“India’s big gift to the world was a reminder of its age-old contactless gesture – Namaste”, says Sunder Madakshira, Adobe India’s marketing head in this exclusive thought-leadership piece for The Drum.
Madakshira looks back at how the year 2020 redefined the marketing rulebook and made digital the common glue that helped the C-suite act in swiftness, in unison and accelerated their journeys. He also shares some recent lessons that marketers should not miss out as they get ready for 2021.
When you look back at the year 2020…many of you may wish you hadn’t. While we’ve observed some positive outcomes emerge from the year gone by, undoubtedly, the year posed the most dramatic challenges that many of us across the world have had to endure in our lifetimes. In a year where everything changed – it was most interesting to observe how the lives of consumers were reset, and the playbook for marketers rewritten.
For consumers, as economic anxieties surfaced and spending time at home became the norm, buying behaviour suddenly became all about pausing, reflecting on necessities, and actioning purchases with caution. Several consumers surveys point to the fact that an overwhelming percentage of consumers wanted to change the brands across product categories. One indelible mark that this period left is consumers using digital platforms to search, purchase and pay for all their buying needs. Segments, which were oblivious or plain scared to use digital platforms to transact, became believers rather quickly. To stay relevant, brands had to quickly identify these shifts and reimagine their business overnight.
How the marketing rule book evolved in 2020
As the pandemic unfolded, marketing evolved to braze the new reality. There were four stages of the evolution of the marketing-think this year. In January, phase one kicked off with the great hope brought on by the start of a new year and a milestone for quarter-end for businesses. We abruptly entered phase two, as Covid-19 paralysis crippled businesses caused by worldwide lockdowns. Next, the third stage was that of businesses learning how to navigate through the various challenges and coming up with their ‘how-to’ strategies to spring back into action. The next phase has been all about the best of the best, where businesses have been intensely replicating learnings from outside of their own cocoons – geographies, industries and of course competition. Today, no more is a good idea from another country shunned with the quintessential “this-does-not-work- for-us” snub.
Single biggest shift of 2020: Digital
As most brands pivoted to this new reality and made frictionless experiences their center stage – the thing that was common in all strategies was that the boardroom had one word written in font size 200 on the presentation screen – “Digital”. The C-suite acted in swiftness, in unison and accelerated their journeys. These agile companies reported record revenues, profits and have a clearer path to recovery as India and many economies the world over are hoping for a hockey-stick recovery with pent up demand and revenge consumption.
Crystal ball gazing is challenging and when there is haze, things can get even more dangerous! The year 2021 brings along some recent lessons that marketers shouldn’t miss.
You don’t have to sell digital to your customer anymore: This year, the tough business environment, unprecedented penetration of stable internet and a quantum shift in usage of digital channels have gotten organisations to not just understand digital but accelerate their journeys. Customers are well on-board, and now asking – “we are done with the digital transformation 1.0, so what’s next?” To answer this, brands need to pull up their socks to quickly take their customer experience strategies to the next level.
Close your eyes when you see data: Having a lot of data is not a winner by itself, but a starter for sure. Organizing this data into information and actionable insights is very critical. So, when you see data, close your eyes and extract the insights you are getting through analytics. Data may also be time-stamped as pre-and post-Covid. In 2020, many brands did this and discovered new segments – insurance companies found that young people were buying more insurance, real estate companies discovered that more people were buying budget houses (and commercial properties are declining) and so on. They have accelerated their outreach to hereto these unknown segments with personalised engagement and seen dramatic growth.
Short term gains with a long-term view: Brands will look to adapt digital technologies which guarantee superior customer engagements and thereby higher profits and revenues in the short and medium-term. However, they will want to adopt technologies which are future-ready and last longer. Cheaper solutions might not make the cut here as compared to the category leaders with a proven track record.
In teams we trust: Remote working amidst anxieties, ‘always-available for work’ outlooks have taken their toll on teams, blurred synergies and depleted energies. For leaders and marketer to succeed, it will be important for their teams to adopt best practices, propagate wellbeing, feel inspired by their business’ new journey on the digital bandwagon.
Empathy with authenticity: In 2020, the standard “Hope you are doing well?” got a new meaning. This conversation opener is symbolic of genuine empathy that exists among people and has reminded us of the human element that exists in our lives. We must continue to embrace the power of empathy in not only how we connect with our friends and families, but also present the authenticity of our brand forth customers and peers.
Let’s 'Namaste': In 2020, India’s big gift to the world was a reminder of its age-old contactless gesture - Namaste. For brands in India, this respectful and warm folding of hands will be the sign of warmth and empathy for many years.
If Vision 2020 was a year of parallaxes, here’s hoping that 2021 will be the year of enhanced judgement, boundless agility and exceptional experiences.
Sunder Madakshira is head of marketing at Adobe India.