Making Lemonade: Finding Opportunities to Advance Your Brand
It’s been a lemon of a year for almost every brand except Amazon. In the wake of the COVID 19 pandemic, manufacturing processes and pipelines were interrupted, marketing teams split up to work from home, and consumer habits vastly changed. While we aren’t quite living in a post-pandemic world yet, it is time to assess and find new opportunities to advance your brand.
Now is the time to listen, learn and find a new way forward. The world will never be the same as it was 18 months ago, so there’s lots of lemonade waiting to be made.
When the pandemic hit, internet usage among Americans soared, making the creation of relevant, trustworthy content more critical than ever before. A new digital-first lifestyle has emerged as people rapidly began to rely on the internet for news, research, shopping, and connecting with family and friends. So the consumer you thought you knew pretty well before now requires a closer look.
Research conducted for the EY Future Consumer Index of 14,500 individuals across 20 countries since the beginning of the pandemic has identified five “cohorts” of consumers:
- Affordability First (32 percent of consumers) – These consumers are focusing more on living within their means, focusing more on product need and functionality instead of brands. This is corroborated by a recent study from McKinsey & Co. that reports a decline in consumer discretionary spending.
- Health first (25 percent of consumers) – Protecting their health and that of their family has these consumers choosing products they trust and deem to be safe.
- Planet first (16 percent of consumers) – This category is comprised of consumers looking to minimize their impact on the environment and are looking for brands that support these beliefs.
- Society first (15 percent of consumers) – Working toward the good of society is important to this group who want to buy from organizations that are honest and transparent.
- Experience first (12 percent of consumers) These consumers want to make the most out of life and are open to new products, brands, and experiences.
The truth is, consumers have been evolving for as long as there have been items to consume. So, the idea of having to watch, measure, and pivot is not new for content marketers. The difference now is that evolution driven by product development, technological advancements, and cultural shifts have been upended by the sudden and large impact of COVID. Instead of gradual shifts in consumer needs, desires, and expectations, we have been thrust into change.
In addition, many marketing teams were scattered to work from their homes. While many people are returning to their offices, it’s safe to assume that some will continue to work remotely. The National Association for Business Economics predicts that only 11 percent of companies expect employees to return to their offices. Whatever the new normal will be in terms of the workplace, marketers will need to be able to meet the new expectations of consumers.
How Brands Move Forward From Here
A survey by research firm Forrester reports that more than eight out of ten marketers say their digital strategy has changed either completely or somewhat because of the pandemic, causing them to rethink their approach, marketing channel mix, content strategy, and the importance of the metrics and KPIs they set.
Content remains the most direct way for brands to reach their target audiences no matter where they are. Furthermore, the pandemic has shown us that more consumers than ever have moved to digital. This places them right where we can better communicate with them.
Moving forward, here are some initiatives to focus on:
- Dive into Your Data. Your audience could very well have changed. Turn to your website analytics to see what pages, blog posts, or products are getting more traffic. You could discover your audiences have new goals, needs, and interests that you can address more directly.
- Invest in your website. This is your key tool and it needs to be fulfilling your customers’ changed expectations. Make finding information and making purchases easy, create the best possible delivery times, and provide exceptional customer service.
- Deliver value. Shift your content creation focus from quantity to quality. Change the noise your consumers are experiencing online by speaking directly to what adds value to their lives.
- Personalization rules. 52 percent of customers expect personalized offers through email or social media according to Salesforce’s 2020 State of the Connected Customer report.
- Customize and synchronize content for all channels. Mass postings for all social channels will not succeed. Make your messages consistent across all channels but customize the content for each channel. The video you posted to Instagram might be better revised as an image and text on Facebook, for instance.
- Focus on education. It’s the best way to gain consumer trust. Do less selling. Educational blog posts, podcasts, webinars, videos, and social media content can deliver here. Give before asking.
- Don’t overlook the customers you already have. Those who stuck with you through the pandemic deserve your appreciation. Show them some love with an exclusive deal or offer.
- Dig deeper to find your distinction. You need to stand out in as many ways as possible, so find a distinctive angle.
- Go broad and go narrow. Since many more people are online, target some of the content broadly to introduce these new consumers to your brand. At the same time, target content to highly defined niches in order to speak most directly to consumer needs.
We are still not in a place where we can understand the full effects of the pandemic. With this in mind, content marketing needs to remain nimble to keep up with these changing times.