CMO’s top 20 stories for 2020

We present the 20 most-read articles of 2020, from CX to news media bargaining codes, a cookie-less future and all the pivoting and innovation to come out of COVID-19

Pivoting marketing and customer efforts to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic clearly took centre stage this year, as this year’s CMO list of most read stories in 2020 shows.

But check out any of these practical features, case studies and investigations of brands responding to the crisis we penned this year, and you’ll quickly see the raft of positivity and innovative work done to not only respond, but thrive during this most difficult of years.

Alongside this exploration of innovation, this year’s top stories list is awash with insights onto what will no doubt be continuing big issues for marketing leaders going into 2021: The longer-term ramifications of COVID-19 on customer behaviour as well as team and marketing agility; the demise of the cookie; growing concerns about brand sustainability and societal impact and consumer data; a media industry power shake-up, retaining brand relevance in an increasingly digitised world; and more.

CMO50 2020 list

This year’s list of Australia’s most innovative and effective marketing leaders was a bright spark and opportunity to celebrate the achievements of CMOs and their teams not only prior to COVID-19 striking, but in the face of the global pandemic.

There was a serious, earnest tone to the bulk of the CMO50 submissions this year. That’s not surprising given the crises we’ve had to navigate in this unfathomable of years – from devastating bushfires to a global COVID-19 pandemic and the health, economic and societal tsunamis created in its wake.

Check out the full list, profiles, CMO50 trends and more here

How to manage social media during Covid-19

In times of national and global emergencies, social media has a more important role than ever. And that was clear as brands and agencies scrambled to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic gripping the world and to develop appropriate communication strategies to connect with customers.

The Pew Research Center in the US reported in 2019 over half of adults turned to social media for their news. L&A Social founder and director, Gina Lednyak, said one key consideration for brands on social media is to always add genuine value. 

“You have the best opportunity to do this at a time where all eyes are on news feeds and our communities need us the most. Be careful though, as your content has to come from an authentic place, where you’re helping your community, not leveraging their vulnerability,” Lednyak said.

Read the full article on how this played out in social media during COVID-19 here.

CBA launches its own AfterPay, Zip payment option

In January 2020, Commonwealth Bank officially launched a digital payments service in direct competition with AfterPay and Zip, as the Australian Financial Industry Association (AFIA) announced a new Code of Practice for buy now pay later (BNPL) providers.

Klarna Australia, which was already operating in Europe, offers direct payments, pay after delivery options and instalment plans. CBA has invested about $US300 million in Klarna, which will be available via its online banking app so customers can begin shopping at any online store. Purchased items will show up in the CommBank app and customers will also be able to take advantage of price drop and out of stock notifications directly from Klarna.

Read the full story on Klarna in Australia here.

Report: Most Australian employees to work from home

Just before COVID-19 lockdown struck Australia, a survey from Gartner HR showed most Australian organisations planned on giving staff access to leave, paid time off, or the ability to work from home in order to ride out the COVID-19 crisis.

“Our research shows that only a minority of employers plan to downsize or ask employees to take unpaid leave,” Gartner HR practice chief of research, Brian Kropp, said. “Instead, most organisations are focusing on measures such as more effective use of technology and freezing new hiring to cut costs.”

Nearly half (48 per cent) of employers require employees to use sick leave first, then vacation leave and finally potential paid time off (PTO) for coronavirus absences, the report says. Twenty per cent of organisations increased PTO for individuals who are sick and/or caring for a sick family member; 18 per cent of organisations have granted additional PTO for parents who are caring for children whose schools are closed.

Read more about the survey and strategies for coping with remote working here.

Game on: 7 brands getting into gaming

All sorts of consumer brands, from exclusive high-end fashion houses to fast food chains and even movie studios, are realising the opportunities to connect with their customers through games.

The platforms are a way of accessing customers having a bit of fun and being entertained, while at the same time providing brands with a way to create targeted and immersive brand experiences that don’t have the obvious signs of advertising and potentially yield valuable customer data.

Brandometry co-founder and president, Tony Wenzel, positioned the move into gaming as an extension of advertising and sponsorship in film and television. And involvement in games isn’t new - it goes as far back as social media gaming platforms such as Second Life.

“The democratisation of play is big business, vying for considerable capital in the attention economy,” he said.

With this in mind, CMO took a look at the state of gamification and game-based advertising.

Caltex unveils new Ampol logo as brand comes back to Australia

One of our biggest brand stories for 2020 was news of Caltex officially unveiling its Ampol logo as the fuel retailer commenced plans to bring the iconic brand back to Australia.

The new logo takes its cues from key elements of the more than 80-year old heritage Ampol brand, including the original red and blue bands, and is designed to capitalise on the organisation’s local history. The debut came in advance of the company’s annual general meeting, where formal approval for the name change to Ampol was confirmed, 25 years after the brand name disappeared from the Australian market.  

Read more about the return of Ampol to Australia here.

