5 musts marketers will need to navigate in a post-COVID world

Brands, marketers and businesses leaders face many new challenges and opportunities as we move through the coronavirus crisis into the 'new normal'

As COVID-19-related restrictions ease across the country, life restarts in an altered form - transformed by social distancing, public transport restrictions and drastically altered office environments.

To help define and understand the next phase in the context of marketing leadership, CMO has gathered a range of thoughts from marketers, business leaders and analysts all sharing their predictions on navigating the ‘new normal’ of the post-COVID environment.

Defining a safe brand message

Futurist and author, Mark Pesce, firmly agrees with the assertion 'every business will now be a health business' by New York University professor of marketing, Scott Galloway. According to Pesce, brands with a public face will need to express their ‘cleanliness credentials’ to help reduce people’s unease, and we can expect to see the rise of new positions such as chief health officer or chief biosecurity officer from now on.

There are several issues which pose challenges for business and society coming out of the pandemic, Pesce says, whose latest June 2020 Horizons report takes into account the effect of COVID-19. Time will tell the size of financial support needed to restart the economy, he argues, and we will continue with uncertainty about a second wave of virus infections for some time to come.

Additionally, the likelihood of a vaccine and its timing raises huge questions. The largest unknown is the extent of the aftershocks from this huge jolt of uncertainty that’s been inserted into every system, organisation and government around the world, he says.

Reimagining what could be

Sendoso CMO, Dan Frohnen, sees the new challenges as being around re-imagining what can and should be.
"This hybrid world will be with us at least to the end of 2020 and potentially the first half of 2021," he tells CMO. “This means we must look long and hard at our customer acquisition strategies and prepare for the long haul.

“It means being focused on being operationally efficient with teams and budgets, and honing in on the best motion to acquire and retain customers. We will do this in a world where our prospects will be working from home and sometimes in an office. And we’ll be doing this with limited business travel and no events.”

Navigating the new environment will see many companies fall that weren’t able to adapt, whether that is because of their product offerings or messaging or a combination, Frohnen continues. “You will see a whole new wave of startups emerge to fill gaps that come as a result of this pandemic.”

Mable CMO, Emma Howe, predicts it will take some time for people who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 to feel comfortable in returning to regular social and community activities.

“At the same time, with an extended period of isolation the need to re-connect will only get stronger,” she said. 

Howe also predicts constant innovation will continue to be the biggest challenge and opportunity for marketers across the country, along with a hope for a continued sense of collective help. “The ability to move quickly from messaging and product launches is a huge advantage during these times and will continue to be into the future,” she adds.

“We’re hoping to see more of what we’ve seen during the pandemic – more people offering support to those in need, more companies disrupting their fields to meet category concerns and continued closeness and connection despite geography and other challenges."

Planning for multiple scenarios

It’s already clear the coronavirus pandemic will accelerate and redirect business and societal changes. The rapid and wholesale adoption of work from home and the need for digital transformation are just two that are already apparent. 

These new ways of working and living present challenges to business looking to understand and navigate such change. To survive and thrive over the next 3-5 years, leaders will need to consider multiple different scenarios which may eventuate in order to make sense of things, according to a an April 2020 Salesforce and Deloitte report, The World Remade by COVID-19

The report highlights five fundamental uncertainties: The overall severity of the pandemic and pattern of disease progression; the level of collaboration within and between countries; the healthcare system response to the crisis; the economic consequences of the crisis; and level of social cohesion in response to the crisis.

It recommends taking a scenario planning approach to developing a plan in the next few years and considering how prospects may alter, changing consumer value, updating business threats, finding new providers and ecosystems, and looking for the capabilities and assets important in the new environment.

Sefiani Communications Group CEO, Robyn Sefiani, tells CMO many companies have already commenced major transformation initiatives, triggered as a result of revenue pressures caused by business disruption during the pandemic and to protect ongoing profitability.  

Asked about the lasting changes that may come from the crisis, Sefiani nominates the need for reliable information and the notion of connectedness as two key ones.

“Australians have impressively followed the rules of social distancing and staying home when the facts and consequences were repeatedly presented simply, clearly, often and forcefully,” Sefiani says. “Trusted sources have emerged in government, health authorities and mainstream (objective) media. People hopefully have become more alert to misinformation and wild advice circulating on social media."

Sefiani also points to the theme of connectedness, which has become more valued, “because we don’t appreciate what we have until it’s taken away”.

“I think we’ll see marketers leverage the emotional aspects of connectedness in the year ahead, with campaigns less about ‘me’ and more about ‘us’,” she says.

“The future of work will change too. People have embraced technology and adapted well to working from home, despite being isolated, and have enjoyed connecting with their families instead of lengthy commutes – no doubt requests for more flexible work arrangements will mean smaller office spaces are required in the future with implications for commercial property.”

Up next: Our 4th and 5th factors marketing leaders will need to navigate as we recover from the COVID-19 crisis

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