What will Covid-19 mean for brands? What the industry’s saying

A summary of what Campaign, The Drum, Marketing Week and Contagious have got to say.

In these uncertain times, everyone’s wondering what next week, not to mention what life post Covid-19 will look like.

Despite the media’s prediction that in the immediate future this lockdown will trigger a mass metamorphosis, turning the UK into a nation of book worms, the reality is we’re still busy people, with not that much more time for reading.

So, if you haven’t got a spare moment to search out and digest all that the industry has to say about what coronavirus means for brands and their communications, we have.

Marketing Week’s wisdom

If you’re a brand that’s made caring for customers and communities, the environment, or more specific causes part of your values, now is the time to make good on those promises. And it’s now more than ever.

Consumers have already started to look to companies over politicians, to solve society’s problems. So in times of crisis, people will really welcome brands that actually make a difference. But be sure to do it right – sincerely, expertly and for real.

(It won’t just be the brands whose activity does good that consumers will remember. And being remembered for all the wrong reasons, well, that could be the Covid-19 kiss of death.)

Read the full article from Marketing Week here.

Contagious’ Edit

Contagious (yeah, unfortunate name under the circumstances), have shared their take in their 25th March newsletter.

They observe that perceptions of brands are teetering on a knife-edge, with consumer opinion being swayed one way or the other all too easily and whimsically.

Making sure your brand lands on the right side of consumer opinion – helpful rather than ignorant – comes down to your message being useful, relevant or entertaining in the context of this global conversation.

Entertaining. Now there’s an interesting if a little unnerving proposition. Is there a place for this amongst the Covid-19 conversation?

The Contagious Edit goes on to advise brands, “assume that everything you do is the only thing people will see.”

It matters squat if your business is working miracles, doing worthy work behind the scenes, if your audience sees one poorly judged communication.

But that doesn’t mean say nothing – as The Drum’s take eloquently explains *spoiler alert*. Just do everything with care and consideration.

The Drum’s thoughts

The marketing must go on. That’s what this article from The Drum has to say. But boiling it down to fit into a nutshell is doing it a huge disservice – it’s a really good read.

Perhaps most pertinent is the article’s retelling of a marketing head-to-head during tough economic times in the ’20s. It was between two cereal brands – one called Post, the other Kellogg’s. Anyone guess which brand, in the face of the Great Depression, doubled ad budgets, pushed their product hard and triumphed then (as they still do today)?

I’m sure we’d all nod along with the pearl of wisdom in the anecdote about Olympic gold medallist, Daley Thompson’s double Christmas Day training too. When all the competition takes their foot off the gas, that’s your opportunity. And it’s only those that not only take that opportunity, but do as much as they can with it who come out on top.

Still unconvinced? How about The Drum’s for-the-greater-good angle on why the marketing must go on?

The article puts it nicely in this quote from marketing guru Mark Ritson:

“The wheels of industry need to keep turning so workers are paid, and families are fed. Those wheels are best greased by effective marketing.”

Campaign’s opinion

Though none of us can predict life post Covid-19, our industry has seen and survived some of the potential fallout before.

As WPP’s Chief Executive, Mark Read, explains in his Campaign article, we have weathered recession before.

There’s no doubting, the unknowns of coronavirus remain unnerving (and make deciding what brands should do confusing). But we do actually know some of what you need to do next.

Looking to the brands that survived the 2008 downturn, there is some formula for the right course of action. In Mark Read’s words, “those who invest in the right actions and the right communications during a downturn are rewarded disproportionately when consumer spending returns.”

Right now, understandably, you’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do – be a brand that responds sensitively to today. Just don’t forget, this situation won’t be forever. And what comes after is worth thinking about soon – don’t leave it too late.

Brands and advertising have always helped drive the economy. That makes what you do fundamental to the UK’s recovery.

Of course, brands will need to be sensitive to how the world has changed. But as this article points out, we’re in the business of understanding people and their behaviour.

Like Contagious and Marketing Week, this piece highlights the importance of ensuring your brand behaves appropriately in the short term. However, it’s also clear that it will be just as important to keep an eye (and your marketing mind) on brand plans for life on the other side.

There’s a lot to think about over the coming days. But for now though, stay safe and take care of one another.

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