Nothing is the same. The one thing we can count on with the Coronavirus and the post-pandemic world, is that transformative change is inevitable. As marketers, we must anticipate, shift, adapt, and pivot to accommodate new consumer needs as they evolve. This is key for brand survival. Time to ‘float like a butterfly – sting like a bee,’ to quote Muhammad Ali. The past is history. And the now is NOT the future.
Our Strategic Objectives team has spent our first quarter with the Coronavirus closely monitoring new and emerging consumer trends and behaviours. This has helped us conceive and implement current, credible, and relevant marketing communications strategies for our clients. Our research and earned experience have identified:
5 Key Considerations for Brands to Adapt, Survive, and Prosper in the New Abnormal
1) Identify Consumer Trends
Emerging consumer trends and behaviours across different industries are impacting social norms. Normal is a thing of the past. A recent survey of Canadian consumers shows 67 per cent say, ‘having values close to my own is the defining trait of a trustworthy organization.’ Identifying those common values is essential to reach and connect with your target consumer demographics. Social good and CSR initiatives top the list of likely connectors, with 57 per cent of Canadians saying their trust increases in organizations that support charitable causes; and 54 per cent agree that organizations should advocate for positive social change. Listening to your consumer is a surefire way to understand what he/she wants, and better position your brand to deliver and meet those needs effectively.
2) Brand Collaboration
Consumers have been locked in their homes for months, and have turned to social media to express themselves and stay in touch like never before. Digital and social media are the place for brands to tap the pulse of their consumers on a minute-by-minute basis. Progressive brands are crowdsourcing ideas and trial ballooning new products by legitimately listening and calling for input from their target consumers and brand advocates, ushering in a new age of brand collaboration.
The pandemic has forced brands to re-examine their product lines to keep up with market demand. For example, our client Kruger Products, maker of Cashmere Bathroom Tissue - Canada’s best-selling BT brand, swiftly pivoted its production schedule to satisfy unprecedented demand for its made-in-Canada paper products to ensure they’re supplying their national customers and consumers in a timely way. They also immediately initiated a #rollingitforward social good program we’ll discuss in Point 4.
Top Toronto restaurants, normally booked solid months in advance, are now offering gourmet takeout and home delivery, including Alo, Buca, and Edulis which pivoted to satisfy their customers, keep their staff employed, and the doors open. QSRs like Pizza Nova have adapted their delivery model to include grocery staples to help consumers stay safe at home and grow sales.
If you add restaurants to the numerous meal kit and grocery home delivery services that have popped up, you clearly see that listening to consumers and pivoting to meet their needs, is now essential to maintaining, building, and protecting the brand.
3) Be Empathetic
Empathy goes a long way in understanding where your consumer’s at so you can meet their needs now and in the future. Deep listening will help you identify, anticipate, adapt and respond to emerging issues and opportunities.
Pre-pandemic, consumer trust in brands was at an all time low. Consumers want the brands they engage with to listen, learn, and adapt to their needs. In a recent study, 94 per cent of people surveyed say that empathy is important, while over half (56 per cent) say that brands using their marketing resources to address the pandemic, is an act of empathy. Consumers are looking for brands to be concerned with the things that matter to them most.
We live in a time when brand loyalties are evaporating, and where price and convenience rule. Brands that demonstrate human-style empathy, understanding, appreciation and actions that answer their consumers’ concerns will have the opportunity to survive and thrive based on authentic relationships in the future.
One good example is our client, Children Believe, a charity that advances education for children in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities. They saw a dire need to pivot priorities with the advancement of COVID-19, and acted with lightening speed. They immediately created a relief program to raise funds needed to send supplies, tools, and educational resources directly to communities most impacted by Coronavirus including Ethiopia, India, and Nicaragua.
4) Do Something. Take Action. Walk the Talk.