Advertising and marketing spend significantly impacted by COVID-19

Just weeks after COVID-19 truly hit Australia, media buyers, planners and marketers were tipping COVID-19 to have a bigger impact on advertising than the global financial crisis (GFC).

Approximately 400 buy-side decision-makers shared their changes to ad spend and messaging strategies in a quickfire report by IAB US. This found 70 per cent of buyers had already adjusted or paused their planned ad spend, while 16 per cent were still determining what actions to take.

Nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of respondents had paused all advertising spend for the remainder of Q1 and Q2 while 46 per cent indicated they adjusted their ad spend for the same time period. Seventy three per cent of buyers are indicating the coronavirus will have an impact on the Upfront 2020/2021 spend commitments and expect a 20 per cent decrease in Upfront spend vs their original plan.

By June, the figures were clear: COVID-19 had driven ad spend dramatically down.

Brands lead communications with CEO reassurances as COVID-19 hits home

As spending slipped away from traditional advertising channels, brands locally and globally increasingly turned to CEO communication updates as a way of reassuring customers of their credentials and support as the growing COVID-19 pandemic continues.

In what became a flurry of communications in the weeks following lockdown locally, brands across every conceivable industry category, from travel and tourism to retail, entertainment, technology, transport, food and financial services, have taken to email, website and mobile app-based platforms to reassure customers particularly of their health and safety credentials in the face of the global health crisis.

Read more about how brands turned to the reputation and standing of their CEO and reassuring communications here.

A global B2B marketer’s take on coping with the COVID-19 crisis

In one of a succession of articles looking at how marketers adapted their strategies and tactics to suit the crisis conditions, Kemp’s CMO, Tony Thompson, spoke to CMO about how B2B marketers must ride the shifting waves of the COVID-19 crisis.

His advice: Shift the brand message from one of product and service capability to one of helping the community solve an immediate pain point.

For B2B marketers that rely heavily on in-person interactions to generate new leads and build brand awareness, the fallout of the COVID-19 outbreak created unchartered territory, Thompson told CMO. Major trade shows and events across nearly every industry have been cancelled on a global scale, and even though some event organisers are shifting to ‘virtual’ events, the relative impact of those types of activities on a company’s brand-building and lead generation efforts is greatly diminished.

Read more about Kemp’s response and tips for B2B marketers here.

COVID-19 and the privacy problem

Coronavirus tracing apps, temperature sensing drones, phone apps to monitor social distancing, tech giants sharing smartphone location and mobility data - the COVID-19 pandemic showed us many ways technology and data can be used to protect human health. But at what cost to privacy?

Collecting information about people is nothing new - governments have long conducted population data gathering in the form of a census. But with technology enabling granular personal details on a minute-by-minute basis, both offline and online, to be collected in great swathes, the question of balancing privacy with innovation again read its head.

Read more about COVID-19 and the privacy problem here.

As the cookie crumbles, what comes next for digital advertisers?

Outside of the pandemic, one of the big media and advertising changes debated during 2020 and taking us into 2021 is the end of third-party cookies.

As the recent Deloitte Privacy Index 2020 pointed out, meaningful consent should be front and centre for every industry and every sector. Yet 83 per cent of consumers said they are concerned by Internet cookies that track their activity online for use in marketing or to sell information on to third parties.

So with a cookie-less future soon be a reality for marketers, there will be a range of new tools for identification. We took a snapshot of the alternatives emerging and how they handle protecting user privacy and providing addressability.

Read our exploration of cookie alternatives and what comes next for digital advertising here.

Can virtual events fill the physical conference gap?

The long-term impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on the Australian live events industry has clearly been significant. But one immediate outcome from the crisis was the rapid rise in interest in virtual conferences and connection.  

With the banning of mass gatherings having led conference organisers to cancel or postpone most events, many pressed ahead with heavily modified agendas designed to be delivered digitally.  That has been good news for platform companies such as Cisco WebEx, LogMeIn (maker of GoToWebinar) and ON24 and streaming services such as Akamai.

But it has not provided much comfort to the nearly 200,000 people who work in the Australian events sector – many of them in small businesses or as casual or contractors.

As COVID-19 locked down the events industry, we looked at the ramifications for brands and investigate how virtual conferencing can fill the gap.

How your company can innovate its way through the COVID-19 crisis

Ever heard that saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention”? Well, the COVID-19 crisis has been the very mother of situations organisations and marketers must innovate their way through right now.

“There has never been a more critical time to innovate and look at things differently than there is now, because the world has completely changed,” founder of innovation consultancy Inventium, Dr Amantha Imber, told CMO. “If you stick your head in the sand and fail to innovate, probably the only thing that’s guaranteed is you won’t survive this crisis.” 

Many organisations worked to reposition themselves to ensure that as the pandemic continued on throughout the year, they were viewed as companies who had moved beyond this concern and driven constructive initiatives.

CMO took a deeper look into what it took to innovate the way through the COVID-19 crisis.

