Marketing in a pandemic – survival isn’t compulsory

HomeBlogMarketing in a pandemic – survival isn’t compulsory

Yep – a total rip off of Deming’s famous quote: “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” It’s true, not all businesses will survive a pandemic, sadly many have already folded after the huge changes that lockdown and a prolonged period of instability have brought about. But we’ve also seen some amazing agility; from farmers fulfilling home deliveries instead of restaurant orders, to an incredibly inventive host of virtual corporate entertainment. Clever pandemic marketing can help. Those that are able to spot an opportunity, change at pace, and deliver something their customers want, have capitalised on the current situation.

We all do crisis planning, and in late February many businesses were dusting off their crisis management plan. Yet, here we are in November still very much in the midst of a crisis without a clear end in sight. We are all adapting and marketers everywhere are embracing the 8th P of marketing – ‘pandemic marketing’. 


What does pandemic marketing look like?

When I’m talking marketing here, I’m talking more than communications – I’m talking about the significant strategic tool set that should be driving business decisions. Pandemic marketing looks pretty similar to all other marketing, but with a major focus on the change. Just what that change means for your customers, your products, your processes, your people and of course your communications.  

Your products and services

Do your existing products and services still meet your customers needs? If we focus on pensions here – a pension is a pension, right? Well, yes. But the pandemic, David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg and the government have all brought some siloed chatter about ESG and sustainability firmly on to centre stage. What’s important to your customers? Do your investments measure up? How do you explain your position on sustainability and do your actions match that position? 

The pandemic has also had a huge financial impact on households across the country. If people were worried about money or needed to access it do you have other products or services that could help? People experiencing mental health problems are three and a half times more likely to be in problem debt than people without mental health problems. The link between financial stability and mental wellbeing is intricately linked. Can you add value to your offering by increasing your support?

When looking at your products and services in a pandemic you need to focus on relevance. What was relevant, what is relevant now and what is likely to change.

Your processes

We live in a digital age, but pensions have been slow on the uptake – or had been. Throw a pandemic, forced lockdown and economic crisis at the industry and suddenly we can manage transfers, claims and ongoing admin operations with digital ease. It is vital that your lockdown service levels don’t slip. Where customers may have been forgiving in the early days – patience is now wearing thin and they expect you to have adapted.

The focus on scams means it’s likely that many providers will have new or improved processes that need to be implemented and monitored remotely. Helping your people adapt and work with new processes when working from home is as important as designing the process.

Yes, digital strategies and go-to-market digital distribution are all incredibly important, but you mustn’t forget your internal processes. One key internal process that changes in a pandemic is decision making. You need to be agile and that means making decisions at speed, remotely.  

Your people and your brand

What are your brand values? After the dust has settled on fast-paced changes in operations, do they still hold true? Not just externally, but internally too? You may have had to make some tough decisions, or simply focused elsewhere and a few inconsistencies have crept in over the past few months. Maybe you’ve just not really thought about your brand. But you should.

Your people are your biggest brand advocates, if they don’t love your brand it’s going to be really hard to get anyone else to. Listen to your customers and staff – do you need to rebuild anything? Negative feedback may be difficult to hear, but it is the easiest way to understand and then address any issues. Look for verbatim comments to get understanding and nuggets of detail that you can prioritise. 

Brand is so much more than a logo; your brand is ultimately a promise. Make sure you check that you are keeping those promises. Where finances are concerned – your brand must ooze trust. Trust is directly linked to consistency; of delivery, message and actions. So, if you say you’re always going to answer the phone – do that. Or change the message. 

Your communications

At the beginning of lockdown there was a flurry of communications re-assuring people it was business as usual. Great. There are a few must do’s when it comes to communicating in a pandemic:

  1. Do communicate
  2. Make your communications honest
  3. Be proactive in how and when you communicate
  4. Use empathy throughout your messaging

Once you’ve sorted your initial communications you then need to review your existing activity. If processes are new or have changed consider whether you need to update related communications. Then look at your scheduled activity, from social media posts to annual benefit statements – are there any messages about processes that are now out of date or an opportunity for you to increase relevance? 

Once you’ve reviewed all of your automated communications, looked at what needs changing and ensured consistency, you need to make a plan for your content. How regularly will you update your ‘crisis message’? What other content will you focus on and when? Remember – how you’re dealing with the pandemic won’t matter to your customers until it affects the service you provide. 

Every element of your marketing strategy needs to be looked at holistically. They’re intrinsically linked to each other, so there’s no real way to cut corners. A pandemic will make you rethink, refocus and realign. And once you’ve nailed the impact of Covid you can focus on Brexit!


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