As the Pandemic Fades, Will the Creative Consumer-Focused Marketing Approach Last?

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By Jennifer Greenjack, Marketing Director at CreativeMMS

There’s no doubt that the pandemic threw everyone for a loop. Navigating an emotional time with layers of uncertainty, businesses experienced phases of change, which began with sheer survival mode, moved toward acquiring some level of patience and then evolved into figuring out how to make it all work.

Brands eventually found themselves dipping deep into their collective creativity to pivot every aspect of doing work — from marketing to operations. And while no one wants to return to pandemic life, brands learned a lot about their customers, how to do business during uncertain times and the value of getting creative instead of giving up.

The Content Challenge

Brands knew they needed content from a marketing perspective but struggled to create it.  Evolving consumer behaviors and attitudes were partly the issues and channeling production teams to get the work done also posed its own challenges.

Some brands spent time reflecting on the situation and identifying a seemingly appropriate message strategy with a high probability it would resonate with their audience and tread delicately on the emotional aspect of global crises. Those brands knew that they would deepen their connections if they could be authentic and offer their customers the genuine consistency and comfort needed.

But, how could these brands continue creating? With some unprepared to activate an entirely remote workforce but were left with no other choice, the internal infrastructure needed an overhaul. So, leadership rewired their thinking to create a model that would support the business, help focus on marketing and keep everyone safe.

Working with What You Have

A few companies took this cue as a way to get back to the basics. They focused less on high quality and more on great messaging. Brands knew that consumers’ expectations were lowered and this was a time to work with what they had available.

With instant competition from the digital meeting platform, Zoom, Microsoft debuted a campaign in 2020 that essentially used what they had available to them at the time. Microsoft used real customer stories to create Teams-based commercials that showed how Microsoft’s technology could keep people connected and working through challenges when digital togetherness was the only option. They celebrated the “spirit of unstoppable teams” and focused on their platform’s ease, security and accessibility. They showed that bringing people together to solve new challenges was wholly possible and a way to become “helpers” in such a challenging time.

Mattress company, Saatva, also showed their creativity by working with what they had. During the pandemic, the company created three TV advertisements, from concept through to production, all while respecting the COVID-19 protocols. One example is the acting duo who lived together and shot a commercial remotely. This production process enabled a couple to be in bed together without breaking protocols (and without making a would-be awkward situation more awkward). The couple worked with Saatva’s production team to shoot a commercial that transported them to an exotic location while they lounged on their mattress.

Both examples show that when push comes to shove, there are two choices: brands can choose to give up or get creative. Accomplishing the latter requires some sense of tenacity and thinking outside the box.

Will the Creativity Last?

While the world is excitedly moving back to some sense of normalcy, the residuals of pandemic pivots are still alive and thriving.

Employees are returning to the office but some maintain a hybrid schedule that provides flexibility. Nevertheless, there are still lasting implications on supply chain sustainability and operations, causing companies to rethink their supply chain approach. And marketers are seeing a shift in trends with consumer behaviors, which are shifting toward spending on experiences and products that will improve their lives, health and overall well-being.

Brands that want to compete in the changing landscape must continually dip into the creativity that the pandemic forced them to find.

There are three things brands should take away from this:

  1. Brands need to keep thinking differently. They need to keep customers at the center of their focus – not just their customers’ wants but their needs and emotional journey as it relates to the customer journey.
  2. Simple can be better. The pandemic left many focused on what mattered. So, they got back to basics and simple messages are what resonated. While extensive flashy campaigns can attract eyeballs, simple messages can spark action and make customers empathize.
  3. Work with what you have. Then, along the same lines as keeping it simple, turn inward when searching for new ideas. Listen to internal teams and customers. Bring them together (even if it’s virtually) and tell their stories.

While we hope the uncertainty and craziness of COVID-19 are in the rearview mirror at this point, we can take the lessons we learned and how we evolved as we move ahead. Keeping priorities aligned and the focus on the customer was the path and will continue to be the path forward.

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