Picture: 123RF/rawpixel
Picture: 123RF/rawpixel

The past few months have been a time of great uncertainty and fluidity, given that no -one alive today has ever had to deal with a global pandemic.

It has been a few months since the start of the outbreak of Covid-19 in Wuhan, China and a complete shutdown of the Chinese economy, followed by various forms of lockdowns in almost every corner of the world. Some glimmers of hope are on the horizon as more countries start to emerge from their pandemic crisis.

Brands are starting to question how Covid-19 has changed their business model, their service or product offering and even the lives of consumers. The short answer to these questions is that for some there has been minimal change, while for others there have been radical shifts. For a minority there have been no real, tangible changes.

What does this new world mean for brands? A recent webinar hosted by Idea Foundry, titled “Marketing Interrupted –  Marketing and brand building in a new world for Sub-Saharan African and South East Asia companies/brands”, identified the following five areas in which brands need to play a critical role in achieving business success.

1. Revisiting of the strength of your brand foundation

First, understand whether your brand proposition and positioning is still relevant in a changed environment. Second, pay close attention to how your customers’ needs have changed during this pandemic – after all, this truly dictates whether your proposition is still relevant or not. And third, understand whether your competitors have shifted the game and innovated, and if so, which of them has done it.  If your customers all of a sudden have a new, differentiated alternative to your products to choose from, your proposition almost certainly needs some evolving.

2. Auditing, assessment and reformulating of objectives

Trying to achieve the goals that you set six months ago may be a little like trying to launch a music cassette album in a Spotify era. We undoubtedly need to reflect back on what we set out to achieve in 2020 and reformulate these against new limitations, aspirations and ambitions. Not only are our revenue goals likely to be affected, it may be a lot more prudent to focus on other metrics as we ride out the effect of this pandemic. These other metrics could include maintaining customer loyalty, using it as a platform for innovation or focusing on cost containment.

3. Optimising budgets

The one certainty that will emerge out of this pandemic is that most businesses will find themselves under revenue pressure. And that will translate into cost containment and budget efficiency. Marketers and brand builders will be expected to do more with less. That means careful deployment of budgets as well as the seeking for guerilla tactics and better leverage over glamour campaigns. Ultimately it’s about making every cent work that much harder.

4. Analysing industry insights and trends

Words and ideas that are often thrown around way too flippantly are now more important than ever in a brand-building context. And that is because nobody really knows what’s next or how to approach what’s coming. Rigorous insight and analysis are the best ways to gain an even footing and launch your next moves based on a sound platform. 

5. Practising ideation and innovation

There is no question that many brands will face some tough challenges in the months ahead. But necessity drives innovation, and those brands that are able to take a glass-half-full approach may find lucrative opportunities within this pandemic. Don’t forget, Uber and Airbnb were both launched out of the turmoil of the 2008 recession. There’s no time like the present.

As we all venture into this new world we need to make sure that much as we have short-term goals to achieve, we must build towards a long-term strategy to ensure that our brands emerge from this much stronger, that we keep our finger on the pulse of our consumer’s attitudes and preferences, and that we really are there for them while we drive innovation and define the way forward for our own brands and industries.

  • Jacques Erasmus is the MD and Clayton McCoy the strategy director of Idea Foundry


The big take-out:

It’s no longer business as usual for brands and much as they have short-term goals to achieve, they must build towards a long-term strategy.

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