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James Perrin
James Perrin

With 2020 firmly in the rear mirror, it’s safe to say its impact on marketing and advertising has been colossal. Reduced budgets, changing consumer demands, and evolving business needs has meant a huge year of change…and an even bigger year of learning.

But as we start the new year under a third lockdown, it’s not only a stark reminder of the importance of business continuity, but also an important lesson of the need to reflect, learn, and plan for the future, to navigate both the next phase of restrictions and the welcomed inevitable post-lockdown world.

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Marketing is integral to business recovery. In the early days of the pandemic, a greater emphasis was placed on short-term priorities. A survey by LinkedIn showed that 38% of marketers focussed more on tactical execution of marketing campaigns, with 51% expecting this to continue in some form. But while there was a tendency to lean towards short-termism, past recessions have taught us that the more successful marketers commit to long-term brand advertising. It’s safe to say that, depending on the sector, this trend is likely to continue.

As we look back at what was, and forward to what will be, we are reminded of the impact that the pandemic has had on the world of marketing and advertising.

92% of marketers say the changes they’ve made during the pandemic will continue in the way they operate in the future.

[Source: Raconteur].

So, what are these changes, and what do they mean for your 2021 growth plans?

1. Be more agile

The businesses that did well and will continue to do well are those agile enough to transform in-line with changing consumer preferences and business needs. Marketers need to plan for uncertainty, so invest in contingency capabilities and scenario planning. This will give you the ability to pivot quickly, allowing you to adapt strategies as necessary. Test and learn methodologies will be key. And set up data and insight loops to understand ongoing changes and adapt quicker than your competitors. Businesses that are able to tap into the freshest data, will help them to understand their customer’s better, allowing them to better engage and create more relevant impactful messaging [Source: Econsultancy].

2. Customer-first powered by data

As previously mentioned, those businesses who better understood their customers were better placed to serve their customers. Providing a good experience during these times will have a lasting impact in the long run, impacting the value of a business. According to Harvard Business School, a 10% increase in customer retention levels result in a 30% increase in the value of the company. But the impact of the pandemic has meant that means of establishing customer relationships has changed and loyalty will be rewarded to the businesses who can adapt quickly. Coupled with a looming cookieless future, getting to know your customer will be more important than ever, with those offering the best value exchange succeeding.

3. Technology and automation

To help marketers establish and maintain customer relationships, technology and automation came into its own in 2020. While integrated CRMs, chatbots, and email nurturing platforms are not new, they were heavily prioritised during the outbreak. According to Merkle’s COVID-19 Customer Engagement Report, New marketing technologies - put in place as a result of the coronavirus - are here to stay. Marketers prioritised trying new technologies during COVID-19. Looking at marketing budgets, 50% of marketers have seen budget increases in marketing technologies, the biggest area of investment in marketing [Source: DigitalCommerce360].

4. Channel diversification  

With consumers spending more time online, at a time that suits them, and around their busy schedules, we saw a proliferation in the use of streaming services, on-demand TV and gaming platforms. And where consumers go, so do the advertisers. In fact, Connected TV (CTV) advertising was one the big success stories of 2020, a trend set to continue in 2021 [Source: Econsultancy]. According to FreeWheel 70% of UK marketers expect to spend more on advanced TV ads, for example CTV and Video on demand (VoD) etc, in the next 12 months. But its success isn’t solely down to user behaviour; advertisers are more engaged with these platforms because of their greater access to performance metrics, providing marketers with data and insight into incremental reach and performance across TV and digital. 

5. Finding purpose

The civil rights protests of 2020 reset our expectations of brands both in terms of consumer-facing messages but also internal practices. Whilst some brands were caught out for chiming in on issues unrelated to their brand values or purpose, it left every marketer realising the need to be more authentic and representative in 2021 and beyond [Source: Marketing Drive]. Purpose-driven marketing is nothing new, but the pandemic has left a need for brands to be deeply attuned to why they exist and who they were built to serve; helping to build better more meaningful connections with customers, and helping to create a distinctiveness, which will be key for their future growth [Source: Marketing Week].

Whether it’s operationally, strategically, technologically, or creatively, the biggest impact of the pandemic is in the way marketers and advertisers work. These are deep-routed changes that will have a big say on how successful your efforts are in 2021. If you’d like to discuss these changes, and to identify your own growth potential, or marketing opportunities, simply get in touch.

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