M arketing in the age of coronavirus looks different compared to the Before Times. With events scuppered and direct mail thrown out of the window, marketing teams have, since March, been grappling with the task of generating leads from a pool of locked down buyers.
Early on in the coronavirus crisis it was clear that most brands were reacting to the situation with caution and shifting spend where possible. Back in April, Marketing Week reported that 86% of marketers were delaying or reviewing marketing campaigns as a result of the lockdown. And 90% of marketers said their budget commitments were being delayed or were under review. It’s safe to say that, unless you’re lucky enough to be in the strong bread flour or loo roll business, the past couple of months have been difficult. With 9% of the UK marketing workforce currently out of action, either furloughed or made redundant, teams are already having to do more with less. So, what will Q3 and Q4 2020 look like for UK marketers?
Accelerating digital transformation
Our client Bright recently commissioned a survey asking senior business leaders in the UK what they will be prioritising in the coming months. Perhaps unsurprisingly, digital transformation is high on the agenda. The shift to remote working has exposed the need for maximum agility, resulting in an increased implementation of martech tools in order to help marketing teams do more with fewer people.
This keenness to go digital is also being driven by consumers, and this has accelerated thanks to the coronavirus. The CMO Survey, an annual study of senior marketers, found that “84% believe customers place more value on digital experiences than before the pandemic”. And other studies, such as this by Accenture, back this up. This study says that the pandemic has encouraged mass adoption of digital tools, such as voice-enabled digital assistants, online recommendation apps, self-service apps, intelligent home devices and wearables, in a way that wouldn’t have happened without it.
Building and protecting reputation
However, despite digital transformation being important for the business leaders surveyed by Bright, it wasn’t top of their list of priorities. The survey reveals that 64% of UK business decision makers believe that branding and PR are the most important elements of their marketing strategies as we emerge from lockdown. This suggests that in times when selling is not as fruitful, building and protecting a reputation, as we prepare for a more uncertain future, is seen as the best way forward.
A big part of a brand’s reputation building recently has focused on their response to the coronavirus itself. As Nick Ashmore, VP Marketing at martech vendor ResponseTap commented: “What consumers and businesses want most in the coming months is flexibility. Later payment terms, longer return windows and the option to move or cancel bookings. Brands that can offer this flexibility despite their own financial predicament have the opportunity to build brand loyalty and positive PR. Conversely, I suspect there will be longer term implications, such as a loss of goodwill, for those businesses that have been less supportive during lockdown.”
One final finding worth sharing is that both Bright’s survey and the CMO Report reaffirmed the importance of social media in the short-term. CMO found that 84.2% of marketers said they will be taking advantage of social media for brand building in the coming months.
How has coronavirus impacted your budget planning for the rest of the year? We’d love to hear from you. Why not embrace social media and tweet us your thoughts?!
Lee is an account director, working in the Manchester and London offices