Opinion: How to use speed to your advantage while marketing during COVID-19

 

Over the past few weeks, the world has settled into the “new normal” of staying home, in order to help stop the spread of the Coronavirus.  The marketing world is adjusting to this new reality, with many campaigns postponed, cancelled, or re-worked to be appropriate to this time period, when budgets are tightening. 

There will come a time when it’s back to business as usual. But what are the lessons we can learn from the adjustments we’ve all had to make as marketers during this time? For me, it’s speed. 

We’ve seen many brands responding to the crisis generously; leveraging their factories to make critically needed hospital goods (like hand sanitizer, masks, and scrubs), sharing socially-inspired messages (encouraging safe distancing, staying at home, and hand-wash hygiene), as well as donations and contributions to COVID-19 causes.

And one amazing thing about these responses is that they are fast.

We all know that in the world of brand marketing, campaign approvals can take months, sometimes years. The strategy, the conceptualisation, the talent casting, must go through rounds of feedback with stakeholders across various levels, disciplines, and regions. Many tissue sessions occur, 12 versions of the script is presented, and finally, finally, the work hopes to see the light of day.

Today, in a pandemic so unexpected and unanticipated, time is a luxury that marketers do not have. With the situation changing rapidly, reacting in real-time is critical; even without the typical full decision making lead-time and complete production resources.

This is a fundamental shift in the way marketers activate campaigns - far less time spent in planning, far more agility needed, and ultimately, the same end product; a message that changes the hearts and minds of the consumer. 

It begs the question: Are the many rounds of reviews and revisions truly necessary?

Judging by the brilliant, simple creativity of many of the world’s top marketers over the past few months, perhaps not. Without the luxury of time, focus groups, expensive productions, and off-site locations, the world of marketing continues onwards. While huge campaigns, which were pre-planned months/years in advance around key events and activations, are being postponed and cancelled amidst unprecedented times, new, light-weight activations spring to life, in days - not months - shot on Zoom or an iPhone. And they’re still changing hearts and minds. 

As an agency born in digital, at VaynerMedia we see this as a game changer and an eye opener with our core principals - empathy, agility, “finding right." Agencies need to rethink ways to rise to the challenge via online platforms to tactfully modify our messages to be appropriate to the times, and develop new creative concepts to convey PSA messages on behalf of our brand partners. In times of uncertainty, we see what is possible - fast, agile, culturally relevant marketing. I hope that this becomes the new “business as usual”.

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