13 / 08 / 2020

That awkward bit in the middle


Suzi Burns




That seems an apt description for where we are now. Especially considering many of us are still waiting for appointments with our hairstylists.
After the shock, worry and uncertainty of the last few months, we’re collectively making an attempt to crawl our way out of lockdown and get the wheels moving again. But with localised lockdowns hampering efforts to get us all back out in the world, it feels like one step forward, two steps back. 
The dreaded ‘R’ word taking up front pages and newsfeeds this week will only add to the general sense of unease. 
Many companies are having to make tough decisions about their futures, as well as the futures of colleagues. Redundancies abound, sadly.
Some brands (the lucky few?) will have found demand for their services or products skyrocket over the last few months. Some will have simply been fighting for survival. And there will be many who have trodden the murky waters in between.
The difference in approach has been apparent.  
Some brands have gone dark. Or they’re keeping the lights on. Just.
And then there are the ones which have responded with creativity and agility, with campaigns which have primarily been driven by PR. Sometimes, the best tool in the box! Of course I’d say that - but it’s true, especially when supported holistically across other marketing channels. 
A huge ATL campaign (and budget!) isn’t always needed. What’s important is the idea and the timing. 
Take fast food company Leon which, in March, brought together restaurants, food distributors and suppliers to deliver free daily hot meals to NHS staff. FeedNHS worked with Healthcare and hospital sites across London to deliver 5,600 meals a day.
They did this at cost to themselves at a time when its restaurant sites had been forcibly closed by the government. 
A brand doing good at a time when people needed it. Not only that, they were one of the first companies to do it, or - they were the first company to promote it extensively through good old-fashioned media relations..
Consumers are changing and increasingly favour brands which do good or take a public stance on wider issues. A recent report found that 64% of consumers are now belief-driven buyers who want brands to deliver on societal issues, and not just products. 
It’s not just about what you sell anymore, but what you stand for. 
Ultimately it comes down to marketing budgets. Companies that were in trouble long before we’d heard the word ‘Coronavirus’ will likely be struggling even more now.
But - fortune favours the brave. If you’re a brand with a service or product that consumers still need or want, now’s not the time to be sitting on your marketing budget waiting to see what the future holds.
It may be the time to diversify, change approach, refine, throw out old ways of working, invest even more in digital, find new ways to connect to your audience or finesse your brand story.. but drawing the purse strings closed isn’t the answer. 
The last few months have only sped up trends which were emerging pre-Covid. But in a world which has become so oversaturated, brands need to work harder than ever before to stand out from the crowd. They need to be bold, agile and reactive to change. They need to connect. They need to communicate what it is they stand for.                                                                        
And they need a solid marketing and comms strategy in order to do that.
Now is not the time for comfort zones.