Responsive Marketing: Driving effectiveness through the disruption of COVID

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It’s a time of great uncertainty for everyone and for many of us, our day-to-day lives and habits have drastically altered. More time is being spent at home and online, and many are limiting expenditure to essential items only.

With the global economy contracting, CMOs and marketing leaders are looking for quick and effective ways to make their resources go further, and to ensure they win as the playing field gets even tougher.

The organizations that rebound from this uncertainty soonest will be the ones on the front foot in building and refining strategies for success. They will achieve this by quickly understanding changes to customer behaviors and consumption patterns, managing marketing performance, and impacts to marketing budgets, and scrutinizing every penny spent – including optimizing marketing technology.

There is a further opportunity for businesses to consider their brand purpose through the lens of Covid-19 and to mobilize their consumers to participate in creating positive impact. In doing so, brands can build more resilient customer relationships and increase loyalty through a commitment of shared priorities.

I’m hearing a plethora of questions being raised by marketers in the current climate who are seeking quick ways to achieve a more meaningful and relevant dialog with their customers. Here are some of the questions I’m hearing with increasing regularity:

How can we understand how our customers’ behaviors have changed and the impact this has on our brand?

Your market research and insights capabilities need to be leveraged to inform trends and changes to market, category, brand and customer perceptions and patterns. This insight needs to be amplified using your data science and predictive capabilities to ensure you can best plan for the current situation as well as post pandemic, as we phase back into some normality.

Understanding the impacts to your categories, markets and customer segments will allow you to pivot your strategies in ways that best meet demand, and support channels for growth.

How do we manage reduction to marketing spend whilst still delivering results?

Many companies are seeing reduced marketing spend, in fact, 69% of brands expect they will decrease ad spend in 2020 and will need their marketing dollar to stretch further. There’s a new emphasis on how to shift from paid to owned and earned media, and how to ensure each channel is optimized, as RoI comes under increased scrutiny.

There also needs to be more of a focus on data-driven marketing. For any organization, ensuring that they are reaching their target audience precisely with relevant insights, to enhance one-to-one relationships is key. Data-driven marketing enables us to capture, analyze and leverage data from our customers which is used to drive relevance in our communications. This will help to power and optimize marketing to precision. These strategies need to be built and work in harmony – from the questions you want to answer, the insights you will generate to answer them, strategies for collecting this data (be it customer data, 2nd party data or otherwise), through to how you will analyze and leverage it.

Secondly, there has never been a more important time to lift the lid on your marketing technology (MarTech) to ensure it is wired, configured and set up for success. It is also very important to have your users up-skilled and trained on these technologies to guarantee that they are getting the most out of it. If there are any technology capability gaps, then there are many 'out of the box' solutions that can be quickly added to help the stack work harder and deliver more value. With MarTech representing, on average, 26% of marketing spend CMOs are urgently looking to evaluate the effectiveness of their current set-up and commercial agreements.

How do we want to be remembered during this time?

Many leading brands are asking themselves how they want their actions to be remembered during this trying epoch. Customers are feeling anxious and have an increased sensitivity to how they are being communicated to by brands. Many organizations are asking themselves what legacy they want to bring out of the crisis.

Brands such as Ikea have done a great job in meeting the customer tensions of low supplies by revealing the recipe for their iconic Swedish Meatballs. And of course they’ve done it in true Ikea form as a ‘classic flat pack instruction style’.

The Capgemini Research Institute found that a majority of consumers (over 53%) will look for companies that embody a sense of purpose and have strong sustainability credentials. One effective way of carefully positioning your brand to understand and support your consumers and their communities is to ensure access to real-time campaign data across channels in order to adjust the dialog going forward. Consumers are putting more scrutiny on how their favorite brands are operating and will be willing to invest future loyalty in those they perceive as supportive. Ford, for example, has, for the time being, put aside competition,and teamed up with GE Healthcare and 3M to assist with the production of healthcare equipment, including respirators.

It is time to step up and form a new legacy for your brand

The power of data-driven marketing, together with effective marketing technology, is still massively under-leveraged within organizations. Likewise, marketing organization effectiveness in using the tools or adding agility to the operation constantly shows opportunities for improvement – a good gauge for this is shifting the time spent on marketing planning to spending time on executing and optimizing.

Customers will demand even more from their brands in increasingly ambiguous and competitive times. CMOs and their teams need to uncover, deliver and communicate on the brand purpose that is authentic to their business, additive to society, and meaningful to their customers.

Bhavesh Unadkat, head of digital marketing at Capgemini Invent.

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