The onset and impact of COVID-19 has led to a profound acceleration in the marketing industry. Consumer priorities and expectations have shifted permanently marking a radical move in the way we live and work. This has created an environment that marketeers would typically tackle over the space of a decade, rather than in the space of a year.
Despite an ongoing level of globally uncertainty, the industry must now ask itself what needs to happen next for brands to evolve to meet new consumer needs. Will we and should we ever go back to ‘business as normal’? What are the enduring changes at an individual, organisational, and purpose-driven level? What is the new reality?
The AMI Prediction Series 2021, the Australian Marketing Institute’s first in-person national and virtual event in 15 months, brought together some of Australia’s most experienced and engaging industry leaders to address these questions. Three key trends for success emerged, with the first one being ‘marketing with purpose’.
‘Marketing with purpose’ is the driving force that harnesses a brand’s values to do the right thing by its audiences and / or act in a sustainable way towards its customers and the planet. In doing so, it can positively impact the bottom line too. A win, win, win situation.
But success in this area is not easy. Marketeers must have an ability to recognise and respond to cultural movements positively responsibly and authentically. And they must do so in a timely fashion so as not to miss a window of opportunity to meaningfully connect with stakeholders and audiences. Moreover, the work must stand up to intense scrutiny, not just from the media, but also from an increasingly informed public who can spot when a brand is “jumping on the bandwagon” of a cause for profit’s sake.
2021 brings marketeers into a new decade and a third age of marketing, noted keynote speaker and former Global CMO of Deloitte, David Redhill. Evolving first from the approach of brands talking at rather than with its audience, moving through to the dawn of the internet opening up a two-way dialogue enabling strategies to evolve based on consumer feedback, reviews, and commentary, to where the industry finds itself today. Brands exist in a transparent world where the lines are blurred. Marketeers must consider and advocate all opportunities for audiences to tell their own story and how they see and engage and value a brand – good or bad. Further, where does ‘brand ownership’ actually sit today? With the brand, or with the consumer?
While discussing the impacts of COVID-19, Mr Redhill mused marketeers could argue that an additional three categories be added to the seven pillars of marketing: Pandemic, Polarisation, and Populism. Additionally, Mr Redhill credited ‘marketing with purpose’ as more than a remit of marketing alone. Rather, Purpose is the thread that connects all other pillars and other strategies together. An opinion echoed by keynote speaker Naima Wilson, Marketing Director ANZ at Patagonia, the company known for its mission-driven approach and environmental activism.
“To market with purpose, you must do purposeful work. Patagonia has stayed consistent with its values for decades and is at the heart of everything we do. We use this discipline to direct why to take a stand and how we take a stand, doing business differently to create a change.” said Ms Wilson.
Doing good is good business and social purpose drives sales and consumer support. In what has been a rough road for Aussies, a brand’s purpose has taken centre stage.
“The metamorphosis of marketing means CEOs have never needed marketeers more. During the pandemic, senior business managers were, rightly so, unrelentingly focused on operational efficiency, whereas audiences were honed in on brand fulfilment and the presence of sustainability and responsibility. Marketing teams are in a unique position to work symbiotically and draw alliances between the two focuses, helping to co-create and architect the direction of the business to define, evolve, activate and deliver on purpose.” said Mr Redhill.
Writer and speaker on innovation, inclusion, arts and culture, and digital features, Tea Uglow, Creative Director at Google Creative Lab, spoke to how COVID-19 is making business more human. The ‘typical’ work environment pre-COVID business world has been washed away. Thanks to mandatory work from home days, we’re getting a much more realistic picture of what can be accomplished outside of an office setting. This presents an interesting argument for the workforce moving forward, and the need for financial investment into office space and commuting. Additionally, the ability to work from a private setting raises a new era of bringing your ‘true self’ to work and its impact on personal branding.
There has never been a more intriguing and challenging time for the marketing industry, and the necessary shuffle in priorities post-COVID19 has opened new avenues for alternative ways of working. The industry is required to challenge itself to evolve. Marketing strategies of old were solely focused on building reputation, driving revenue and sales, and capturing market share that was measured through the bottom line. Today, moral soundness and ethical practices act as a business guide, particularly in the current digital era where strategy has evolved with the customer at its heart. Marketeers play a unique role, working in a two-sphered capacity by both creating ground-breaking creative work and acting as a voice of the business to move it – both internally and externally – in the right direction.
For more information on the AMI Prediction Series 2021, including background on the keynote speakers and panellists please visit here.