The Battle of Britain. D Day. Covid-19. Will the nation’s reaction to the current pandemic define us as much as other episodes in our history? I think so. Here’s why. When we emerge from this period of self-isolation, we’ll be a changed nation. Probably for the better and one that marketers and their brands will need to react to – swiftly – if we are to continue to ‘catch the mood’. Here’s a few things we’ll need to factor into our revised marketing strategies.
Kindness replaces brashness
It’s palpable how much nicer we are towards each other. Communities (and neighbours) are rediscovering each other. We’re aware of the need to take better care of ourselves; mentally, physically and spiritually. We’re more reflective and many of us may emerge from lockdowwn with a different view on life. That attitudinal shift will need to be translated into revised brand messaging if brands are to remain ‘relevant’.
Reputation over balance sheet
For many boardrooms, this period might be a fork in the road moment. Continue to put shareholders’ interests over other stakeholders or reshuffle the pack and bet that building a positive reputation over the long term will win every time against short term financial advantage. Some companies have already got this call badly wrong. Some have got it astoundingly right. You know who you are.
Retribution or revenge? It will still hurt
For those companies that did shaft their suppliers at the first opportunity, ‘let go’ their staff and closed down their customer service departments; shame on you. Britain is not a vengeful nation but given the choice between whether to buy your products or services or those of your competitors who did the right thing? It’s a no brainer actually and this will the period when the previously much maligned millennials finally bare their teeth. And it won’t be pretty.
Employer brands come of age
It’s odd to think that we were reading about the talent war hotting up just before the lockdown. And yes, it will take a while for the economy to get going again. But demand for certain skills will outstrip supply in next to no time and at that point, potential employers will be asked; ‘So what did you do during the Covid crisis?’ Wo betide those employers who stopped communicating and stopped caring. Guess what? No one is going to work for you if they can help it.
Culture is glue
Culture remains such an overused word so let’s replace it with another one instead, glue. Because strong organisational cultures act like glue in tough times binding people together and not letting them go. Communications, in its broadest sense, has been the key here and marketing departments, in particular, should take a bow, although there’s still much work to be done when the lockdown ends.
Trusted brands just got stronger
Cometh the hour, cometh the BBC. The good old Beeb dusted itself off, forgave those who questioned its future and got on with what it does best, providing news in a calm, authoritative and reassuring manner. Other brands did similar things for us. Challenger brands take note. Brand building is a long-term game and not for the faint hearted.
So, what do all these attitudinal shifts add up to? Well. Marketers can forget about dusting down all those campaigns devised before the lockdown and thinking they can rerun them. Because they simply won’t work. As in, they won’t resonate with the audience.
Yes, it’s the same audience in terms of age and demographics, but savvy marketers will notice that their audiences’ ‘internal values’ will have changed. Their outlook on life will have changed and their propensity to consume will have changed too.
Most noticeably, they may only want to identify with, aka buy from, brands who ‘did the right thing’ during the crisis. Or who can rapidly shift their messaging so as to reflect the new post Covid reality.
For marketers that calls for fresh research. Fresh creativity. And lots of late nights. Welcome back.
Simon Quarendon is a veteran marketer and communicator with a career spanning nearly 40 years. He has bought, built, sold, rescued, led and mentored just about every kind of creative communications agency in existence and run global accounts for the best in the world. Today, Simon runs the business end of Selbey Anderson, working across the group to make sure clients get the best and the agencies all prosper.