Picture: 123RF/SAM74100
Picture: 123RF/SAM74100

Most brands, across all sectors, are struggling to continue with pre-Covid-19 media spend. But it is interesting to note that brands that retained prominence and equity in the 2008/2009 financial crisis were nine times more likely to stage a quick recovery than those that did not. And that, says global research company Kantar in a new study, is a critical guide for brands struggling to keep their heads above water during the pandemic.

The starting point, says the study, is to acknowledge that there has been a radical change in consumer behaviour.

"While [spending on] essential goods has gone up, there has been a steep decline in sales in categories like luxury, travel, fitness, entertainment, fashion and electronics. And many businesses have been dealing with supply and demand volatility."

It is also important, says Kantar, to not rely too much on historical data to plan a recovery strategy. Brands need to combine existing macroeconomic forecasts with fresh leading indicators in human and cultural insights to predict the most likely scenarios and category responses.

Kantar says marketing teams need to ask themselves three important questions: how do we best reallocate our marketing investment?; how do we best make our media choice, keeping in mind both equity and sales?; and how do we keep learning in this changing ecosystem? The age-old question of whether to advertise or not has also been answered in the survey. During the lockdown, many big global brands chose to freeze adspend as budgets were reprioritised. But as restrictions ease, brands inevitably need to start showcasing again and they should take some solace from the fact that consumers are still receptive to messaging.

According to the local Interactive Advertising Bureau, almost a quarter (24%) of media buyers, planners and brands paused spending until the end of the second quarter, while 46% indicated they would adjust their adspend across that period. Three-quarters expect the pandemic to have a bigger impact than the 2008/2009 financial crisis.

Pre-Covid, the Kantar study showed there was a 78% probability of ads having an impact on sales. During the pandemic, that has moved marginally downwards, to 74%. In terms of building brand equity or brand power and influence, advertising was responsible for a 76% contribution. That figure is now 69%.

Kantar says consumers are still engaging with advertising in much the same way as before the pandemic, and their general response (either positive or negative) has not changed. Furthermore, the study says consumers have not been fast-forwarding through ads with any greater alacrity than before the lockdown.

On YouTube, for instance, consumers usually hit the "skip" icon after eight seconds; during the pandemic it is after seven seconds.

One lesson for brands is to start putting greater pressure on agencies to produce more creative and challenging work. While this is a drum both sides of the marketing divide have been beating for years, Kantar points out that for the same spend, creatively awarded campaigns increase a brand’s share of market 10 times more than other campaigns.

The study says more attention needs to be given to cross-platform synergy. The age of one big hit in a single medium is over. The research shows that targeted channel combinations give an additional market impact of 24%.

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