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Coronavirus and Marketing Management: Fluctuat Nec Mergitur!

At the time of writing, 175 countries affected, 366.000 active cases, 23.000 deaths, and more than one billion people confined in quarantine across the world. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is undeniably facing an historical global health crisis that is now shifting into a severe economic recession. Lockdowns, supply constraints, travel bans… Some Brands and businesses are experiencing major downturns in demand, others almost unmanageable upturns. What is the effect on the Marketing industry and how should agencies and clients respond?

As a trusted advisor, The Observatory International wanted to share its position, to support Marketers through the Coronavirus disruption.

ADOPT THE RIGHT POSTURE: A partner in need, is a partner indeed!

As a company, your first role is to best protect your employees and ensure their safety in the workplace. As a partner, you also have a protective role to play with your agencies and suppliers; making sure people who are working for you are not struggling. Supporting your partners in bad times is not only a business posture, it is also the guarantee that the best ones will still be working for you when the crisis is over.

Tangible applications of this philosophy include confirming to your agency partners which jobs are moving forward, which jobs are postponed or put on hold and accelerating financial processes to ease cashflow management…every little helps when it comes to supporting your strategic partners.

Brands such as Unilever have proposed providing early payment to agencies and other small and medium-sized suppliers that may be struggling in this period of uncertainty. 

KEEP ON BUILDING THE FUTURE: “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity” 

The current pandemic circumstances are putting a lot of pressure on business. Based on the last WFA survey on the Impact of COVID-19 on Marketing Plans, we observe two kind of reaction from marketers: on the one hand, those (the majority) who are adopting a cautious approach by either cancelling or postponing campaigns. On the other hand, those who consider Brands should remain active during the crisis in order to come back with stronger equity when the crisis is over; deeply convinced that it is easier and cheaper to maintain than to build.

Within this turbulent and uncertain context, what is the best approach: cancel, defer, invest? Good agency client relationships help build for the future and prepare for better days.

The Coronavirus pandemic has an obvious impact on ad spend (many of our clients have cut their media budgets by 30%).  But it is also an opportunity, perhaps in the medium to longer term to accelerate Brand Transformation: to invest in key strategic projects and drive a significant shift to utility, e-commerce, live-streaming, content management.

MAINTAIN YOUR AGENCY RELATIONSHIP: Be ready to go when business is on track

Motivating teams whilst working from home and coping with changing plans makes it difficult to maintain a high level of collaborative agency/client relationship.

Whatever the post-Coronavirus scenario looks like, getting your Brand ready to come back for when the crisis is over is critical. More than ever, keeping the momentum of the relationship through agency assessment, scope of work monitoring and regular feedback is important. On-going measurement and performance monitoring through periodic reviews is a way to keep your agency motivated so as to concentrate efforts towards the back to normality moment.

The British have a saying: “Manners maketh man”.  Always keep in mind behaviour in tough times will be remembered long after.  Your company’s reputation is also at stake in these days.

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