Written by Riccardo Petrachi, Marketing & Events Manager at WBC UK
As a company’s meet-and-greet function, marketing’s most important job is to identify, engage with and convert customers into valuable assets that create long-term cash streams. This role has been upended during COVID-19. Marketers have had to rethink their strategies in an era of homebound customers, social distancing, and an unpredictable environment that has forced many companies into crisis management.
The pandemic has noticeably devastated the world’s major economies, with the U.S. and Western Europe plunging into a looming economic recession and with consumers cutting down on spending as they encounter furloughs, layoffs and additional economic uncertainty. To worsen the status quo, the recession coincides with a period of social unrest and mass protesting and a climate emergency. This left businesses questioning how to market their brands and products effectively while also being sensitive to the challenges people are facing right now. It can be achieved if businesses focus less on the bottom line. Indeed, instead of focusing on selling products, companies can benefit more from building trusted relationships with customers. According to Moorman et al. (2020), trusted relationships are the customers’ highest priority over the next 12 months, with customers focusing more on trusting relationships than low price despite the economic downturn.
Marketing shifts during the pandemic
Marketing is viewed as a key function in handling the crisis and brand marketing efforts shifted significantly early in the pandemic. Brands are coming to terms with a hard truth which is that the new normal is a prolonged period of uncertainty and with these companies and brands need to transform and lay the foundations for future growth.
Over the past year, marketers had to deliver new content faster than ever and the content had to reflect the mood and experience of the consumer. As consumers turned digital, marketing strategies followed and they sought to increase customers’ digital experiences and improve the companies’ “go-to-market digital strategies” (Vizard, 2020). To back up this digital shift, marketers have inflated their marketing budgets and the percentage of the budget towards social media spending has doubled over time. Estimates suggest that, if January started with a low 13.3% of budget spent on social media, by the end of May that number had reached as high as 23.2%. Marketers also expect this level to be maintained over the next 12 months.
If one were to look at the pandemic with a positive eye, it would be that it has unveiled a truth: marketing counts more than anything and budgets need to be thought of accurately, both in times of crisis and non. In the past months, fierce marketers have witnessed that marketing budgets as a percentage of a firm’s revenues have reached a record level. Since the pandemic plagued the world, marketing spending has increased exponentially. The increase comes as marketers’ views on the importance of marketing have increased during the pandemic. According to the CMO survey, 62.3% believe it has increased in importance, as opposed to one in 10 who believes it has decreased and 26.5% believes it has not changed.
Marketing budgets’ highest levels reflect the significant role that marketing played in retaining customers and reconstructing the brand’s value during this difficult time.
With this, content marketing has risen in level of importance as well. Content marketing is a digital marketing strategy through which brands develop an on-going lasting relationship with customers through content that is non-promotional and provides value at every touch. Content marketing has assumed a holistic approach and uses a wide range of tactics such as email, social media, SEO and paid distribution to reach a target audience.
This type of marketing is an effective way for a company to remain connected with its consumers and it allows them to attract prospects. These tactics create an on-going relationship during, and after, the pandemic.
COVID-19 has required marketers to rethink how their companies go to market and engage with customers. Those marketers who can leverage digital, social and trusted relationships are well-positioned to navigate ongoing disruptions. Moreover, marketers across all industries should move beyond crisis management to embrace lessons and investigate missed opportunities to create more value for their customers and companies.
This article is part of an exchange series of articles started in collaboration between ConQuest Consulting and its British partner WBC UK. It has been written and produced by WBC UK.