Why David Scribner is calling on marketers to fight for brand investment during COVID-19

Former CMO and oOh!media chief customer officer shares views on the impact of the crisis on out-of-home, marketing mindsets and innovation

David Scribner
David Scribner

What do you think boards and executives are expecting from marketing leaders at this time?

Marketers have to put the position together to the board and c-suite about investment in the brand. They need to make it clear a complete cut or anything that might ruin the brand trajectory would be an overreaction and may not be recoverable in the long term. Hopefully they can help c-suite and boards understand if they get into a position where the brand is unrecoverable, that’s a long-term ill.

Again, that comes back to data, being smart, looking at what the messaging needs to be, and reading the tea leaves of the community. It’s about explaining this is what we’re going to be doing with the brand and it may be a bit different to what we’ve done before, because we can’t be as frivolous or irreverent, but this is what we’re doing and getting it out there.

It can be scary to do and tough but it’s really important. And it’s a personal moment for marketers. It’s an opportunity to lean in and say this is what we want to do, and this is why we want to do it, and this is the data for how it’s going to work. C-suite and boards have got to be open to those conversations. They’re thinking about how to batten down the hatches, what costs do we have to get out of our business, how do we survive, how do our employees work in a COVID-19 environment. No one is saying hey, we should invest here because when we come out of it, we’ll be great. The marketer has a great opportunity to be that voice of hope.

What other suggestions do you have for how marketers make sure they’re able to ride the recovery as we come out of the crisis?

We’re focused on this internally, and have a project in place because when we kick off again, we want to best fast out of the gate. So we have a 10-day plan, 30-day plan, 60-day plan. That’s the first thing.

It’s also important for you team to start planning the good stuff and not lose sight of your 12- or 24-month goals. What are the share, brand growth metrics you want to achieve then? Because they’re still relevant.

Yes, you have to be in the day-to-day, focused on how you’re managing the team, what’s happening, what are we stopping and starting. But look to the future as well. In our business, we want people to talk about the events we’re going to have. Even if they spit ball it for two weeks, come up with something we can never do but it’s magical, it’s something different to think about, rather than being in a lockdown. I think that’s how you can straddle the now and next.

What innovation do you foresee coming out of this crisis then?

There’s no doubt change will come out of this. I don’t think anyone knows what that is yet. We’re all pointing to the ease of working from home. In turn, how does that change media consumption levels? There will be media changes we’ll all have to get our teeth into.

There’s a lot of opportunity for brands now to think about stuff they were marketers were running too fast to question. Look at the data, see what works and doesn’t, and look to do better when you come out of this. That will drive innovative thinking.

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