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14 Aug 2020

Marketing in the Time of a Global Crisis

Trazel Azavedo, Merali Digital

The COVID-19 crisis evidently provides us with a glimpse into a future world – one in which ‘digital’ has become core to every man’s interactions, forcing both the organizations and individuals to further up the digital adoption curve almost overnight.

As marketers, we frequently mention how being flexible helps us capitalise on shifting market dynamics, changing customer demands and competitive threats. But in reality, most of us are working to a precise marketing plan driven by a budget and a strategy that was locked down months in advance. 

Tiny shifts are easier to confront and work about. But what happens when we encounter bigger challenges? Maybe our company faces a product failure, a supply-demand disruption or even a weather event that impacts the business. There could be a financial crisis or much worse a pandemic? Situations like these mandate a course correction. All that talk about ‘flexibility’ now needs to mutate to action.  

So, where do we start? And how do we stay at the top of the industry?  

The COVID-19 crisis evidently provides us with a glimpse into a future world – one in which ‘digital’ has become core to every man’s interactions, forcing both the organizations and individuals to further up the digital adoption curve almost overnight. A world in which digital channels become primary, if not sole customer engagement model, a primary driver of productivity while also being the basis of flexible, transparent, and stable exchanges in the economy. A world in which agile ways of working are a prerequisite to meeting daily changes to behaviour.  

However, that’s not enough! We must add creativity and innovation to the mix. This is the time we can really earn our title as marketers. We must go back to our roots and identify our marketing / business objectives, and asses how well we can achieve them without the channel or set strategy we’ve been forced to eliminate. Now is the time to innovate!  
 
Nothing is worse than staring at a blank whiteboard so, here is an easy exercise to conduct within your organisation:  

  • Bring your team together (preferably a group of marketing, sales and service personnel's) 
  • Note down all the interesting remarks they’ve heard from customers, new trends, competitive activity, etc. If you need more structure, ask the following questions:  
    - What do our customers like? 
    - What do our customers complain about? 
    - What do our customers wish we had or would do? 
    - What do our competitors do that we don’t (marketing not product features)? 
    - If we eliminate the ‘X’ marketing channel what other ways could we achieve the same thing? 
    - Are there any new technologies or channels that might be useful to us? 
  • Now look for hints that may trigger ideas and create a list of possibilities to explore. 

Hopefully, after finishing this exercise you’ll come up with some ideas for new channels and programs that can be tested or perhaps a way to drive better performance from your existing channels.  

If I were to look for a silver lining, it might be in the falling barriers to improvisation and experimentation that have emerged among customers, markets, regulators, and organizations. It is most often the case in human affairs that the greatest lessons emerge from the most devastating times of crisis. The ways in which we learn from and adjust to today’s crisis will deeply influence our performance in tomorrow’s changed world, providing the opportunity to retain greater agility as well as closer ties with our customers and employees. Those of us that are successfully able to make gains ‘stick’ will likely ensure that their digital future is more successful during recovery and beyond.  

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