— Marketing

Our top lessons learned from the year a virus changed everything

Summary

2020 turned out to be pretty tough for a lot of companies, but the silver lining of all hardship is that there’s nothing quite like it to teach us new lessons.

So what were the marketing lessons we learned from COVID-19?

1. Find inspiration from your customers’ needs

 

One of the biggest lessons learned was finding inspiration from customer needs.

One of the key lessons was about empathy. Even here in New Zealand where things were, comparatively, better than other nations, customers were hurting. Whether they’d lost their jobs, suffered a drop in income, couldn’t go outside, or any number of other problems, it was our job as marketers to recognise their struggles and empathise with them.

Read more: “5 marketing tips to help you through the lockdown”

“More than any other year, 2020 was the ‘year of the customer’,” said Amanda Moyle, krunch.co’s Head of Digital Experience. “Thinking customer-first was more important than ever.”

Starting from customer needs saw many brands have great success throughout difficult periods of lockdown. Take Fisher Funds Answers, a series we worked on with our client Fisher Funds to help answer Kiwis’ most-searched questions when they started to see their KiwiSaver balances drop as the pandemic struck.

“More than any other year, 2020 was the ‘year of the customer’,” said Amanda Moyle, krunch.co’s Head of Digital Experience. “Thinking customer-first was more important than ever.”

This sort of activity, though started from an “of the moment” customer need, lends a great format for Fisher Funds to continue to engage with clients and support them with the answers they need.

2. Make every dollar count (and know how to count it)

 

Spare change jar
Tracking marketing spend was always important – the pandemic highlighted how to do it well.

There might have been room in the budget for pet projects, spur-of-the-moment decisions and other such things before COVID-19, but we’ve learned that running lean and running smart make for a more stable business in these uncertain economic times.

“People realised they must take a breath and focus on what is important, rather than simply urgent, to get solid business outcomes,” says Nick Licence, krunch.co’s Director of AdTech.

Plus, as budgets got squeezed, the importance of the right tools to track results was highlighted.

“People realised they must take a breath and focus on what is important, rather than simply urgent, to get solid business outcomes,” says Nick Licence, krunch.co’s Director of AdTech.

“Businesses need to know that marketing spend is driving immediate results,” says Licence. “During this hard year, many businesses are cutting their spend but still trying to meet their targets. So, what we need to make sure is that every dollar that they spend is worth it. That’s why we’re reporting all those touch points more than ever and embracing one of our big MarTech products at krunch.co: people-based attribution.”

Read more: “It’s time to take your hand out of the cookie jar

3. Let data be the guide

 

Digital arrows
When everything is disrupted, data is a reliable guide.

When business as usual is being massively disrupted on a daily basis, data has proven to be the only reliable guide for navigating through market uncertainty.

“We really have absolutely no historical precedent for what is happening in the market, so it’s harder than ever to form a long-term digital strategy,” says Robert Moritz, krunch.co’s Executive Creative Director.

“We’re relying more than ever on data sources to guide our creative thinking and execution. It’s really the only way, right now, to craft messaging relevant to this unique moment in time,” says Robert Moritz, Executive Creative Director.

The data trends, however, are still able to point in the direction of what people are actually doing. Indeed, real-time behaviour and other data may be the only thing marketers can rely on to determine what step to take next.

“We’re relying more than ever on data sources to guide our creative thinking and execution. It’s really the only way, right now, to craft messaging relevant to this unique moment in time,” Moritz says.

4. Get online, stay online

 

Brands had to move to meet customers where they were in 2020 – online.

Brands had to recognise and accept that their customers’ habits changed in 2020 – and move to meet them where they had gone.

“Maintaining an online presence was more valuable than ever before,” says Licence. “As that’s where people were spending time – especially during lockdowns.”

“A realisation that having a strong online presence both through advertising and marketing but also e-commerce meant a lot of small businesses were scrambling to get up to speed,” says Mark Milicich, Digital Campaign Manager at krunch.co.

Indeed, for some brands it was a hard lesson to learn – that going digital was no longer an option, but a necessity to stay afloat.

“Digital engagement was higher than normal during lockdown, which reinforced the idea of doubling down with online advertising rather than dialling back, which so many businesses did,” Milicich says.

5. Make the most of digital tools

 

A modern marketer needs their modern toolbelt.

For some, digital transformation was just a buzzword before the pandemic. Now, it’s a way of life. Quite simply, modern digital tools made surviving the pandemic possible.

“A lot of the operational tools we had before the pandemic enabled us to operate pretty seamlessly during it,” says Licence. “Remote working led to a different style of comms, in many cases more efficient than before.”

Indeed, as technologies like video conferencing and online chat became a necessity, many businesses – including our own! – discovered a new way of working that made decision making and collaboration easier, noted Milicich.

“Zoom and Google Hangouts, tech that’s been around for years, became the new normal along with working from home days. It is perhaps the silver lining to come out of a bad situation,” he says.

Read next: “What are the elements of a good dashboard?”

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