The current pandemic highlighted what customers really cherished – including it seems toilet paper, pasta and gallons of hand sanitiser, and it also brought about an increase in ecommerce spending. 

For marketers who had obsessed over customer experience and engagement for the last few years that meant recalibrating the relationship they have with consumers. The results were not always pretty.

According to Mark Ritson, virtual marketing professor who in partnership with ADMA is running the Working from Home Masterclass, “At the heart of engagement is understanding. Too often companies do not look at the world through the eyes of the customer.”

He says the starkest lesson on consumer engagement is that what a company cares about is rarely what a customer cares about. “So putting down those preconceptions and learning to listen to customers and see things from their point of view is the cornerstone of marketing and engagement.”

Ritson believes that too many brands overstated their importance to consumers and ran generic, overly indulgent emotional ads in which they are ‘there for you in these unprecedented times’.

“In reality, we have clear data that campaigns that were devised pre-Covid19 are working just as well during the crisis as before it.”

“I would highlight Budget Direct who continued their successful sarge ad campaign in the middle of the crisis with an entirely COVID free message as a brand that worked out that they should be promoting their insurance and continuing with an existing approach as a brand that got it right.”

Interestingly Ritson is of the view that one common mistake brands are making is to shy away from marketing.

“The big danger is that many are pulling back on their ad spending. It’s tough for businesses in sectors where trade has disappeared completely, but we know from a century of data that smart brands will maintain their ad spending during a crisis and into the subsequent recession and gain market share as others pull back.”

Importantly, he says, those share gains are maintained even after the crisis when the recession ends.

“Keep the brand light shining is the key message because it’s very hard to get it back on to the same degree of illumination if you turn it completely off. I’d point to P&G who has a track record of building share during difficult times as a company that will not only avoid the damage but emerge stronger at the end of all this.”

About this author

Andrew Birmingham is the director of the Which-50 Digital Intelligence Unit of which ADMA is a corporate member. Members provide their insights and expertise for the benefit of the Which-50 community. Membership fees apply. 


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