The Speed of Change
As we’ve learned over the past month, nothing prompts change as fast as a global pandemic. In a matter of weeks we’ve seen governments around the world make and implement life-changing decisions, companies go into self-preservation mode and people prepare for the worst by stocking up on supplies we may not have realized were essential until now. Change – a word that people don’t typically do well with or welcome in their lives – is being thrust upon us.
And, much of this change has me thinking. In our line of business, being forced to change is not something new. Media and communications have been experiencing drastic changes for decades. However, the marketing engine of many businesses has been less than willing to adapt to those changes and now it’s suddenly catching up to them. As recently as this week, I was speaking with someone who was telling me all the wonderful things their company was able to achieve through events and sampling in 2004 and the easy media recognition they were able to garner with little to no expenditure. What immediately went through my mind is, yeah 2004. That’s 16 years ago. Boy, do I miss those days. At that point, Facebook was not yet for the masses (it was founded in 2004 but only open to students with a .edu address). Not until 2006 did it become available to the public, and even then it took a couple of years to become completely mainstream as a marketing tool. Instagram was introduced in 2010 and gave birth to the modern-day influencer. So, here we are over a decade and a half later in a world that is being altered practically overnight and we should not be talking about what worked in 2004.
If you hadn’t been paying attention to digital marketing before now, then the fact that worldwide traffic to online entities is quickly approaching an increase of 40% due to shelter in place orders should be enough to force you to get with the program. And, what you’ll find is that Facebook is all pay per play and Instagram (acquired by Facebook in 2012 for a jaw-dropping $1 Billion) is following suit; people are starting to embrace Tik Tok (founded in late 2016 in China and rolled out to the world in 2017) as a potential new frontier for marketing and advertising, and in-person meetings have been replaced by Zoom. The way we communicate with people and reach the customer has changed forever and will continue to change and adapt. So adapt we must.
As marketers, we understand the need to embrace change and constantly adjust to the new way of doing things, and sometimes we take brands with us kicking and screaming because we know those who don’t evolve will be left behind. Truly successful brand campaigns (before COVID) are paying attention to the entire customer awareness funnel. They are taking a 360-degree view of where they can build their raving fan culture. It’s no longer enough to reach someone once at a sampling event or be newsworthy for a moment. In this day and age, a brand needs multiple touchpoints and the support of various opinion leaders to be successful. Content, whether from the brand or from creators, needs to be the driving force and requires a sound digital strategy including social media, website, e-mail, advertising, etc. Most importantly, this content, and everything the brand has to offer a customer, has to be perceived to provide VALUE.
The biggest change that has taken place in the past few weeks is that this last piece, the value you offer, has become the foundation for any brand to survive. It’s no longer about a full tactical approach (although I’d argue that getting fully up to speed on digital and e-commerce is crucial). It’s also about how marketers see their customers as humans and how much we are willing to do to make real connections with them and give them what they want and need. So, not only is it that something that worked previously won’t work today, it’s very likely it won’t work in the near future or it won’t work in the same way. Marketing as a whole is forcing us to be extremely agile and flexible to be successful. It’s my suspicion that we’ll be seeing changes that happen much faster and even more drastically so that what we did in 2004 will seem downright quaint. The winners will be those who are willing to change and possibly forget what worked in the past. So, let’s do this together. Let’s be daring and adventurous and create meaningful ways to do business for the long haul.