If there is one thing we know for sure, it is that 2020 is the year that is defined by change and uncertainty. And change doesn’t come slowly - it arrives swiftly, with very little warning, and demands immediate action. From a business perspective, it’s a reminder that we need to be constantly looking ahead; ready for innovation, ready for change. As Marketers, now is a good time to start looking at trends that will impact where the industry is going in 2021 and how these trends could be used for your future strategies. What does 2021 hold for Marketing?
In a recent LinkedIn Live hosted by Meltwater’s Enterprise Director, Julia Nill, the Chief Marketing Officer at Standard Bank Group, Thulani Sibeko shared his key insights on the top 3 things to know about when it comes to the Future of Marketing.
“None of us planned for COVID but what we can’t avoid is that COVID is with us,” Thulani shared on the impact that the current global pandemic has had on numerous industries, including marketing. Due to COVID, priorities have changed, causing a shift in the strategies we had in mind for 2020. What started out as a health pandemic soon turned into an economic one, as travel was banned, borders were closed and businesses were in jeopardy. This then ultimately led to COVID having social implications, such as living under lockdown regulations and working from home.
So how will marketers navigate a post-covid world? Thulani shared how for marketers, they need to consider the implications of COVID on the economy and society, and how the core of marketing is meeting people’s needs in a profitable way.
“Suddenly, the needs of people, driven by these social and economic drivers have changed in many ways. For example, if you are in the luxury goods space, people have deprioritised a lot of luxury products and don’t require those as much. But if you find yourself in the health-related products, the demand for those has shot up.” With the priority of consumers now different to what they may have been at the start of 2020, what can marketers do to meet their current and future needs?
For one, marketers need to realise how the community has now taken on an important role beyond your target audience and core customer base. Think about Nike and how, at the start of lockdown regulations across the globe, they asked their customers to “play inside, play for the world” for a campaign that still encouraged people to keep active but to do so indoors instead. This, together with how premium fees for their Nike Training App were waived encouraged a sense of community in a world where social distancing was the sudden norm.
Marketers need to understand who their audience is and ensure that they personalise their customer journey. Creating buyer personas is still relevant, and will continue to be relevant, because of how it allows marketers to personalise at mass scale. Once marketers have refined their method of doing things that matter to their customers, the more likely they will succeed.
However, while change in a post-covid world is inevitable for marketers, Thulani highlights that there is a difference between forced change and choiceful change. “There are certain things that have been forced on us because of current circumstances, and I believe that it will be a mistake if we assume that all of the change that we see will automatically translate into the new normal because as soon as people have choices, the things that were forced but weren’t meaningful to them will be dropped. So it is important that we stay on top of understanding our customers and their motivations.”
For many consumers, brand purpose has become increasingly important as the functionality of a product begins to fade away and brand experience takes its place. Brand experience not only encompasses how customers are made to feel about a particular brand but also what that brand stands for and their guiding principles. Where does marketing fit into this and will it play a bigger role in driving sales?
“In many ways, the elevation of brand purpose has brought marketing to the table, even in organisations that have not been marketing-centric, there has been a growing appreciation,” says Thulani, who seems brand purpose and brand promise as inseparable. Over time, we have seen customers make the change towards choosing brands who choose things that actually matter to them. This goes beyond catchy slogans and logo designs; consumers now want to put their money behind the brands that are doing the right thing and standing for something other than making a profit.
This will tie into your brand purpose and refining why your organisation exists beyond this profit motive. Are you looking to source from local manufacturers? How have you protected employees during the current pandemic? These are just a few examples of what consumers could be asking themselves as they begin to support the brands that choose to support what matters. For marketers, this will be the competitive advantage that they need to tap into when it comes to distinguishing themselves in the marketing landscape from here on. Brand purpose affords differentiation and for marketers, this is the compliment you want to receive. Couple this tapping into creating an emotional connection with your customers and soon enough, marketers will find the sweet spot that will make them stick in the minds of their audience.
“The importance of commercial value and connecting with customers, for me, is inseparable,” Thulani shared and sees that investing in marketing means doing so at the appropriate levels that depend on the objects that need to be achieved. According to a study from Marketing Week, 65% of marketers foresee a decrease in their annual marketing budget as a result of COVID-19 and the cost pressures that came with it. However, Thulani, much like many other CMO’s, remain optimistic about retaining the marketing budget spend because the rewards are still reaped but merely deferred for now.
Marketers will face the challenge of securing marketing investments to achieve their objectives but how can they overcome this? By accurately showing the return and impact that marketing has on the commercial aspect of an organisation. Creativity may shine in this regard but what marketers need to do is make the link between customer aspirations and translating that into commercial value. How? By looking into using the right marketing tools and software to accurately depict this. The global use of technology has increased this year and it has also become increasingly important that marketers have the right technology to help them meet their objectives.
In Garnter’s 2019 CMO Spend Survey, marketing tools, on average, make up a quarter of the marketing budget because of the advantages that these tools bring. While fighting for investment in marketing may seem like one impossible task, the rewards reaped are priceless and echo Thulani’s sentiments on investing in marketing to help the organisation achieve commercial success.
"I've seen extremely encouraging examples of companies and brands all over the world giving their customers breathing space and being there for them even in times of trouble," Julia said in closing the conversation with Thulani on what brands have done during this crisis period, and what they need to do in the future.
Marketers will need to get comfortable with being flexible and knowing how to think fast and act quickly to not just the current situation but to any situation that may come in the future. As we adjust to the new normal and a post-covid world, marketers will not only need to familiarise themselves with how COVID has impacted marketing now but ensure that they have an understanding of its impact for the future. Adjustment and innovation will be key for marketers but one thing that should remain constant is the brand purpose and making sure that taking the time to create valuable and meaningful connections with customers that will extend well beyond 2020.