Marketers are taking stock of an industry that has evolved quickly and in ways that may be lasting as the world approaches the one-year mark of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
Although leaders are optimistic in the face of progress in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, the bottom line is that after surviving a pandemic crisis, customers will re-emerge exhausted and on edge. Having to deal with the COVID-19 crisis hasn’t made being a CMO any easier in the long run. Empathy and compassion are now part of the marketer’s toolkit.
The marketing strategies that have been strengthened over the last year come with new risks and considerations for marketing executives. According to challenges outlined in a study by the Kearney Consumer Institute, the shift toward community marketing, which several CMOs described as a trend, has become fraught as customer frustrations and backlash to brands have increased. As habits intensified by COVID-19 stick, the need to tread carefully around sensitivities must be balanced with evolving technology demands, especially in data-driven marketing and e-commerce.
These can be challenging goals for every executive to achieve, but the pandemic has shown that many companies are turning to CMOs to fulfill them, offering new opportunities to advance the position’s leadership role. According to a recent whitepaper from M&C Saatchi Group’s Clear consultancy, more than half of chief marketers say their impact has risen during the crisis, while only 5% say it has decreased.
Roles are shifting
At the same time, COVID-19 has highlighted the competing demands that CMOs must deal with, especially the tug-of-war between short-term sales goals and long-term brand-building projects. Balancing these responsibilities has had a huge impact on how CMOs function.
Companies had to re-evaluate and showcase anything they thought they understood or had in their toolbox to meet the new and rapidly evolving demands. It was critical for organizations to be relevant to the consumer mindset, which was changing all the time as the pandemic, the economy, and the effects on families progressed. The pandemic underscored the importance of brands demonstrating their commitment to their mission through action rather than just messaging.
Rewinding the clock
Even though many brands showed resilience during the worst of the pandemic, the past year has been marked by unpredictability and uncertainty. Many marketers cut back on spending or played it safe at the start of the health crisis, leaving a messaging void. In retrospect, some CMOs believe they should have been more ambitious at the time.
It’s time for companies to become even more agile and future-focused, particularly when it comes to e-commerce and adapting to customer trends. Outside pressures will resurface, but certain business-friendly habits will persist.
In addition to the heavy workloads, there is a lack of face-to-face interaction. The peculiarities of the working remotely concept and constant Zoom meetings and chats on digital communications apps are more alienating than office huddles.
A return to “normal” seems possible this year, thanks to several successful vaccines and a more ambitious delivery program. The new normal won’t be the same as the old one for brands, but it will have some of the advantages of in-person collaboration, which CMOs anticipate with bated breath.
With fewer constraints, brands will expand their marketing efforts. Some of the strategies used during the pandemic, such as an emphasis on agility and shorter media preparation and processing times, would be carried over. However, as brands brace for a return to roaring consumerism, productions will be less sparse and possibly more abundant, particularly in categories like travel that were initially battered by lockdown restrictions.