Many businesses began a return to the office environment in September, only to face the threat of sending everyone back home again. A recent survey of current UK marketing priorities from the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) reveals that, while the Government can be excused of being reactive, marketers prefer to plan further ahead.
The survey analysed the opinions of almost 350 marketers across the country and discovered that brand reputation remains key in coping with Covid-19. Six out of 10 marketers ranked it as their number one priority, in contrast to short term reactionary tactics such as discounts and promotions, which came bottom of the list.
A sense of community and looking after workers has sprung up during the COVID crisis, not just on the streets with people clapping the NHS but also in marketing departments. The communication of employee and public safety messages came out as marketers’ second highest priority.
When times are tough it is natural to return to the foundational principles of brand to re-build customer relationships, particularly when many may be evaluating or streamlining their spending. As a result, recent months have seen a a resurgence of revival campaigns centred on ‘nostalgia marketing’. Big-name brands have returned to well-worn assets to stir up happy memories or re-invent heritage products.
Optimism and concern over job losses
The research also found that marketing professionals have been hit hard by the pandemic but are confident the economy and marketing sector in particular will bounce back. One in 10 (9%) marketers said that they had been made redundant, one in five (20%) reported that they had taken a pay cut and a similar proportion (17.5%) said that they had taken enforced holiday. While one in six (17%) said they had been placed on furlough during the period of the pandemic.
When CIM replicated these statistics across the marketing profession, based on the CIM 2018 market sizing work with PWC, which estimated the sector employs 415,000 people across the UK, the true impact of the virus can be seen. There have been approximately 37,000 redundancies and 83,000 marketers taking pay cuts. The figures are a real cause for concern when you consider that businesses throughout the country are going to be relying on a motivated and engaged marketing workforce to help them re-open offices and bounce back post-pandemic.
Despite this, a high percentage (87%) of marketers felt confident or very confident that the marketing sector would bounce back after the pandemic. This finding was reflected recently in Gartner’s CMO Spend Survey Research, 2020, which found that 73% of CMOs globally expected the impact of COVID to be short-lived.
Chris Daly, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, revealed: “With the lockdown loosening at the start of July, it is a concern not to see more confidence in promotional activity. Marketers have worked hard to maintain customer engagement during lockdown. As restrictions now ease it is key they make the most of this opportunity to help drive the recovery we are all hoping for.”
“That being said, despite all the commercial challenges, it is reassuring to see reputation ranked first. It is clear that the UK marketing community is not prepared to sacrifice short-term gain for long-term pain, something I am sure that will benefit us the economy in the coming months.”
However the country re-emerges after its various lockdowns, the consumer flight to online is now more established and widespread than ever before. To re-engage with customers and build on brand reputation, it will be the key battleground. The survey also revealed that online sales were the highest ranked of sales promotional strategies, emerging as a top priority for 15% of marketers. Offering discounts and promotions to increase product sales and footfall was a very low priority for the vast majority of marketers (73%), with only 2% reporting it as their top priority. Similarly, generating in-store footfall was only a top priority for 3% of marketers.
With quickly changing external circumstances, there is a temptation to follow the latest trend shift. However, marketers are skilled at the long term view and building multi-faceted brands that can withstand buffeting from temporary change. Uncertainty is never comfortable, but marketers can look to their extensive skillsets to manage any challenges, both personal or professional.
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