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Toolbox for marketers navigating growth in a COVID-19 world

​Karin Du Chenne, Chief Growth Officer at Kantar Africa Middle East joined Silas Matlala, Adjunct Faculty of Strategic Marketing, Customer Centricity and Business Development at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) to present a Flash Forum webinar, providing essential insights into five key shifts for marketers looking to navigate this new normal. Find the presentation here.

Du Chenne explained that with the world effectively ‘closed’, Kantar’s C19 Barometer has been put together to shed some light on consumers’ changing mindsets across over 50 markets and over 45,000 consumers. For business, the impact ranges from wild swings in demand to organisational changes as a result of the rise of remote working and a largely scalable workforce as well as competitor shifts and increased e-commerce demand.

But as tough as it feels today, don’t lose hope as the world will recover. Du Chenne shared five key shifts marketers need to consider in their toolboxes in these times.

1. Category dynamics: From wanting it all to renewed respect for the essentials

In times of crisis needs shift, creating dynamic category demand. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs exposes insight into the drivers of category shifts, as consumers seek to meet their physiological needs and their need for safety first – meaning higher-order needs become a luxury that will receive less spend and focus until basic needs can be fully met. Little wonder as COVID-19 has already impacted overall household income for 53% of households. Who knew we’d be seeing toilet paper wars?

Many planned purchases have also been postponed, from holidays to car maintenance and stock market investment. But will consumers bounce back?

Medium-term demand is expected to return based on consumers’ desire to reconnect, but with new mindsets. How can your brand offer long-term value to retain users and win share in these times of business as unusual?

2. Consumer shifts: From ‘era of self’ to ‘era of shared humanity’ and brands with societal impact

The human experience is under shock, with 82% of South Africans concerned about the impact of COVID-19.  But the greatest impact goes beyond the individual as societal purpose is shifting from a “nice to have” to “essential to create meaning.” Brands are taking this to heart in creating experiences to support peoples’ physical and mental health during lock-down, such as SanParks’ live-streamed sunrise and sunset game drives, as well as music concerts and online fitness classes being live streamed for free.

Beware of simply making a passive baseline CSR-type response. Instead, brands should look at new ways to act to maximise social impact by resolving new tensions and meeting new needs. Because how you show up tomorrow should amplify today’s theme of shared values.

3. Media use: From ‘media as usual’ to at-home escape and digital enablers

Advertising serves as a welcome distraction, reminding most of more normal times as we all need to buy things and we need reminders that life will eventually get back to normal. Don’t be opportunistic – authenticity is key, as marketers should not exploit COVID-19 for brand promotion.

Optimise media plans for in-home friendly options but tread carefully if demonstrating anything that goes against what government has asked us not to do: Check your assets for any signs of large gatherings, weak hygiene habits, sharing of food of offering international holidays as prizes, as these won’t go down well in current times.

4. Channel and shopper: From modern bricks-and-mortar to accelerated omnichannel

On getting our products to people, note that OneCart has seen a 300% increase in order volumes since the onset of the coronavirus as demand for direct delivery goes through the roof, while Kantar’s Barometer study shows that 22% of connected South African shoppers are already shopping online more.  The immediate battle is for availability and agile supply, so we need to prepare new omnichannel strategies now to survive and delight shoppers post recovery.

5. Organisational effectiveness: From reactive organisations to anticipative organisations

On how we respond to these changes as businesses, Du Chenne quoted Charles Darwin who famously said that it’s not the strongest of the species, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change. To learn from this today, your brands need to enable your people to find growth in a ‘new normal’.

This covers the bases of structure, process, people and tools and ideally results in agile ways of working, so consciously develop these new ways of work in order to best respond to change and times of crisis, with greater speed and co-ordination.

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