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How Has Covid-19 Changed the Future of Marketing? 7 Expert Opinions

Allison Smith

Jun 2, 2020

How Has Covid-19 Changed the Future of Marketing? 7 Expert Opinions

It’s no secret that we live in an increasingly digital world, but the COIVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend exponentially. According to Social Media Today, people have spent 20% more time in apps during this pandemic than they did during the same time period last year.

A similar study by DataReportal revealed that 4.57 billion people now use the internet, a 7% YoY increase. 

In addition to spending more time online and in apps, consumers’ online attitudes, behaviors, and purchasing habits have changed. According to Accenture, one of the new buying behaviors that has developed during this  “new normal” is that people are spending more online. 

So, what do these shifts in consumer behavior and attention mean for us marketers? How do we adapt in the long term? What changes need to be made to marketing strategies in the short term? And, how do you join the online conversation in an appropriate way? 

In this blog, we will hear seven industry experts’ answers to these questions as we explore how this pandemic has affected the future of the marketing industry.

  1. Jenn Herman, Social Media and Instagram Marketing Expert, JennsTrends
  2. Kate Adams, Vice President of Marketing, Drift
  3. Connor Cirillo, Head of Conversational Marketing, HubSpot
  4. Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Expert
  5. Mark Kilens, Vice President of Content and Community, Drift
  6. Lilach Bullock, Content Marketing and Social Media Expert
  7. Michelle Garrett, Founder of Garrett Public Relations

Let’s take a look at what they had to say...

Jenn Herman, Social Media and Instagram Marketing Expert, JennsTrends 

Q: Will brands need to re-adjust their marketing strategy over the long-term in addition to the short-term changes we’re currently seeing? 

Jenn Herman: Some brands may and others may not. What COVID has taught many companies is that you have to be online to have those communications with your audience. And the longer this stretches out, the more this online and virtual connection becomes a part of our normal means of communicating. We'll likely see more companies offering online tutorials or virtual trainings or saving money on expensive live events in lieu of an online broadcast. For those companies that were already using social media strategically and consistently to connect with their audiences, they won't have to evolve very much to meet this demand and shift. But, for those brands that weren't relying on social media as a consistent means of communication, they are definitely going to have to examine their social media strategies to determine how they can be more effective. 

Q: What does this pandemic mean for your social media strategy?   

Jenn Herman: If your strategy has been casual at best, or if you didn't even have one, you're definitely going to want to change that. You'll need to determine WHY you really want to use social media first of all. Are you looking for brand awareness? Are you looking to build relationships and conversations? Are you looking to increase sales? Your goals may be one or more of these but until you know what you want to achieve with social media efforts, nothing you do will get you there. Once you know your "why", you can start figuring out your "how". If your goal is to increase online sales, that's great. But that doesn't mean every post is a sales promotion. Far from it. You'll need a mix of content that offers value to the audience (tutorials and tips). You'll need some fun "fluff" content meant purely to keep engagement (likes, etc.) up. You'll need trust-building content with stories about your brand, your employees, your product choices, etc. And then you can throw in the sales pitch. But if you don't have all the different pieces of content that keep your engagement up and serve your audience, they'll never see nor take action on those promotional posts you keep forcing out there. 

Q: What does this mean for the marketing industry as a whole?  

Jenn Herman: Marketers have to stop "marketing" and start talking. We've all seen how every commercial on tv right now is a generic intro of soft music followed by "in these unprecedented times" and "we're here for you" in some slight variation. But they're all the same. And people are over it. The brands that come out on social media and talk real and honest are those that are most likely to survive. The ones celebrating moms who are doing everything they did before and now 10 times more work—they're content is getting praise and getting shared. The more that brands can embrace the reality of what their audience is experiencing and create content and ads that speak to that reality, the more success they'll have overall, especially on social media. 

Kate Adams, Vice President of Marketing, Drift 

Q: How has COVID-19 changed the future of events?

Kate Adams: One thing I am trying to do now is create a bulletproof plan so that we don’t have to go through a giant revision in the future. There won’t be any in-person events planned for the rest of the year and beyond. 

When talking about the number of events, it’s a paradigm of quality and quantity. Event exhaustion happens in these giant five-day webinars. You have to figure out how to make it different to get attention. Why do I have to be here or listen to the on-demand version? 

