Picture: 123RF/MELPOMEN
Picture: 123RF/MELPOMEN

As brands face an uncertain 2021, a new global survey says creative thinking in marketing is the most important attribute that will drive growth.

Agility — the ability to respond quickly to changing market forces — as well as dealing with unexpected disruption are also critical survival skills.

The "Workfront 2020 Global Marketing" report lists delivering quality work on or ahead of time as a third skill marketers need.

Workfront is a leading work management consultancy and the survey polled more than 900 marketing professionals in five countries.

The way in which marketing departments operate is also changing. Not surprisingly, the report says the ability to work remotely and collaborate seamlessly is now a universal imperative. "Digital collaboration is no longer just a modern workforce expectation, it is an enterprise work mandate. Companies that realise the opportunity in mastering virtual collaborative work will extend their leadership positions in the recovering economy."

Before the 2020 pandemic, survey respondents said that 30% of their marketing departments included off-site workers — Sweden has the highest percentage (37.7%) and the UK the lowest (27.6%). Now, almost every team in every region including SA is virtual testing the collective capacity for communication, co-ordination and collaboration.

Locally, marketers will need to think more digitally than ever before, says Tom Manners from Clockwork Media. He believes digital campaigns now need to be a permanent part of any marketing strategy.

"Many marketers are seeing the benefits of digital campaigns during the pandemic as consumers have increased their time spent online. As a result, consumers are expecting unique and creative advertising experiences across numerous channels."

Manners says marketers also need to prepare for what he calls the new consumer. "Whether you’re a B2C or B2B brand, the pandemic has changed consumer expectations and journeys. Be ready to adapt to the new consumer, who demands more personalisation and options along their consumer journey."

As we move into 2021, we can expect to see even more consumers engaging online. "The pandemic has accelerated not only digital transformation but also trust in technology and online shopping. It’s likely that many online habits formed during the pandemic are here to stay." To that end, he echoes Workfront’s advice that agility is critical: "Understand how consumer needs are changing with economic and social shifts and respond to these changes early and often."

Around the world marketers are feeling the same frustrations. Just over 20% say they do not have enough resources to handle growing workloads, and the same percentage say there is a lack of strategic alignment across functional teams.

And while all those surveyed stress the need for creative solutions, 16% say they simply don’t have the time.

Asked what the most important marketing function will be next year, 85% said adding real value to the bottom line.

Other critical skills will be an increased ability to use data to make decisions and engendering more co-operation with key brand stakeholders.

In a separate study The World Advertising Research Centre says 2020’s seismic events will echo long into the coming year and marketing strategies will need to be reshaped to suit a new e-commerce reality. It says that while media budgets have been slashed, "shoppability" is now a key consideration. "Brand building is on hold and there is a shift towards investment in performance marketing which, in turn, accelerates a trend towards digital channels."

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