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March 24, 2020
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April 3, 2020

The Road Ahead.


We get it. These are uncertain times. We hear it every day. But, that is not the drum we want to beat. We are not going to use this forum to discuss the unknown. Let’s start with what we do know, and go from there.   

Let’s shake the dust off and start planning. At times like this, it can be easy to follow the darker headlines. Hope and optimism have a call that is harder to hear. That said, we are not asking you to rely on hope. Let’s rely on the facts, the insights, the indisputable truths… Let’s get started.  

 

What do we know?

Fact:  This is not permanent.

Emotionally, it may feel like it will be, or perhaps has been. Rationally, we know there are several ways this can play out.  But regardless of which path, it does play out.

Fact:  It will not change overnight.

While it may fear as though the closing of businesses and the guidelines for social isolation happened “overnight”, a quick review of the news will remind us that our current situation was a journey. Somehow, it caught most of us by surprise. The way out does not have to be the same. Let’s be on the lookout.

Fact:  This is not the new normal.  

This is a tricky one. There are “panic” behaviours that are starting to become normalized. For example, hoarding of canned goods, self staples and toilet paper. The panic behaviours will pass. But, the deeper cultural changes will stay.

As much as we need to focus on when and how COVID-19 will end, we need to give equal consideration to how consumer behaviour will be permanently impacted by it. 

 

Here are a few ways we think consumer behaviour will change:

  1. Online Channels

Let’s start with the easy one. Isolation has amplified our reliance on online channels.   More importantly, it has broadened our tolerance for what we are willing to buy online, and brought newbies into the mix. The need for online presence - and transactions has never been greater. 

  1. Remote Workforce

We will have finally answered the burning question of “did we really need to meet in person?”. For many, our jobs will naturally take us back out of our homes. For others, there will be a decision to be made between the couch and the cubicle. The impact of remote workers will dramatically impact our needs, as well as our foot traffic in stores. 

  1. Social Purpose

20 years from now, the COVID-19 business stories we will tell will be of the brands that took a stand and either rose to the challenge and fought the virus or bravely stayed home, and encouraged their consumers to do so as well. Trust has always been an important feature for brands, but we have never seen the market tested to this extreme. We will remember and repay those who put the community first and will look for this quality in brands even more so in the future. 

  1. Big Vs. Small

Small brands and smaller businesses have taken the biggest hit with COVID-19. Most do not have the supply chain or cash flow to pause gracefully, redirect manufacturing, or ad spend. As a result, the Goliaths have taken much of the spotlight. The smaller brands can come back, but it is a reminder that there is only so much share of mind, time and spends with consumers. 

  1. Patience

I admit it. Less than a month ago, I would be frustrated if my online order did not process immediately, with next day delivery and tracking along the way. Through this process, we have learned to chill, learn the difference of want vs. need, and the intricacies of the supply chain. I don’t know if this trend will last, but we hope that a little self-regulation and empathy will linger on and the brand can invest in processes and efficiencies that matter more. 

  1. Brand Loyalty

This is a tough one. We have seen the best and worst of brands. There have been shameless, opportunistic ads that have made me scorn some brands, and acts of heroism that have made me pledge allegiance to others. That said, desperate times call for desperate measures and with limited supply and trips out of the home, I have been willing to forgo my regulars.  Shamefully, I have learned to “love the one I am with”. This does not mean that brand is not important - it is a reminder that “ease of use” is a significant part of the brand health equation. 

  1. Survival vs. Sanity Products

Whether we admit it or not, we all have some complex 2 x 2 matrices running in our heads plotting our next “shopping trips”. While the government took a big step by classifying essential vs. non-essential business, it was riddled with loopholes, and we have been left to ask ourselves “is it really essential?”, and reflect on the merits of products we need to feel sane, and not just physically survive.  

 
So, what does that mean for marketers?  

This list is long.  As unclear as the situation is, we are willing to bet that you know more than you think you know. There is more you can be doing to help stabilize, insulate, protect and maybe even grow your business. 

  1. Reevaluating your creative and media for the next few weeks, and the next few months as we learn to go back into business. 
  2. Reacquaint yourself with your consumers. What need do you solve? How has it changed? 
  3. Develop an omnichannel approach. How can you transition to, or accelerate your move to digital
 
Still not sure?

History has taught us that brands and businesses who “wait and see” in times of crisis often crumble at the end. Those who charge without a plan often trip and lose the faith of the public. Those who persevere with a strategy survive (and sometimes thrive). 

 
So, what now? What should your specific business do?

Good question. Give us a call. We are helping our community in the best way we can right now, and offering free consults to get you started.   

Please stay home, be kind and take care of your community in the best way you can right now.

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By Michelle Bell

Chief Marketing Officer