As previously noted, 54 per cent of Canadians say brands should advocate for positive social change to support their communities through the crisis. We are very proud of our client Kruger Products, which confronted the COVID crisis head on with a national #RollingitForward program to support Canada’s frontline healthcare professionals with special deliveries of care packages full of Cashmere, Scotties and Sponge Towels; financial donations to Food Banks of Canada and the COVID Frontline Fund; and a partnership with the NHL Player’s Association that saw 7 top hockey players perform Neighbourly Acts of Kindness inspiring fellow Canadians to do the same through the pandemic. The mainstream, digital, and social media were generous in their positive news coverage and support of these social good initiatives.
Our earned experience as an agency working from home since March, has led us to innovate smart ideas and better solutions to working remotely and effectively with our team, our clients, stakeholders, the media, suppliers, vendors, you name it. We are in the midst of reconceiving large special events, experiential campaigns, and the way we make news for our clients. This involves creativity and innovation, adapting and embracing new technologies, and pivoting our strategies and outreach to ensure we’re responding and optimizing our services to meet the needs of our new and existing clients, and the mainstream, digital, and social media influencers we serve.
It’s important now more than ever for brands to take actions that are supportive, meaningful and relevant to their customers, consumers, stakeholder communities and the nation, and to position themselves as leaders now and in the future.
5) Stay Nimble, Pivot, Adapt
Brands and businesses have a unique opportunity now to stand out, be authentic and build new ways to anticipate and meet consumer demand. Industries such as travel, fitness, finance, food and entertainment are in the midst of massive change. And this is just the beginning. The question brand marketers must ask is ‘what can I do now and next to innovate and enhance my brand offering to cut through the clutter, add value, be unique and desirable?’
Travel – this industry will continue to suffer the pandemic impact for years to come. The United Nations World Tourism Organization is forecasting that international travel will drop by as much as 78 per cent this year. But Canadians are avid travelers, which leaves fertile opportunity to plant seeds for planning future international travel, and exploring Canada’s own backyard on road trips, whether it’s a quick weekend getaway or a cross-country odyssey.
Fitness – what will the fitness industry look like, specifically for in-person workouts at large gyms and boutique studios? Group workouts offer community and motivation that is challenging to sustain at home on your own. How, why, and when fitness fans will work out together in the future are just a few of the considerations under discussion.
Fitness facilities are adapting to the new normal with adjustments that reduce class size and demand mandatory sign-ups to ensure social distancing, and instituting strict sanitization standards to meet safety and government requirements — all while satisfying their members and making enough money to stay in business.
Finance & Spending – one major downside of the COVID pandemic, beyond the health crisis, is the economic downturn we’re witnessing around the world. Canadians are now very much divided when it comes to their spending habits. While some are taking extra caution with their expenditures, others are contributing to the economy with robust online ‘survival shopping’ and ‘boredom busting’. Sales in key sectors including beverage alcohol, grocery and nest-feathering, aka home furnishings, are skyrocketing. There is an opportunity for brands to listen, learn and forecast what consumers want and need, and to provide it to them in a timely manner.
Food & Entertainment – bars and restaurants are slowly starting to reopen across the country, all while imagining new ways to create an enjoyable, memorable dining experience that will bring consumers back to the table. To ensure social distancing, bars and restaurants are expanding their space with patios, on sidewalks and even parking lots to keep things safe. There is no doubt eating out will look a lot different in the future, and that many food lovers will continue to cook, entertain, and dine at home. The challenge for the hospitality industry will be to create new and exciting reasons for customers to step out of their safety zone into the new abnormal.
The Coronavirus has changed our world forever. Don’t worry. You haven’t missed the boat. Just hop onboard and get with the program. If you follow our 5 Key Considerations, apply research, deep listening, empathy, and innovation, you and your brand will be perfectly positioned to cope with the current landscape and effectively maneuver for success in the future.
Do you need help planning and positioning your brand marketing strategy for the future? Please contact us here. We’d be delighted to support your initiatives to reach your target consumers in our brave new world.
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