Clothing for sale at a store. Picture: Eve Edelheit/Bloomberg
Clothing for sale at a store. Picture: Eve Edelheit/Bloomberg

While 2020 has been a year of unprecedented challenges, marketers are going to have to pivot in real time as they move into 2021 in a brand communications landscape that is moving faster than the speed of light.

A recent FM Redzone In Conversation With… digital event focused on marketing strategies for the year ahead. The conversation was moderated by Arye Kellman, chief creative officer at Tilt.

It has been a tough year, said Deborah Dutton, brand communications manager at adidas SA. Budgets got slashed, one of its advertising agencies shut its doors and its marketing calendar became obsolete. However, despite the challenges the brand pulled off a global campaign which it launched in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns around the world.

adidas’s #HomeTeam campaign, during which athletes around the world filmed themselves exercising, was incredibly successful at engaging consumers, said Dutton. During the pandemic the brand accelerated a shift to digital both in terms of marketing and sales.

Celeste Williams, deputy GM of Discovery Vitality marketing, said Vitality had to be reinvented. #VitalityAtHome was launched to encourage members to stay healthy and reward them for healthy habits while they were at home during the lockdown. What helped were the digital technologies at the brand’s disposal, she said.

The Vitality home workout channel provided members with access to free high-intensity workouts, yoga and surprise fitness challenges, as well as the latest fitness news and advice for home exercising.

The focus this year was on ensuring that the brand continued to connect with consumers. As a result, initiatives such as pop-up runs and workouts were introduced.

Showmax launched Showmax Pro during 2020. The channel bundles the existing Showmax entertainment service with music channels, news and live sport streaming from SuperSport. Since the start of the lockdown in SA, the brand has seen a 50% increase in active viewership. It has prioritised local content. Influencers have remained an important part of the brand’s journey. “It has been an incredible year,” said Vuyokazi Mhlophe, marketing manager at Showmax. “The next challenge is going to be to maintain our viewership numbers as people return to work.”

Consumer experiences have become more granular, said Charmagne Mavudzi, head of marketing communications and consumer experience at Volvo Cars. Of necessity this year, consumer experience has had to be able to live digitally.

The priority in the past year, she said, has been to drive brand awareness through an integrated marketing approach which leveraged influencers for authentic and organic content creation.

Consumer data will be critical in terms of planning for the year ahead, said Mavudzi. “Digital will be a big focus area for the brand given that it provides more bang for your buck, supported by public relations.”

The panel agreed that marketers need to become data scientists, understand their customer segments, and be more agile, adaptable and resilient than ever before. Added to, this they need to be resilient, and be prepared to be partner with other brands, brand advocates and influencers.

The big take-out: An obsession with the consumer and data will allow marketers to navigate an uncertain year ahead.

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