What have we learned as marketers from the COVID-19 pandemic?
If you want to know our thoughts on marketing during the pandemic, then check out what we think here: Marketing During COVID-19.
We all know that the pandemic has put severe strain on society and all sectors of business. Whether that is a huge drop/no sales or a massive uplift – the likelihood for many online retailers. From a marketing point of view, it’s put a lot of strain on the industry as well.
Campaigns were been cancelled as they were not COVID-19 appropriate, advertising spend was scaled back or completely cut and essentially all the plans for 2020 year to date had to be thrown out the window.
That does not mean however, that there are not a lot of lessons that we can learn from this experience. Lessons that will benefit us in the long term.
We should not chalk this period up as an anomaly. Instead, we should ask ourselves, What have we learned?
After today’s announcement that pubs can reopen on the 4th July. I took to Twitter to get the lay of the land. And there was a barrage of anti-Whetherspoons tweets being levelled out:
People don’t forget bad behaviour. The backlash lobbied at Whetherspoons in my opinion was deserved and while I don’t know the ins and outs of the companies finances – as business owners, there was a duty of care. But like the people that were caught flouting the social distancing rules, the impression given off by these businesses is that they think they’re special and therefore immune to the wrath of the public.
I don’t believe that people will boycott Whetherspoons, ultimately people are reliant on the hours that they offer but at the same time – would going to a Whetherspoons now make me feel a bit icky. Yep. Does it jar with my personal values – 100%. Would it be my pub of choice? No.
“Many bricks-and-mortar businesses will have been tempted to stay open for as long as possible to maximise their profits and make the inevitable period of difficulty more manageable, but across the board, businesses closed because they knew the health of their customers and communities was much more important. And that has been remembered and appreciated. Wetherspoons now faces an uphill battle to show they really are the pub chain of the people—since it was those people they appeared to be willing to put at risk.” (1)
WHAT DID OTHER BRANDS DO:
Taking the pandemic as an opportunity to help and support the community rather than ‘take’ from them. That feeling of ‘we are in it together’ really rung out with gin distilleries switching to produce hand sanitiser and brands like NIKE producing PPE ranges. Gift retailers took to producing letterbox gifts and experience gifts so that loved ones still felt connected to one another.
COMMUNICATION WAS KEY:
We were in unprecedented times and we still are. Consumers wanted to know what was going on and they wanted to be kept informed. I actually valued the daily briefings from the government and while my respect for the government itself tipped post the Dominic Cummings scandal – I appreciated knowing what was going on.
The brands that have done this really well have been those that were brave and that combined clarity and sympathy in their messaging. You have to be connected, to manage the communities you’re a part of. It’s really important not to hide: be with the people that matter to your business during a time of uncertainty.
The crisis has proved the importance of culture within your business as well. It wasn’t just your consumers facing the pandemic but also the people that worked for you too. The value of culture is clear to see. Many businesses have invested a lot of time in culture since the lockdown. With some offering company wide quizzes on a Friday, CEOs offering weekly updates to employees, ‘care packages’ were sent to team members. I particularly appreciated this. I enjoyed and valued the fact that I wasn’t a number but in a fact an important part of the business. I was remembered.
Put simply, businesses with strong cultures have more trust, better collaboration and higher levels of motivation. These things are essential at a time like this.
- THINK about the future impact of your actions. If you pull back on spend – is it the right thing to do and are you just being reactive?
- COMMUNICATE authentically with your consumers and the people who work for you and you’ll have advocates for life.
- DIVERSIFY and be agile enough to try new things. The pandemic inspired a new wave of entrepreneurial thinking. Don’t let that slip away just because normality is starting to resume.