Are you Ready for the Supercharged Golden Quarter?

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In times of change and uncertainty, it’s not always easy to plan ahead

Try as you might, ongoing disruption means that there’s always something you won’t account for. This is especially true in our data-led age, when we seek to control for confounding variables in our analysis – and when, as we’ve seen lately, there can be periods with little but confounding variables. As the world emerges from the worst of the pandemic, and the trends it accelerated solidify into new realities, this year’s Golden Quarter is going to be the litmus test for how successfully marketers have evolved in recent years.

The return of the tentpole

Marketers have long focused their energy on big calendar dates, like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas. With unparalleled sales opportunities, they give the biggest brands demanding global exposure and the agencies vying to build creative reputations clear culmination points to their efforts in creating truly world-leading campaigns.

All of that has been disrupted in recent years. Even as sports, entertainment, and celebrations were diminished, rescheduled, or cancelled, a long trend of media consumption diversification came to a head. The growth of connected TV and platforms like TikTok signal a new high-water mark for consumers charting their own path through how they spend time.

This deepening atomisation of the media landscape means that only the highest peaks of mass engagement still stand proud of the constant hubbub of omnichannel engagement. Even for those key moments, however, we still need to anticipate points of uncertainty in the global context, which makes planning for them a challenge. Whether it’s due to health, economics, supply chain, energy, social protest, or something else, it can feel like the only certainty about the future is that we don’t know what the mood will be by then.

Nonetheless, while tentpole events might now be scarcer, they still represent a unique opportunity to catch the zeitgeist that can propel brands like nothing else – which brings us to this year’s Q4. The Golden Quarter is always a crunch point in the marketing calendar, and this year it coincides for the first time with the World Cup, which might well be one of the first major global sporting events to be largely unaffected by pandemic restrictions since 2019.

Supercharging your strategy

The marketing industry, which has been adapting to the unpredictable with more agile strategies, is now driving against tough economic headwinds towards the re-emergence of tentpole event opportunities. We might see more stringent budgeting push teams to pursue fewer points of engagement more tactically, or it might encourage the adoption of routes like social selling where ROI is more directly quantifiable.

The process of deciding between big-budget sponsorships or ‘guerrilla’ tactics working in the margins of events will need reassessment in light of new consumption habits. A keen awareness of the risks of over-committing to a creative route will make more just-in-time approaches to creativity attractive, but implementing them could pose issues.

In short, the Supercharged Golden Quarter will require supercharged marketing teams to manage it, and it’s only after the dust has settled that we will see who is truly in a position to thrive. One of the things we do know for sure, however, is that those who succeed will do so by starting a smart playbook today.

In an omnichannel world, everything is on the table, and everything is to play for. Creative ideation and production might need to be deferred to capture the mood of the moment, but systems which automate the optimisations and personalisation of creative across channels can be introduced now. Media buying might find itself caught in a wait-and-see phase, but operational efficiencies in how that buying will take place can be established immediately. Product availability and pricing strategies might be unclear this far ahead, but there’s no need to wait for them before integrating inventory feeds into advertising systems and syncing catalogues with ad formats.

Regardless of the state of the world this festive season, the time to prepare for a Supercharged Golden Quarter is now.