Diagnosing the future: what COVID-19 has changed for good in marketing

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I won’t start this marketing blog post with any statistics relating to coronavirus (COVID-19). You’ve probably heard more than enough about the number of infections, tragic deaths and economic rescue packages. You have probably even found yourself sick of hearing how much things have changed for good.

It’s all a bit much, isn’t it? We’re all tired of saying, “everything is so weird”, and, “under the current circumstances”.

I know I am.

As a marketer, I feel incredibly lucky to still be working at this moment in time. So many people have had their work temporarily paused with no indication of when it might return, while others have unfortunately lost their jobs entirely.

POsitivity is important and it's changed for good

We can’t dwell on it though

I think positivity is an incredibly important tool at the moment – as is perspective. Sure, it is an incredibly stressful, scary time we’re living through at the moment (someone told me recently that we’re experiencing the schools of tomorrow’s history lesson), but we will come out of it in the not too distant future.

What does that mean for marketing? More importantly, what positive impact will it have on this vital element of business?

Here are my thoughts on what COVID-19 has changed for good.

Influencer marketing won’t just be for the big boys

Of all the industries that are best situated to ride this horrible wave, influencer marketing is up there.

Think about it: everyone is stuck at home at the moment scouring YouTube and Instagram. As a result, they’re investing more time in watching content produced by influencers of all shapes and sizes, no matter the brands to which they’re attached.

Look at TikTok, for instance. The more this period of social isolation goes on, the more it could finally break free of being ‘just for the kids’ and be a useful influencer marketing tool for everyone.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: influencer marketing isn’t just for companies with big budgets. Find the influencers out there who are attracting decent-sized audiences in your niche and start reaching out to them – now. It could be the best move you make while working from home.

Holding your breath for thirteen minutes

Fake news will be more highly scrutinised

“Don’t eat bananas, they’ll give you COVID-19.”

“You can wash your hands, but you’re only supposed to do so after 6pm, because if you don’t, your nan will die.”

“Holding your breath for thirteen minutes without coughing is a clear indication that you don’t have coronavirus.”

Anyone else fed up with the fake news, advice, statistics and rumours surrounding this pandemic?

Fake news has inevitably been spreading at lightning pace during the COVID-19 outbreak. However, I actually think this might be a good thing.

It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if this changed for good.

It’s taken something as big as this for a lot of people to start questioning what they read on Facebook. For marketers, this can only be a good thing.

If you’re a conscientious marketer who wants to publish and distribute content that’s genuine and entirely based on fact, it’ll probably cut through the fake news in the future. People, I think, will be far more suspicious of the overtly dodgy stuff that fills timelines, leaving only the best content to make the right impression.

’Normal’ marketing won’t return for a while

At the time of writing, no one wants to be sold to. For instance, in China, retail sales dropped a considerable 20.5% after the virus hit, and caused their unemployment rate to jump by 6.2%.

When it comes to marketing, that’s a bit of a problem.

The result? Marketers are instead focusing on distributing helpful content and helping their businesses and clients feel assured and safe.

Sending out an email campaign to cold prospects asking them to hand over cash for a product or solution isn’t going to work now, tomorrow or next month. In fact, it might take a significant amount of time before we get back to the ability to be aggressive from a marketing perspective.

Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. And I’ll explain why, below.

Businesses looking to slash costs

Home-grown content will be more important than ever

With aggressive marketing tactics becoming far less commonplace, a greater emphasis is going to be placed on content marketing.

If you’re yet to dip your toes into this form of marketing, it’s all about playing the long game by regularly publishing helpful, unique content that gradually builds a bond between your potential customers and the business.

That bond takes a while to establish, and even longer to reach the point where they feel comfortable enough to buy from you, but when you reach that point, it has hugely long-lasting, positive effects on your ability to grow revenue predictably.

This means home-grown content will become more important than ever after COVID-19. Businesses are looking for ways to slash costs and become more self-sufficient, and that might mean many will finally invest time and marketing budget in their blog and social media presence.

Joint marketing efforts will flourish

If anything good has immediately come out of this pandemic, its a sense of community – particularly in business.

Once sworn enemies are now working together to help mutual clients, and partnerships are strengthening by the day. We are, literally, all in this together.

I hope this will result in joint marketing efforts above and beyond the COVID-19 stuff we’re currently seeing. Joint content, joint social influence, joint advertising; why not continue to work together when the world returns to normal? Wouldn’t it be great if this has changed for good?

Has your agency changed for good

Agencies will have to get smart

Let’s make one thing clear, immediately: agencies (most of them) are smart. I’m certainly not suggesting COVID-19 is somehow going to put a rocket ship up the backsides of useless marketing companies.

It will sort the wheat from the chaff, though.

Of all the budgets to get cut during times of crisis, marketing ranks pretty highly, and that means lots of agencies are going to be losing contracts.

This is horrible, undoubtedly, but those who retain contracts will be the agencies that get smart about the services they deliver now and in the future. Most importantly, they’ll be paying attention to the potential trends and ideas I’ve covered above.

Is your agency already talking like a different type of company? They should be.

Final thought

If there’s one final thought I can leave you with today, it’s that we really don’t know what’s around the corner. The above changes for marketing are best guesses based on my experience.

I hope I’m right, but, like everything COVID-19, stuff can change on a sixpence, without warning. It’s why the road ahead is going to be a little bumpy for now from a marketing perspective.

One key element remains, though, and it’s the main takeaway from this blog post. ‘Normal’ marketing and aggressive sales tactics won’t return for a while – if ever. We’re about to enter a very different world, but one which businesses should relish getting their teeth into once we’re on the other side of this.

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