, SGK.
As the unpredictability surrounding the spread of COVID-19 continues, every industry and every business is impacted in some way. However, with great uncertainty comes not just challenges but new possibilities as well.
What does this mean for the marketing communications industry?
Most brands are scrambling to deal with the challenges presented every day that threaten to disrupt or completely halt their business operations. Many are finding out that existing working practices and workflows are more fragile than they realized and will be applying their learnings to strengthen their marketing ecosystem once the virus is under control.
So what can companies do now and in the future to build a highly productive path to market that is more immune to future pandemic events? Here is what we are seeing.
What have many companies achieved, and what are they doing right now?
- Enacting business contingency plans: Activating business continuity plans as they relate to content syndication, ensuring enhanced levels of leadership, and fostering team communication.
Your employees are your most important constituency and function as ambassadors to your consumer community. Unilever, Target, Hilton, CVS, and Hallmark are just a few examples that are currently following the principle of leadership by speaking early, often, and directly with their consumers and shareholders through messages directly from the CEO. People, health & safety, innovation, flexibility, supporting information, and of course reinforcing central brand values are the common themes (e.g., Hallmark’s emphasis on staying connected).
- Utilizing collaboration technology: Implementing technical and environmental solutions to enable remote working across strategic, creative, and marketing production capabilities as demonstrated by P&G, Coca-Cola, and our own agency, SGK.
Enabling and strengthening the capacity and diversity of their collaboration tools has allowed for near-physical virtual meetings. The technology should be focused on ease of use, security, information access, and where possible, alternate options as network capacities are placed under considerable surge pressure.
- Consumer messaging: Adapting their content and messaging to be timely, relevant, and appropriate in the context of this pandemic.
During the financial crisis of 2007 – 2008, companies that continued to spend came out far stronger and recovered far sooner as a result. By investing for long-term outcomes, brands can build an emotional connection with their consumer base with messaging focused on empathetic reported needs rather than brand push campaigns.
- Looking ahead: Avoiding knee-jerk reactions that damage or limit recovery options once this crisis is over.
Brands, however, may consider deferring non-strategic investments consistent with a modest-scale, short-term, and imminent recession.
How can companies better prepare their marketing ecosystems for the future?
- Create a new blueprint: Look at your entire marketing ecosystem from a holistic perspective. By examining each area of your ecosystem—from syndication channels through technology systems of record, process, governance and stakeholders—you are unlocking a blueprint to realising your new customer experience. With that understanding, you are preparing yourself for any future challenges and building marketing resiliency.
- Understand your new consumer personas: Review and audit the way content is created as a result of altered market conditions. Start by reassessing your consumer personas and understanding who, where, why, what, and when?
- Orchestrated delivery: Consolidate, synchronize, and optimise the interface between content decisions, content creation, content production, and content distribution. Orchestrated delivery drives meaningful results, ensuring all stakeholders are engaging with governance and best practices in line with a defined content strategy.
- Remote working for the future: Make remote working a reality for your “distributed” employees around the world instead of just a backup plan. Prepare marketers and agency teams for the anticipated shift in technology and environmental concerns in the next decade that will inevitably lead to greater use of remote working and reduced travel.
- Individual employee change management: Commit to a strategic change management plan to drive success. Change will be a journey for everyone. It is critical to prepare, equip, and support individuals to successfully adopt change in order to drive organisational success.
Generally speaking, the operational demands are vast, encompassing urgent and reactive responses and short-term contingency plans. It is important, however, to emphasize that even in these times, looking to the future of how you operate is important strategically to enable brand growth and to ensure the resiliency of your marketing ecosystem.
Start thinking about auditing the processes, roles, and governance procedures within marketing and across your ecosystem globally. It’s an opportunity to streamline workflows for the future, identify hidden capital that you can reinvest in growth activities, and reengineer processes to align with consumers in a changed world.
A few brands have distinguished themselves over the last few weeks. To date, Kraft Heinz and P&G have donated millions of dollars in both monetary and in-kind donations globally. Dyson, Airbus, McLaren, 3M, Ford, and many others have been churning out thousands of life-saving ventilators.
These are not just gestures: their actions are top-of-mind for consumers and will be remembered for many years to come. The swift and empathetic actions of these brands to reorganise their manufacturing operations under such pressure demonstrate the same can be done for brand marketing content delivery in every industry in the future.
The virus will pass, but consumers will remember your actions today and will be ready to support your brand in the future if you are set up to do so effectively. Great brands will rise, and great brands will learn from today to be even stronger in the future.
About John Lawrence: John brings 17+ years of experience in brand marketing--both agency and brand side. Operating as a consultant for global, regional and national organizations, he provides Continuous Improvement (CI) projects from consultancy through to implementation across channels. As a member of the SGK Consulting Team, John has strategically led initiatives for some of the world’s most prominent brand owners to increase their speed-to-market, reduce costs in the marketing supply chain and better utilize their internal and external resources.