6 ways to jump-start your marketing playbook in the new normal

The phrase "new normal" has become a part of our everyday vocabulary. Companies are still monitoring consumer behaviours closely as they push for efforts to innovate and bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic. With changing consumer behaviours no doubt comes a new playbook for marketers. According to McKinsey's study titled "Reimagining marketing in the next normal" which surveyed countries worldwide including those in Asia Pacific, here are the six aspects marketers should focus on when creating their new strategy.

  • Strategy and insights: Have a brand vision and strategy that is backed by real-time insights and integrated into the company's operations. It is also crucial to walk the talk on brand purpose.
  • Creatives and content: Brands should have always-on content powered by analytics and data in a shorter cycle of test and learn, with empathy for consumer sentiments.
  • Media and channel activation: This involves rapidly iterated activity tied to a 360-degree view of the customer journey, taking into short-term and long-term channel shift post-COVID-19.
  • Customer experience and personalisation: Companies are advised to create a personalised experience across interactions and touchpoints that utilise the appropriate data harnessed.
  • Measurement and marketing return on investment: Have a holistic, customer-level ability to measure most, if not all, marketing investments.
  • Product and pricing: Have relevant and timely innovations with appropriate pricing that is properly adjusted and customised when necessary.

According to McKinsey, the key enablers for succeeding in the new normal and implementing a new marketing playbook are organisation design and culture, an agile way of working, talent and agency management, and data and technology. Meanwhile, McKinsey also identified six changes in the consumer behaviour.

1. Localising experiences

The lockdown restrictions have highlighted the importance of local neighbourhoods, leading to the rise in community social media pages and forums to connect individuals with local volunteers and mutual-aid groups. Companies seeking to expand their connections with consumers can benefit by localising their marketing.

This includes tailoring messages to different neighbourhoods and delivering them through the newly established community networks. Either that or using the company's existing retail footprint to support local businesses, sponsor community centres and host community events.

To succeed, marketers need to "rewire their operating models to provide a more granular presence at scale".

This will have to build on the capabilities developed around personalisation, especially analytics, trigger-based messaging, and agile test-and-learn approaches. According to McKinsey, it also requires renewed thinking about how to scale content supply chains and manage performance.

2. Rethinking shopper journeys

Social commerce is picking up steam and the lockdown in several countries have caused consumers to turn to eCommerce to fulfill their needs. Based on this trend, marketers need to rethink how they can connect with consumers. A stronger emphasis on eCommerce and digital channels is crucial, McKinsey said, and this includes consideration of the role of direct-to-consumer eCommerce channels.

The speed to market is one of the reasons which led to digital becoming a crucial avenue for revenue for brands.

That said, marketers will need to think through how to manage today's new wave of data, and how to use it to better personalise offers and messages to a narrower segment of customers.

Analytics will need to play a core role not only in tracking consumer preferences and behaviors at increasingly granular levels, but also in enabling rapid response to opportunities or threats, the report said. It added that existing analytics models will need to be "rapidly trained" on how to best use new behavioural data as they may not be as accurate when predicting behaviours in the new normal.

Marketers will also need to redesign the shopper journeys for consumers who may be in a different state of mind. Consumers are dressed more comfortably when shopping at home and they want to spend time browsing through add-ons. As such, they tend to add items to cart and go back for more. McKinsey added that consumers may also be shopping at different hours during breaks from their remote-work schedule, and even shopping for their whole family across multiple product categories.

3. E-service adoption

Consumers have been required to make purchases and access services online during COVID-19. Telemedicine is also becoming increasingly popular, with about 38% of users surveyed in the UK using the online service during the COVID-19 pandemic. This growing consumer confidence in the use of e-services suggests a potential surge in demand and an opportunity to create new connections with people. An area of focus for companies would be on developing partner ecosystems, both public and private.

As new services emerge, marketers need to think through the role of their brands in interconnected service platforms. For example, food marketers can tie-up with e-health platforms or online fitness firms to cross-promote the benefits of each to a wider audience.

4. Home entertainment options

Consumers have learnt to treat the home as a multifunctional hub to learn, work, live, shop and play during the pandemic. Individuals in the new normal are also likely to continue spending on home entertainment options. Based on this, marketers will need to ensure that they engage with smart devices and interfaces across the home when it comes to creating at-home activities.

They need to think about experiences such as seamlessly delivering a message to a customer's phone, tablet and TV screens when a customer uses these devices simultaneously. Another aspect to consider is how they can ignite two-way discussions versus one-way marketing with consumers in their homes without coming across as intrusive.

5. Brands are being held to a higher standard

According to McKinsey, 61% of respondents said that how a brand responds during the crisis will have a huge impact on whether they will continue purchasing it post-crisis.

Marketers need to communicate a strong sense of their brands' purpose through the projects they choose to be involved in, the partners they choose to work with, the way they treat their employees, and the messages they send to customers.

Most importantly, companies will also be required to back up bold statements with real action. According to McKinsey, brands that are perceived as taking advantage of a cause or situation have already suffered a backlash.

"Brands will need to make clear commitments to causes they believe in or risk newly empowered consumers calling them out," it added.

6. Creating a space for health and affordability

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a dip in footfall and consumers, especially the Millennials and Gen Zs, are widely adopting contactless activities. Therefore, marketers will need to think through a much broader range of shopping experiences, which will require greater coordination with its sales and operations teams.

Brand loyalty has also been challenged during the pandemic. According to McKinsey, 20% of its consumers in the US have switched to a store brand, and almost half of them intend to stick with their new choices. That said, 55% of consumers also said they have turned to brands they trust during the lockdown.

Meanwhile, the increased use of sensitive health data, from publicly taking temperatures to wearable devices that transmit health information, has created privacy concerns and increased issues around sharing data, McKinsey said. A point of differentiation and a source of competitive advantage is how marketers maintain customer trust on data and privacy concerns.

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