Keep your thinking hat on, this too shall pass: Vivek Pandey, Times Internet

Guest Column: Vivek Pandey, VP, Revenue Strategy & Analytics - Times Internet, says seasoned marketers will recognise crises as opportunities for pivots that can unlock fresh brand & revenue potential

e4m by Vivek Pandey
Updated: May 6, 2020 9:24 AM
Vivek Pandey

The COVID-19 world has shown us that the one thing worse than a disease that threatens the lives of many, is a disease that threatens the lives of many and the livelihoods of all. While we know that once the vaccine arrives or the virus mutates away (whichever is earlier), curves will flatten and eventually taper off, we also know that some industries like travel, real estate etc., languishing under the aftermath of business inertia, might take years to stage a turnaround. Debates are raging on the shape of the post-Covid recovery being V-shaped or U-shaped, yet what the exact time durations of these curves would be, no one is quite certain.

In terms of communication strategies too, the obvious basic rule is that one must not look to be exploitative and tone-deaf. Yet, one must also understand how conundrums like these are the ones that separate the men from the boys, the gladiators from the warriors, and true-blue content strategists from masquerading pretenders.

Bite Into The Ground

“Freeze all motor functions” is probably the response that comes most naturally to our reptilian minds when caught in front of the truck lights. Memos start doing the rounds with one single clarion-call - “Stop Spending! Cut Costs!” - and, more often than not, the first casualty is marketing wallets, perhaps rightly so one might argue. However, while most brands will stop at doing the most obvious and dither over next steps, seasoned marketers are quick to recognise these as opportunities for pivots that can unlock fresh brand and revenue potential. When cutting down, be very thorough in your evaluation of opportunity costs and cold-start load factors. Also, there is no reason why all arrows should point downwards. If every crisis is an opportunity, then such opportunity needs investment. If there is nothing that is getting more budget in a downturn, then one is only seeing the crisis, and not the opportunity. While most brands will look at cost-cutting for survival, some that have the liberty of minimal expenses should focus their efforts towards outcome based marketing. With less ad noise, this serves as the perfect opportunity to get noticed.

Look Beyond The Horizon

There is this parable about a monk, who when asked to say the one thing that can be said both during the best and the worst of times, stated it to be - “This too shall pass”. Over time noisy singularities fade out and reversion to mean is back in the saddle. So while in the middle of the crisis, the audience for your communication (or the lack of it) may not be your buyers, with a slowly reviving economy, buying behaviour will also return to normal, and the years of inactivity will also build a compelling case for buyers to wash out the market.

But when that day comes, you would be remembered for what you did today. Note that your marketing expenditure right now, may not be suitable to drive immediate conversions, but is rather a forward payment to ensure that you are at the top of the consumer’s mind when they return to market.

Diligence Is Data-Dependence

This would be once in a lifetime scenario for any business, any organisation - at least a grey swan, if not a black one. Unique data patterns and insights are emerging at this moment all around us. If you have smart analysts in the team, now is the time for them to burn the midnight oil. Data collection and processing should certainly not bear any of the brunt of cost-cutting.

It is obvious that COVID-19 pinch to the wallet automatically translates to the extinction of frivolous intuition-based marketing. Each ad-dollar spent today also needs its legitimate share of outcome. In such a world, data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence work like the philosopher’s stone. In fact, while coronavirus changes most business-consumer interactions, data is perhaps the only asset that can generate predictive outcomes, understand what the audience wants to hear and thereby dictate the ideal modus operandi for marketing.

At best, such foresight could be groundbreaking in making ads more relevant and meaningful to the consumers, while saving brands a lot of money on frivolous ‘washout’ ads.

On-screen Sells Better

One of the most inexpensive marketing forms, at least in relative terms, is on digital media. While allowing for better analysis, greater control over ad content, reach and display, and even fostering a larger innovation avenue than all of the traditional forms, return on digital ads are also more precisely quantifiable.

Due to dwindling social interactions and the new consciousness towards contactless living, ad audiences now spend more time on digital platforms not only because they are convenient to access, but also because it is almost their only window to the outside world. Even as life tries clawing back to normalcy post-lockdown, consumer sentiment will take its own time to change.

On the other hand, digital businesses have seen a high influx of consumer activity in the same period. Chances are, the audience that you once targeted through conventional modes, is now already on digital platforms like OTT, Ed-Tech, and digital publications.

Marketers must partner with ad-tech services that can give them a wholesome digital marketing experience, going beyond placeholders and natives in content-heavy pages, but also award innovation in terms of integration with OTT entertainment, gaming, fin-tech and anything under the clouds.

While 360-degree digital ads avoid the ordeal of a physical supply channel, they also marry branded messages with the audience’s daily content-consumption cycle, while providing quantifiable data on reach, conversions, and engagement. Ad-tech platforms like Colombia now lead the rooster to provide brands that necessary push with ROI-oriented marketing to establish a strong lead against their competitors.

Look, Adapt, Evolve

The coronavirus pandemic has already laid to waste many business predictions made early in the year. The restaurant industry now languishes while real estate and automobiles have been cast deeper into the gallows. We have to be open to the fact that things will take time to return to normal. But with the time available in our hands, we also have the opportunity to be more than we were before, and the only way is to employ Marketing Darwinism- the most adaptable and transformative will survive.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com

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