And it’s not going to be all COVID-19 related content! We are looking at this shift as our new normal; this is just how it will be. So, we will double down on the things that are definitely going to happen, and capitalize on the things that can happen, create and craft messaging around different buyers, and create a sense of urgency within our messaging.

Q: How has COVID-19 changed the way marketers work? 

Kate Adams: We are seeing people find new buyers for their solutions. For example, webinar solutions and platforms now have field marketers inquiring about their services. This probably would never have happened pre-COVID. 

People are also trying to figure out how to pivot according to this new buyer persona and understand all of the different new use cases for their solutions. This is because people are using their products, like webinar platforms, in ways we can’t imagine—and couldn't have a few months ago. 

Now the question is: Do we double down on these new personas or stay on the path we’ve always been on? You’ll also want to know if this is healthy, recurring revenue you see from these new buyer personas before making any type of decision. 

The stories marketers should be looking for are likely in your data, but if you aren't’ digging them up, you are missing out on an opportunity that will allow you to not only survive but also thrive. 

Q: Any examples of brands you have seen done a good job?

Kate Adams: Direct to consumer brand, Uber, had a commercial for not using their ride-sharing. That was an interesting play. There was no benefit for them to do that, and they used that as an opportunity to show empathy and show overall good in the world.

Amazon has shown how they care for their employees and how to keep them safe, by even showing the insides of their logistics facilities, which they wouldn’t probably do normally. From a brand perspective, it’s a different way of telling a story about how you are responding to COVID-19.

Connor Cirillo, Head of Conversational Marketing, HubSpot

 Q: What effect do you believe COVID-19 will have on the marketing industry?

Connor Cirillo: While a lot of behavior will go back to normal at some point, content consumption likely won't go down. More people consuming more content over more time means more opportunity for brands. Prospects are hungry for helpful content that helps them be a better professional or person. 

Brands that are creating value up-front are building loyal audiences. That loyalty will pay off long-term, even if the audience isn't in a position to buy right now. In general, brands will need to rethink how they attract prospects. Helpful and human content will become a staple for that. It doesn't have to be studio-quality either, which is an interesting shift. We're now more forgiving and empathetic to "being human" than we used to be. When getting started, it can be as low-budget as a good webcam and hitting "record". Loom is a tool I use often to do this.

This evolution will bleed into marketing as a whole. The great brands that emerge and take off in the next few years will do so because they're human. In this pandemic, we've come to value empathy and honesty. 

Look at the social media channels you're using and your tone there. Are you talking like your customer does? Do they know why they should build a relationship with your brand? To do that, brands will need a 360-degree view of their audience. There are a ton of CRMs — including HubSpot — to help see and orchestrate your channels together. 

Now is the time to figure out how you'll use emerging channels, too. People are using messaging channels (SMS, Messenger, and WhatsApp) more than ever before. If you can design great conversations and add value there, then your audience will want to hear from you. For this, I love a tool like Twilio.

Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Expert 

Q: Q: What effect do you believe COVID-19 will have on the marketing industry? 

Joe Pulizzi: The most innovative brands will be focusing on building audiences for long-term success. So yes, brands must alter their strategies to focus on delivering valuable communications to their customers on a consistent basis (not just touting products). This could be a podcast, video series, blog, event series, etc.

Brands have learned the hard way during this pandemic that customer relationships matter. That means we communicate value consistently...we focus on helping customers first...whatever it takes. Hopefully, if done well, they'll buy what we have to offer.

Joe Pulizzi: Strategy means choosing. So, for social, a strategy means killing off channels that don't provide real value. It means choosing which channels we are best suited for and which channels we have no business being a part of. Just like our products, if they really aren't of value, we stop producing them. This is the same with social media.

I see more brands focusing on one or two channels they excel at and discarding the others or simply using them as customer service or feedback channels.

Joe Pulizzi: I believe we are about to see a movement toward marketing as a profit center. Instead of the traditional cost center that most organizations view marketing as the new marketing department will be in charge of creating and growing different audience segments. Those audiences will be able to generate many different kinds of revenue, from selling core products to increasing loyalty, to event sponsorship programs and paid subscriber relationships. Companies like Red Bull, Amazon, and Arrow Electronics are already doing this. More will follow.

Mark Kilens, Vice President of Content and Community, Drift 

Q: What effect do you believe COVID-19 will have on the marketing industry?

