It may be that the most prolific result of the COVID-19 pandemic for marketers is speculations over how the virus altered consumer behaviors and just how different the world of commerce would be once economic restrictions faded with the effects of the virus. As the fog of 2020 continues to lift, many are beginning to emerge from the smog of the experience and are returning to a workplace and a personal lifestyle severely modified from the norms of 2019. Ecommerce and traditional brick and mortar retailing are reopening to a promised “new reality” forever altered by the historic global health pandemic. Marketing tactics continue to evolve to meet the expectations of a savvy, diverse and dynamic consumer who often can be counted on not doing what they are expected to do. Predicting the future and identifying a marketing strategy for the post-pandemic environment remains a puzzle. So, what is the future of marketing in the post-pandemic environment?
“The future of marketing is going to be about finding a fine balance between what worked before and what needs to happen now in a world altered by the pandemic,” says Sumit Virmani, chief marketing officer at Infosys. The difficult times and challenges are fading in the minds of many marketers and consumers who are understandably eager just to “put it all behind us and let the good times roll.” The expectation by some who thought that the switch to close-down the world’s economies could just be reset to the “on” position and all would be well is putting hopes in a folly.
The impact of such dramatic disruptions on many business sectors and production supply chains will continue to challenge “normal” for years to come. As professional communicators, we are responsible for bringing brands and consumers back together in what promises to be a significantly altered commercial landscape. The future success of many businesses may depend on the ability to balance what used to work in the former reality and what needs to occur in the one altered by the pandemic.
A recent global marketing survey conducted during the pandemic revealed that “purpose-driven enterprises garnered more consumer attention than ever. Nearly one out of four survey respondents strongly agreed that authentic purpose-driven choices that brands made during the pandemic have positively shifted their perceptions, and one in five strongly agreed that it shifted their buying preferences in favor of the brand as well.” The new strategic approach will demand a long-term and consistent commitment to these purpose-driven principles. Faking any aspect of the marketing strategy will likely fail.
The progression forward in recovery will certainly be impacted by currently unseen social and geopolitical actions that will, at times, determine the speed and depth of recovery. Anticipating the undiscovered trends and experienced reactions to the changing market environment will demand the close attention of marketing professionals. Adherence to the fundamentals of modern marketing tactics and strategy may prove to be more prudent than following the advice of those clamoring to predict a dynamic future. Agility and the ability to adapt on the fly will be critical fundamentals for brands to navigate the uncertainty and unknowns ahead.
More than ever, the best marketing strategies in the post-pandemic recovery of 2021 will still begin and end with the consumer at the center. Targeted and focused content that is genuine, authentic, and personal remains paramount to any campaign. Listening to the customer precedes message creation, and one-on-one conversations trump mass-oriented communication.
Perhaps the most critical elements of a successful marketing strategy for the post-pandemic era maybe those same fundamental elements that worked best in the pre-pandemic era. Could it be that the more things are predicted to change, the more they don’t?