The present shouldn’t stop future focused marketing investment
Stories have particular power in times of uncertainty. They offer connection, comfort, and hope for the future. Here is one about a company that looked ahead in the wake of turmoil.
Several weeks after 9/11, a tech company unveiled its latest innovation: an MP3 player with space for 1,000 songs. The launch was accompanied by a marketing campaign focusing on the shared human joy of music, with silhouetted figures dancing to their favourite tunes. The business was Apple, the product was the first iPod, and within three years, sales had topped 2 million.
As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to turn the world upside down, it’s crucial to remember that crisis doesn’t stop it from spinning. Adjustment and consideration are essential: brands must be sensitive to the situation and changing audience needs. But, although it may be tempting to hunker down, continued marketing investment is crucial for companies to thrive and grow.
In fact, as well as meeting the needs of consumers — 92% of whom think brands shouldn’t stop advertising — consistent marketing is vital to fuel business growth, as multiple studies illustrate. Research from the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), for instance, shows companies that continue marketing investment see greater long-term profitability and gain stronger share of voice that sets them up for even further growth, once normality resumes.
Ensuring lasting success
Apple isn’t the only example of a business that accelerated when others hit the brakes and won the race. General Motors also strove to bolster the economy following 9/11 with its “Keep America Rolling” campaign and subsequent revenue generated breaking records in 2001.
So great is the phenomenon of growth amid turbulence it’s become the focus of research. A study featured in Harvard Business Review has shown the top 9% of businesses that flourished in periods of instability share a common trait: they focused on the future.
Those who applied a smart marketing mix of selective cost cutting and continuous investment had the highest probability of success. Why? Because they understood the need to remain visible and connected.
Marketing isn’t just about blasting out messages that drive short-term buzz; it’s about developing lasting brand awareness and consumer relationships. Companies that consider the long-term and keep spending on marketing in times of crisis are the ones that maintain a high position on the consumer radar. This means when the clouds start to clear — as they always do and often faster than predicted — they will be the first choice for people who are ready to spend again, with brands they know and trust.
The bigger picture
One of the most quoted figures in history, still no one comes close to Winston Churchill in summarising the need for unity amid adversity: “if we are together nothing is impossible. If we are divided all will fail”.
No matter what our job or sector might be, all of us are bound by the economic chain. One person earns enough to buy a few extras, meaning the shop owner makes enough to buy more stock and the supplier in turn can afford to expand, so the ripple effect goes on. Marketing has a vital role in making sure the chain continues to function.
By driving ongoing demand — even if at a lower level than usual — persistent marketing activity keeps the economic engine from grinding to halt, which means consistent income for everyone at a time when it’s needed most. Perhaps that’s why 50% of consumers now want brands to talk as they have always done. The best way to get the globe back on its feet is delivering carefully chosen messages that stimulate steady growth in spending, as consumer circumstances and spending power improves.
In other words, marketing can play a part in maintaining the greater good.
There is no telling exactly what the post-COVID-19 world will look like, but the one certainty we do have is that the crisis will eventually come to an end. Workers will return to their desks, shops and restaurants will re-open their doors, and consumers will, in time, start to broaden their purchases beyond essentials.
When that happens, the brands that didn’t let the present stop them investing in their future success will come out strongest; benefitting from deeper ties with the consumers they stayed connected to, and an enhanced reputation as dependable leaders.