The lockdown has forced many Marketers to rethink what they do, and how they do it. Christine Downton, Associate Partner at The Observatory International, identifies five ways the ‘new normal’ will learn from lockdown.
All our lives have been dramatically changed by the pandemic. Whether you are still in the middle of lockdown or have recently started to experience a lightening of restrictions, some things will never be the same again.
For consumers that will mean a change to retail habits and an increased willingness to buy online. In the short to medium term, where and how we holiday and travel will also change.
But for Marketers the way we work will also be transformed.
First, there is likely to be more remote working. Mandatory home working has proven that it is possible for many and has overcome management scepticism and the need to be physically in the office to prove you’re being productive. There will also be a natural reticence to resume the daily commute to an office environment thanks to the continuing need for social distancing.
For Marketers this will extend to the loss of the practice of some clients ensconcing themselves in agencies for the day with the expectation of a place to work for ‘the Friday visit’. And equally may also impact the tendency of agency personnel to embed themselves in client offices. With the need for social distancing there simply may not be the space and the openness for them to do this. While nothing beats close collaborative working between clients and their agency partners, the lockdown has proven that remote working can work, provided it is underpinned by clear briefing, clarity on scopes of work and priorities and disciplined creative review.
Secondly, there is likely to be smaller, smarter rosters. In many sectors marketing spend has ‘gone south’ during the pandemic. And many Marketers will respond to the ‘new reality’ by considering changes to their operating models, marketing team structures and agency models. This, combined with the need to minimise risk and unnecessary interactions, may have Marketers asking whether they have too many agencies with overlapping capabilities. The solution will be a reduced number of clearly segmented agencies.
Thirdly, some relationships will be patched up. One of the things that the pandemic has taught us is that relationships matter – there are many examples of client and agency teams working collaboratively and with agility to create great work. At the same time some of the pressures brought about by the pandemic may have exacerbated existing issues in some relationships. With the restricted ability to go out and seek new partners, the lesson that it’s much better to ‘fix than pitch’, combined with the cost of pitching (for all parties), might mean that implementing performance measurement and review processes to identify the root cause of any issue might be a better option.
Fourthly, learning by webinar will become the main way of sharing learnings, at least in the short to medium-term. Webinars and online home schooling are good examples of how we quickly adapted to share best practice and knowledge transfer in the absence of big face-to-face gatherings. Marketers will seek to continue that journey by embedding best practice in teams with bite size webinars on agency roster management, briefing and creative evaluation. Virtual learning and webinars instead of physical conferences is naturally cheaper and less time-consuming, although much less beneficial for networking.
Finally, softer measures of success will come to the fore. The economic turmoil created by the pandemic has forced many to ditch traditional measures of success. Scopes of work, deliverables, and commercial and business metrics have inevitably changed which have a knock-on effect to already established payment-by-result measures. In the short-term, at least, softer measures that reflect what has got the relationship through the lockdown – collaboration, proactivity, relationship management and thought leadership – will be viewed as more important than has been the case to date.