The era of adaptation

Nielsen’s latest report urges companies to listen to the changes in the post-pandemic marketplace, but to be careful not to throw out tried and tested strategies

Nielsen’s third edition of its annual marketing report, 2020-21, called the post-pandemic period – as well as its report – the Era of Adaptation. Its survey found that, whatever the size of the organisation, businesses were now focused on moving forwards, even if the impacts of COVID-19 were still being felt.

Acknowledging that “there is no more one-size-fits-all” approach for businesses looking to engage with consumers” but that “ingenuity is a must”. Tools, the report adds, are more available to businesses of all sizes than ever before and taking advantage of efficiency-drivers like automation and centralisation are going to be key.

The major findings of the report hinge on six key points:

  1. Resist the urge to stop marketing
  2. Reallocation response times are critical
  3. It’s time to re-think omnichannel
  4. Connected TV (CTV) and addressable are budding, yet largely uncharted, opportunities
  5. Measurement is a universal challenge
  6. First-party data is a good start but it’s not enough.

The report recognised that the knee-jerk at the start of the pandemic was to cut spend – even the big names like Unilever and Coca-Cola hit pause. But vitally, the hiatus in spending was just that and they came back bigger than ever after a few months. For all companies, small and big, in the survey, customer acquisition was the top priority but the report authors did warn that switching away from retention might damage loyalty and see those companies switch focus in the longer term.

Spending in all the right places

Budgets undoubtedly took a hit but the report stresses the need to maintain investment in analytics, if only so companies can understand how to shift their spend to where it is likely to be most effective. The pandemic has shown organisations the need to make informed decisions quickly and it looks like this will be a skill worth hanging on to.

How marketers prioritise their platform investments is still in flux. They tend to value owned and earned media strongly but it’s not certain if they are able to give their full attention to the contribution of every communication channel. Equally, it’s not certain if their intentions to invest are matched by their understanding of the channels as 65% of advertisers plan to spend more on online and mobile videos this year, but three out of four are unsure about how to accurately measure the ROI.

Equally, the uncertainty around relatively new platforms such as CTV means marketers aren’t quite sure how deeply they should engage. It’s true that the pandemic drove new audiences to streaming, with older demographics in the US boosting their viewing time to 26% of the total streaming minutes viewed, for example.

But, there is a sense from leadership that they want to see more ‘proof of the pudding’ before ploughing ahead. This is also reflected in the fifth key finding of the report that measurement remains a universal challenge, with brand awareness coming out top as the most important measurement capability.

Insights from across the funnel

Finally, it looks like the cookie challenge is going to rumble on as marketers are desperate to pin down quality, identifiable data. The report authors say their findings suggest marketers aren’t terrifically confident in their data quality, while 86% still think first-party is of high importance.

As they move away from a focus on data gleaned near to or at the point of purchase, there’s going to be a growing need for multi-touch attribution solutions to help them plot and design their customer journeys.

The Nielsen Era of Adaptation report comes with a number of recommendations specific to businesses of every size, but there are standout universal themes – don’t be tempted to dial down retention efforts or cut marketing budget. Adapt creative and continue to personalise and finally to not shy away from new platforms like CTV which may be relatively untested but are clearly where the consumer has shifted in a big way.

Featured image: Pierre Bamin /

Morag Cuddeford-Jones

Morag Cuddeford-Jones has been a marketing journalist and editor for 20 years but is still trying to convince herself that she doesn’t look it. Writing for well known national publications as well as contributing to broadcast media and industry specific reports, she came to journalism after a brief flirtation with the music and entertainment industry which ended when she discovered her passionate dislike of any tunes not produced in 1985. Morag has consulted with the censhare marketing team for almost a year now, is the editor of Catalyst, a global marketing magazine, and acts as an editorial consultant for blue chip brands, consultancies and publications.

All articles