Brand Marketing in a Post-Covid World
The Coronavirus pandemic has changed marketing forever; we’ve had to change the way we live, work & buy, and the adoption of digital channels has accelerated as a result.
For brand marketers wanting to build lasting relationships with customers, the Coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital channels - but some experts are warning COVID-19 is going to change not only marketing, but the way we live, work and buy, forever.
“It’s been such a shock that I call it a punctuation point in human evolution,” says founder of the Centre for the Future Dr Richard Hames, who uses a proprietary AI algorithm to analyse patterns and predict future trends.
“A lot of the talk of snapping back or getting back to a new normal is not going to happen - there will be no new normal for the next decade or two. We are about to see massive disruption and change.”
Digital is now central to brand marketing
When cities went into lockdowns and airports came to a standstill, data-led marketing accelerated faster than any marketer could have imagined, with digital channels becoming the safest way to buy products and services.
Digital purchases increased by 31% in the year to April 2020, according to Australia Post’s 2020 eCommerce Industry Report - a whopping 80% increase in the eight weeks following the World Health Organisation’s announcement of Coronavirus as a pandemic.
The fast-paced rise of using data to target ever-narrower segments of consumers is set to continue, with Playground XYZ CEO Rob Hall saying the quest for consumer’s attention will be at the centre of marketing changes over the short and long term.
“We believe we are entering into an ‘Attention Economy’,” Hall says, saying the time a consumer spends with an ad or marketing message will become increasingly more valuable as devices and digital communications proliferate.
“If the measurement of attention is adopted at scale, it has the potential to drive a full revaluing of media and creativity based on attention,” Hall says.
Filtered Media CEO and author of Beliefonomics Mark Jones agrees, saying digital storytelling strategies will become a critical connection point for brands.
“Brand purpose, values and beliefs have moved from fad status to mission critical,” Jones says, arguing that connecting with audiences meaningfully will be fundamental to marketing in the future, with little room for getting it wrong.
Some categories are forever changed by the COVID-19 pandemic
Dr Hames says education is one category that’s taken a hit due to the pandemic and is likely to remain disrupted into the future.
“If you look at Cambridge university, the ultimate physical tertiary education brand with its lawns and colleges and rowing - well that brand value is worth nothing as education is disrupted and moves online,’ he says.
“Cambridge is discovering they can’t charge margins of 90%. Even Apple and Ferrari can’t charge margins like that, so why should universities?”
Federal and state governments across Australia are also focused on using digital communication channels - and the data-led insights that come with it - to build trust and brand in uncertain times.
“After years of focus on IT-driven solutions, departments are taking a more micro approach to improving service delivery with prototypes and tests,” says Govcom Group head Alun Probert, who works with state governments across Australia.
He argues that government advertising spends will be more focused on building trust and clarity around government services, and that citizens will likely start seeing surprising new outcomes.
“Service NSW has been one of the best examples of governments working to put people at the centre of what they do. Employing concierges at the front of store has really helped in saving people’s time and ensuring queuing times are minimised, with each of the new stores receiving high satisfaction scores from their visitors.”
Playground XYZ Rob Hall says the personal finance category is enjoying standout attention from consumers, while other industries - fashion, travel and lifestyle - are more volatile from month to month.
“Attention time on goods such as home and garden, fashion, technology and computers have all shot up, while attention time on service-based sectors like education, health, sports and travel were down,” he says.
Bricks and mortar brands are rushing to digital
Salesforce Australia Area Vice President Cloud Sales Jo Gaines says the acceleration to digital means all brands need to be looking beyond their verticals and categories to adopt better ways to connect with customers digitally.
“It’s a level playing field out there - every brand is dealing with the same set of challenges from the pandemic and working out what to do,” Gaines says.
“The last best experience is the next experience a customer will expect from any brand – consumer expectations are growing and changing.”
Gaines believes banks and online payment brands are doing the most interesting things online, with food brands like McDonald’s and Grill’d also pivoting quickly to deliver outstanding food delivery experiences.
Futurist Dr Hames has a slightly more glum prediction for marketers in a post-COVID world, arguing that apps, platforms and knowledge channels - especially social media - will continue to accelerate and proliferate, making it harder to grab attention.
“Advertisements are old hat,” he says, saying traditional big brand advertising to large audiences is being ignored by audiences in favour of marketing messages from friends, social media and word-of-mouth recommendations.
“What marketers need to do is stretch their imaginative capabilities and embrace what’s possible.”