How brands are pivoting sports sponsorship in the face of COVID-19

Menulog, Boost Mobile, Colgate and Telstra are just some of the brands who had to rethink their sponsorship of sports as the unprecedented crisis hit.

Brands spent somewhere well above $750 million sponsoring sporting events and clubs in Australia in 2019. That number was on track to be bettered in 2020 thanks to the benign economic climate and the Tokyo Olympics. Then COVID-19 ran rampant, social lockdown was imposed, and the Olympics – and almost every other sporting contest you can think of – was postponed.

No sport meant no exposure for sport sponsors. And for some brands, that led to an immediate re-evaluation – and even cessation - of their commitments. But several brands also raced to ensure the money spent isn’t dead money by repurposing campaigns and assets to achieve some of connection with fans.

We find out more about repivoting sports sponsorships here.

Customer loyalty in the time of COVID-19

Customer loyalty programs have become a ubiquitous aspect of brand marketing, adopted as much for their efficiency in harvesting customer data as for their ability to keep customers buying. And like pretty much every other aspect of marketing, they have taken a spanner to the face thanks to the COVID-19 crisis.

So what value does a loyalty program hold when a customer can no longer transact? And how can a brand ensure its loyal customers are still loyal once restrictions are lifted?

These were just some of the questions we sought answers to as we explored customer loyalty during the crisis.

5 things marketers should know about data privacy in 2020

Right at the start of 2020 and on data privacy day, CMO caught up with a number of thought leaders to discuss customer data privacy and how it could ultimately make for better marketing.

With impactful privacy legislation being implemented around the world and large platforms like Google phasing out cookies, marketers are scrambling to balance privacy requirements with customer expectations around not only data collection, but the personalised communications they now expect. 

IAB Australia CEO, Gai Le Roy, told CMO 2020 will be a year where marketers will need to carefully review the significant changes in three key areas: Privacy regulation, technology and consumer expectations.  “These three areas are increasingly interdependent, so marketers should be reviewing their marketing activities and infrastructure looking through these three lenses,” she said.

Check out what marketers need to keep in mind in terms of privacy legislation for the long run here.

10 brands making a positive difference to a world in crisis

Brand purpose and community awareness has been becoming increasingly important over recent years. And with the rise of the COVID-19 crisis, it's never been more important than now.

Most brands now know having a powerful voice is a responsibility, not just a privilege. And it's one that builds customer and employee loyalty. Deloitte last year found purpose-oriented companies have higher productivity and growth rates, along with a more satisfied workforce who stay longer with them. The research shows such companies report 30 per cent higher levels of innovation and 40 per cent higher levels of workforce retention than their competitors.

With this in mind, CMO took a look at efforts being brands to bring purpose to life amid unprecedented disruption.

CMO interview: Changing the perception of marketing from brand to revenue generation

For Hudson’s chief marketing officer, Vivianne Arnold, a positive to come out of the COVID-19 crisis was the ability to reposition the professional services’ marketing function from content and brand to revenue generator.

It’s a situation many marketers – well those outside of FMCG anyway – will be familiar with: Either being relegated to a comms and content focus, or being “elbowed out by other functions who claim their territory”, Arnold says. And it was arguably a situation this CMO could have wound up with at the recruitment firm a little less than a year ago.

But an appetite for looking at things differently, pivoting quickly to answer client and candidate needs, and strong leadership during the COVID-19 firmly changed all that.

Check out how this B2B marketer created new revenue streams and internal engagement for her organisation here.

Google hits out at ACCC draft code of conduct for news media negotiations

Another one of the unfolding media stories of 2020 was the Federal Government’s decision to introduce a mandatory news media bargaining code of conduct for news media content featured across digital platforms managed by Google and Facebook.

The draft code’s release comes off the back of the ACCC’s initial Digital Platforms Inquiry, first established in late 2017 by the Federal Government, which reported significant detrimental impact resulting from the dominance of digital platform giants, Google and Facebook, on Australia’s media and advertising landscape.

In December 2019, a voluntary code of conduct for negotiation around content between traditional news media organisations and the digital platforms kicked off. But by April 2020, this had become a mandatory negotiation code, driven by accelerated concerns around the future of news media organisations in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.

In an initial response to the code’s release, Google Australia and New Zealand managing director, Mel Silva, said the group was “deeply disappointed” in what’s on the table and claimed the code was not anchored in “commercial reality”.

Read more about those initial objections here.

And check out all the details of the final tabled News Media Bargaining Code report to Parliament in December 2020 here.

Predictions: 10 Customer experience trends for 2020

These days, most marketers recognise customer experience (CX) is vital for a healthy, profitable brand. But while most marketers want to offer good CX, how best to go about it seems to be the sticking point.

At the start of 2020, CX was expected to advance considerably through a new breed of companies that seamlessly deliver marketing, content and commerce experiences direct to consumers, changing people’s expectations of both product and marketing activities."

To kick off the year, CMO asked the experts about the customer experience trends heading at marketers in 2020.

Check out those predictions to see which you agree with from our 2020 round-up here.

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