A Guide For Brand Marketers: The Now & After of COVID-19

Confidence in the face of change

It has been a full year since many people around the country have been working from home. We’re living in a new world order with a glimpse of normality on the horizon. As the COVID-19 pandemic made its way around the world, many business leaders and brand marketers looked at what this meant for their brand. Common questions are being asked: How is this affecting my industry? Is our business positioned well? How is this affecting our customers? Are there creative ways we can communicate with them at this time? Should we be rethinking our brand strategy and marketing plan?

These are all great questions. As someone who consults with many different types of businesses and organizations across a wide range of industries, I can tell you the answers to these questions vary.

Two things remain true as we emerge into a post-pandemic world: You can control your ability to be confident and you can take solace in the fact that there are lots of things to be optimistic about. Optimism is an important component of achievement, especially in times of change and turbulence.

In 2008, during the last economic downturn, Netflix made smart decisions. First, they did something seemingly simple yet challenging in actuality: they listened to their customers. People were looking for ways to reduce their home expenses and wanted instant access to their shows. Netflix was well positioned already, but they made necessary adjustments to their overall brand strategy. With confidence, they charged full steam ahead and began capturing a larger market share.  

Inversely, some companies switch to survival mode during times of crisis. They make drastic budget cuts, curl up in a ball, and hunker down. This approach to protect and conserve might seem to be a natural reaction, but research shows these companies often limp through and are slower to recover during slower times. In fact, slower economies offer opportunities for change, investment, and expansion.

We are seeing smart business leaders take advantage of these strange days to: a) reassess their message and position in this marketplace, b) reach a larger captive audience like this country has never seen before, and c) revive sales with new digital marketing strategies for inbound lead generation.

As a marketer, this means you can change what you can control, such as your market strategy. You can invest in your customers and how you communicate with them. You can expand your reach by testing new and interesting ways to engage with your audience. As a marketer you are directly tied to revenue generation, either seen or not seen. So, let’s talk marketing in a post-pandemic world.

If you’re wondering what things you should be doing now, here is a guide:

Go Back To Your Brand
Your brand is foundational to everything you do in marketing. It establishes your core message and creative identity, and it serves as a guide for everything you do. First brand, then plan, then execute. That has always been the winning formula and it is even more important today. Now is a great time to reevaluate your brand to make sure you are still on target with what the market wants to hear from you. Many companies are working on updated messaging for today, while uncovering new creative campaigns for tomorrow.

Look At Historical Metrics
Don’t take your data for granted. Don’t assume you know which ad messaging is most effective for you, which web page gets the most conversions, or which social media content garnered the most engagement. You have historical data that should be evaluated to help influence any new changes in strategy. It may tell you to re-optimize your digital ad campaigns or to consider new markets based on search volume. Look at the data and see if it opens up a new path forward.

Audit & Update Your Marketing Strategy – Online + Offline
Some companies are just coming out of a season of planning. They may already be well positioned to execute but should look at resetting goals and expectations. Perhaps the tactics that were recently put into place need adjusting, such as changing ad channels or updating content marketing. Strategies are meant to be evaluated quarterly. Now is a great time to take a look at what you’re doing and assess if you are still on the right track.

Work on improving your website
Overhauling your website can often be a bigger project than most people realize. However, when things slow down, this can be an excellent time to evaluate and put together a new plan for your website. The four main phases to any new website project include: Discovery & Planning, Content Creation, Design, Development, and Launch. Start down the path of discovery and planning to take an inventory of what you have, what you would like to see changed, and set some specific objectives for how the website will add value to your customers.

SEO is a long term play, start now
As far as inbound lead generation and online marketing goes, search engine optimization (SEO) is a well misunderstood strategy. The fact is, SEO is one of the most valuable digital strategies that provides the best quality lead generation. It is also the most time consuming to achieve results and has a variety of tactical approaches. We often compare it to “chipping away” at a block. With a good plan in place, eventually, you start to see something being sculpted with beautiful results. If you have not been making good progress or placing enough emphasis on your SEO, this is a good time to start with planning. The sooner you start, the sooner you are likely to begin seeing returns.

Communicate With Your Agency
If you have a good marketing and advertising agency that understands your goals and is committed to building a strong relationship, make that relationship a priority. They should be helping you assess the current landscape, giving new ideas and feedback, filling in the gaps for your team, and helping you manage what they are best at. Communicate, be clear on goals, and ensure you have regular video conferencing check-in meetings to ensure everyone is aligned. They can be an important asset for you because they lend a unique perspective that may help you in planning. When things return to normalcy, they will be set to go on any new launch or campaign execution needs.

Final Thoughts
A few other simple tips we can do during this time:

  • Talk with and listen to your customers to gain valuable feedback and understand what they need during this time.
  • Evaluate new partnerships, as there may be a mix of new ways to work with other companies to achieve your goals.
  • Consider new markets that could open up during this time of self evaluation.
  • Media consumption is up in all formats. Video, social, and streaming services are seeing a surge in audience. Understand this new captive audience that exists online and how you can reach them.

Like we said earlier, we are living in a new world order and therefore we should take a new world approach. This not only means being flexible to try new things, but it also means going back to some basics. What made sense a month or year ago, from a marketing perspective, may not be true today. If we are confident, audit core brand and marketing elements, think of new ideas and approaches, we will come the other side on top.