Assumptions vs actions: adapting to changing times, by FLC’s Adriana Usvat

Coronavirus has seen consumers adopt different priorities and habits. FLC’s Adriana Usvat, managing partner at FLC GROUP & member of The Marketing Society Middle East asks how marketers should react.

The recent unprecedented crisis spurred us all out of our comfort zones, much faster than anticipated.

Overnight, the world and the economy as we know it did a complete shift. Shopper behaviour changed, consumers slashed their spending, e-commerce platforms grew faster, there was more focus on health and (inherently) wealth, brands were being more mindful of budgets and marketers were challenged to fight becoming obsolete.

But there was an even more important learning for us marcomms professionals. In a highly evolving market like the Middle East, we have been presented with an opportunity to evaluate the environment, leverage insights and assist brands more than ever to curate smarter interactions for the evolving consumer.

In order to succeed and grow, we have a chance to pivot back to our principles of ‘consumer-first’ and understand how the shopper has evolved to offer new, innovative and out-of-the-box marketing ideas that remain in the consumer memory.

An Edelman Trust Barometer special edition (2020) reported that 65 per cent of consumers will be influenced in all future purchases by how brands respond to Covid-19.

Hence, paying heed to consumer sentiment today is likely to yield higher rewards tomorrow.

Where shoppers demand contactless solutions, and brands are seeking higher engagement, would a virtual promoter that addresses both brand and consumer challenges not be the ideal solution?

While it may seem like an obvious choice, it isn’t as easy as it sounds.

More often than not, marketing spend is tied to traditional strategy, past performance and safe solutions, with a reluctance to try an alternative, possibly more viable tactics.

The danger then lies in assuming that what worked yesterday will work today, or even tomorrow.

With tighter budgets, the emphasis is on how effectively and efficiently we communicate via channels most relevant to the rapidly changing shopper. It may mean redirecting investment to digital media and point-of-sale materials due to the growth of e-commerce platforms, or offering communication and action that promises to help the shopper save more in a budget-conscious environment. Or participating in empathetic brand-building exercises such as HP’s donation of 3D printers to hospitals to produce masks, or Shiseido’s partnership with Emirates Red Crescent to thank the frontline workers.

Resilience and agility are the tools of survival in the current scenario, and marketers will need to re-appraise traditional practices.

Developing a well-thought-out communications strategy to drive brand awareness and consideration will enable marcomms professionals to tell a story, one that consumers relate to and one that is not easily forgotten.

Parking all assumptions, let’s consider going back to the drawing board and asking ourselves these vital questions:

  • Which shoppers am I targeting?
  • Where can I influence them?
  • What story is relevant to them?
  • Which activities might influence them?
  • How can I use my investment to support those activities?

In the end, accurately identifying consumers’ key insights and preferences puts marketers on the road to success. These powerful marketing tools can ultimately help our industry to avoid assumptions, channel investments towards the changed shopper and, most importantly, be in a position to act now.