Are you trying to understand how your marketing needs to change?
This article sets out the themes which you can use in your own firm to help discern the new rules, the new landscape and the new markets we are now trading in.
The new marketing reality
Nothing is clear. This is obvious.
But that’s hardly helpful for us marketing people who need to keep on creating campaigns, keep on filling funnels and keep on pushing our recovery efforts after lockdown.
Signs are emerging about what consumers are interested in and where they will look favourably on brands.
I am regularly scanning the world looking for examples and inspiration of what can be done and how you can do it for your brand.
What consumers value
Top home-stay business Look After Me surveyed their audiences and found a distinct shift in sentiment.
Instead of favouring flying on holiday, most now prefer car travel; most prefer to book with local companies to “keep money in the NZ economy”, and most now prioritise accommodation “cleanliness” over price, comfort and wifi provision.
Financial and economic news website, Interest.co.nz asked its readers what they value. The answers were clear from the start – every single segment of reader who was surveyed came back with similar views. Two quotes suffice
Your people have a better understanding of fringe issues, more reliably, than any other NZ news outlet. Your reporting on these peripheral matters shows incredible strength. And that makes the world better.
With the woeful quality of NZ journalism it’s my only trusted source of financial news.
Understand the new priorities
Clues about the new priorities can be found from a range of commentators. Some have been “banging this drum” for a while, others are interpreting new data.
I look to global trends as well as industry-specific experts when trying to find a pattern worth following.
Mark Carney, Central Banker, says the “The economy must yield to human values“. By this I interpret that people matter over profit and that the capitalist model of pursuing profit over all other goals is being challenged.
Retail specialist Mary Portas calls it the “Kindness Economy”.
She realised that kindness isn’t weak but strong: a foundation from which to grow a business that has truth, integrity, longevity and commerciality. As we move away from a time of rabid consumerism and ‘peak stuff,’ Mary believes we are entering a new type of economy. One built on kindness and a Triple Bottom Line: people, planet and profit – in that order. And business who organise themselves around this kinder way of behaving, will be the ones that win.
And Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist, interprets apparently polarising reactions to the same situation in terms of “moral intuitions and values”. In this way, relaxing lockdown provokes both protests against restriction of liberty from social distancing and protests about growing exposure to harm by going back to work. Both can be understood from underlying moral values.
In the context of Brexit and the lockdown, he found
Remainers placed more emphasis on the value of care and the need to minimise harm, whereas leavers placed more emphasis on the value of personal liberty. When evaluating an action or a policy, remainers would ask “will this cause harm?”, whereas leavers would be inclined to ask “will something restrict our freedom?”.
The moral values of your brand now matter. The alignment and prioritisation of your internal teams across departments will be different now. Your emphasis on the planetary community needs to be interpreted into both the bottom line and operational mores.
What will “value” mean?
This is tough and will definitely evolve as fear of infection subsides and rises with waves of the pandemic. In New Zealand now we are feeling relatively safe – lockdown is in Level 2 and we are back at school and work. Compare our situation to Brazil or New York and value will be very different.
Here are some themes which may emerge – to what extent does your brand and business subscribe to these?
- Local resilience > global efficiency
- High corporate debt > riskiness of underlying equity
- Will the state continue to be engaged within private commerce?
- Is resilience > risk now?
- How are tail risks managed?
- We all understand the fear of unemployment now.
- The price of everything = the value of everything, including global heating.
- Economic dynamism and efficiency ≠ solidarity, fairness, responsibility and compassion
What is the new Maslow hierarchy?
Values and needs are realigning.
Now that we fully realise the deep inter-dependency of our global community, will this change our prioritisation about health, wellbeing, global supply chains and personal independence (doing what I want) compared to communal dependence (doing what WE need)?
Can we learn to trust experts again?
Will our approach to climate change (surely the biggest existential threat to our way of life) be adjusted to reflect these new values and to form a new consensus on priorities compared to risks?
What did your company do during Covid-19?
Writing the history of this period can wait for now.
Yet I am certain that the judgements will fall on brands and the public perception of where they were before and after the emergency passes will be based on “people” outcomes not “profit” outcomes.
I bet Greg Foran wishes he was still at Walmart and hiring thousands of new workers rather than at Air New Zealand and laying them off.
This will have the resonance of “what did you do in the War?” and whether you judge the outcome to be “good” or “bad” will depend to a large part on the consumer’s view of whether you were a hoarder or a generous giver; whether you laid off staff, furloughed or retained staff; whether you hoarded resources or paid over the odds to acquire over others or whether you generously supported others.
Adjust brand positioning
Once you know what values your consumers now have you can start customisation to respond to this new priority.
Some of these will be short-term and related to Covid19 and Lockdown – like Rose and Thorne’s Gift-a-Bra to an essential worker.
How important are these people? Very. How much do we value them? A lot. And how many do we know? Lots.
This is great marketing because it is a classic member-get-member programme aligned to the issue of the day.
Look After Me have taken a lead by redesigning holidays into packages that theme around hobbies and interests, that are local and have quality marks for locally owned businesses with high cleanliness scores.
Smart. Easy to understand. Aligned.
There’s a Recession too
And of course the recession is already creating new winners and losers. Take a browse through the Emergency Business Forum questions business owners are asking and their own perceptions of “need” and the consistent themes emerge
- growth of online ecommerce or at a minimum a website
- how do we reach our customers
- fresh marketing ideas
- finding distributors and stockists
- learning about digital media
- how to get customers to switch to online
- why word of mouth doesn’t cut it any more
- migrating from in person to online
- starting a customer database
Part of me groans when reading these; part of me rejoices.
Blending the practical with the strategic is going to be critical in giving quality guidance and up-skilling. Yet the problem lies as much with medium as small businesses. Speedy decision making is easy for the owner-operator and will not be so easy to apply to enterprise.