Mark Kilens: We are now seeing this movement into a knowledge-based economy. As a marketer, you have to make sure your website is recognized and maintained in a way that it is the most important asset that you own. How people pay attention and engage with websites is changing and it is critical to understand. 

Some important questions you should be asking yourself are: How do you attract someone to your business these days? How do you then build an ongoing relationship with online tools? My answer to these is building that one-to-one relationship, through real-time engagement, creating helpful content, and being empathic and genuine. As a brand, you need to go back to your personas and how they have changed. Re-do them. Do some persona research and the “who”, should be redone and updated. 

So how do you do it in a one-to-one way? Live chat, live video, and virtual events. Also partnerships with businesses in your space, community building. Long term community building in the digital world is super important. 

Q: What does this pandemic mean for a marketing team’s social media strategy?

Mark Kilens: On social media, your tone as a brand has shifted. Now it’s about knowing that everyone is going through something different and being respectful of that. You have to be compassionate these days. Not talking so much about you. It should be 50% about other people. 

Q: How does this change the marketing industry as a whole? 

Mark Kilens: Marketers need to be more selfless. Shifting marketing to be more of servant leadership. It's an opportunity to think about the “who” again and focusing less on you, and thinking more about the value. How do you as a marketer help someone see value with your solution or content? That's a marketing job. It’s much more about education and relationships.  

Lilach Bullock, Content Marketing and Social Media Expert, Speaker

Q: Will brands need to re-adjust their marketing strategy over the long-term in addition to the short-term changes we’re currently seeing?

Lilach Bullock: The COVID-19 crisis has such a huge and far-reaching impact worldwide that it’s not only going to influence marketing strategies right now—but for a long time coming. 

Considering the economic impact of this crisis—and the fact that we don’t know what the future will bring, more so than ever—businesses need to rethink their marketing strategies for the long term. 

This doesn’t mean that you should cut down too much on your marketing budget; rather, you should take a good look at your data and find out what your best channels are and focus your attention on those core channels. However, this depends largely on your industry—some could thrive even in a recession (in which case, they should even consider increasing their marketing budgets), while others will struggle greatly. 

It’s also important to understand that people’s buying habits and spending power have changed as well—and they could very well continue to change as the effects of COVID-19 on our health and the world economy spread now and in the future. This too should impact the way we market our products and services, placing a bigger focus on the products and services that people are likely to buy during these times.


Michelle Garrett, Founder of Garrett Public Relations 

Q: What effect do you believe COVID-19 will have on the marketing industry?

Michelle Garrett: It seems as though COVID-19 is going to change marketing as we know it. The focus on digital must be there. As we’ve seen throughout this crisis, the only reliable way for consumers to shop has been online. So the focus on digital will continue to increase. 

Q: What does this mean for your social media strategy? 

Michelle Garrett: As people were quarantining at home, brands had a captive audience with more time on its hands, meaning that more people than ever have been using social media. I know I’ve seen an uptick in interest from clients when it comes to social—I’m sure that many brands are now understanding more clearly than ever that social is not a “nice to do” marketing element but a MUST. 

Q: What does this mean for the marketing industry as a whole?

Michelle Garrett: Marketers need to move away from “salesy” campaigns to more human, empathic messaging. Many wise marketers were already aware of this pre-COVID, but I think now we see that the old ways weren’t working—and they won’t work in our marketing future. It’s time to shift our thinking toward humans and remember that’s who’s buying our products and services. 

Key Takeaways

As our world continues to shift, innovation and community building will play an even more important role for marketers. Understanding the data, providing empathy, and listening will be our main objectives in our new online environment. 

As Kate Adams from Drift said, “We are looking at this shift as our new normal; this is just how it will be.”  Marketing teams should be evaluating the long-term implications of this crisis and what they can be doing to thrive in this type of environment. 

In the meantime, Adams also shared some inspiring words for marketers struggling to adapt: "Too many marketers say this pandemic is tough and make excuses for their efforts. In times of adversity, I have done some of my best work. In times of abundance, it doesn't force you out of your comfort zone. I think about this as an opportunity and a challenge. You want us to achieve this pipeline target? Sure thing, let's do it. It's our job as leaders to protect our team and grow our business."

To keep learning how brands are responding to COVID-19, read our most recent blog. Interested in how Meltwater can help your social media, PR or marketing efforts? We’d love to hear from you and learn how we can help.