Covid-19: The Latest Impact on Marketing Communications
As the UK’s first lockdown anniversary looms, businesses of every size are still struggling to cope with the challenges brought on by Covid-19.
Unexpected developments have led organisations to pivot their marketing operations drastically. A dramatic decline in consumer and business spending saw 92% of B2C businesses and 86% of B2B organisations delay or reconsider their marketing budgets in 20201.
Spending may increase when lockdown restrictions end later this year: the Bank of England anticipates a spending ‘binge’ thanks to an additional £125bn in collective household savings2.
But with uncertainty at every turn, clients and customers are still in need of reassurance and now expect clear, informative and quick communication from businesses. Developing an effective marketing communication strategy will be a clear priority for many organisations in the coming months.
Marketing Communications 2021 | Skills Gaps
Sadly, roughly 37,000 UK marketers have lost their jobs during the pandemic, representing one in 10 of all marketing professionals. A further 83,000 have taken a pay cut3.
With a pared-back staff, organisations’ modern marketing capabilities will be limited. The loss of talented employees, particularly those with digital skills could lead to a UK-wide skills gap in coming years4.
Without the right people, innovation may decline, leaving businesses without digital capabilities in the dust. External full-service marketing and communications agencies can be appointed to provide specialist support. As Moment’s Technical Director, Adam Bell, noted recently: “Data analysis expertise will be key to the success of modern marketing initiatives, and prioritisation should be given to up-skilling marketing employees or sourcing external support."
Marketing Communications 2021 | Informing & Reassuring
With change at every turn, clients and customers seek to-the-minute updates on business operations, from how to contact remote employees to anticipated shipment delays. As a result, brands are now working to inform and reassure customers at every opportunity.
CIM reports that brand reputation will be a top priority for marketers this year5. Transparency is the name of the game: regular, honest updates will convey the hard work that organisations are putting into meeting their clients’ needs.
Brands will still need to maintain that crucial balance between good communication and over-communication. Singer Kacey Musgraves accurately captured our feelings about the overabundance of emails sent at the start of the pandemic when she tweeted: “Corona has really made me realize how many corporate emails I need to unsubscribe from.”6
The key is to make information accessible to those who seek it out. Signposting to information through relevant channels, including social platforms and company websites, will save customers the frustration of sourcing it themselves.
Marketing Communications 2021 | Re-assess Channels
We might claim that we’ve spent the past year learning a new language, reconnecting with nature or writing our debut novels, but our collective internet use suggests otherwise. The time we spent online increased by 15% in 2020, with most of us now spending an average of fours hours and two minutes online every day7.
Social media takes up much of our attention: every social platform has experienced growth in recent months. Addicting short-form video platform TikTok was the biggest winner in the UK, having achieved the highest increase in users and the longest average time spent on the app8.
An increase in screen time is an opportunity to communicate with existing and prospective clients. Marketers would do well to follow this advice from former HubSpot Marketing VP, Meghan Keaney Anderson: “Don’t push people to where you want to be; meet them where they are.” 9
Following what has been a period of upheaval, marketing communications professionals should seek to re-assess the channels they use to reach their audiences. Things have likely changed since they were initially selected.
With limited marketing resources available this year, gaining a better impression of where customers are most likely to congregate online will help determine where to focus your attention.
Marketing Communications 2021 | Flexible Approaches
This year has seen even the most resilient marketers pining for the days when we could plan our marketing communications months in advance. Those days are long behind us, and with further change ahead, long-term planning is no longer realistic.
A flexible and responsive approach is now necessary. Companies should monitor their environments closely as they'll need to rapidly change tacts should their customers’ needs and demands change.
Every good marketer knows that marketing communications must align with their company’s strategic objectives. But how can campaigns and other communication outputs fulfil this brief, faced with ever-changing priorities?
The answer is to undertake frequent assessments of marketing activity and their effectiveness in achieving business targets. Weekly or monthly rather than quarterly or bi-annual reporting should become commonplace, allowing marketers to monitor their performance and adapt their approach where necessary. This will allow for long-term but flexible planning: nothing will be set in stone this year.
Crisis communications plans should also be in place for several potential scenarios in 2021. McKinsey's five-step guide for crisis communicators is a good place to start. Its final step is particularly salient given the chaos caused by the pandemic: “Help people make sense of all that has happened. Establish a clear vision, or mantra, for how the organization and its people will emerge.”10
Marketing Communications 2021 | Emphasis on Digital
As brand building and reputation increase in importance this year, we can expect a rise in informative digital content. Educational articles and early-stage informational content lend credibility to businesses, significantly increasing their likelihood of making sales11.
Digital ad spend is on the rise. Social advertising spend increased by 56.4% in Q3 of 202012. Developing a strategic approach to search engine marketing will be crucial for businesses who hope to raise their profiles and enhance their reputations in 2021.
Marketing Communications 2021 | Final Thoughts
While we expect these trends to be relevant throughout 2021, the ever-changing nature of the pandemic means that nothing is certain. We’ll be closely monitoring the effects of Covid-19 on the marketing industry. For updates and further marketing insights, be sure to visit the Moment blog.
As always, marketing communications activity must tie to objectives and results. A modern marketing approach focuses on measured outcomes, not marketing output.
Interested in receiving marketing communications support? Get in touch with the Moment team to discuss your challenge.