Marketing in a Downturn: 16 Unexpectedly Helpful Resources for Marketers
A recent report by the Interactive Advertising Bureau found that 24% percent of marketing decision makers paused all ad spend for the first and second quarters of 2020. The disruption caused by Covid-19 has presented marketers with an unexpected opportunity to reflect on how to adjust strategies and business operations. Reimagining how business is done within new constraints may lead to future innovations. Companies who adapt to consumers’ ever-changing needs will be well positioned to succeed when the economy bounces back.
As much of the country opens up after weeks of shelter-in-place orders, business leaders are spending extra time preparing for uncertainty in the remainder of 2020. Where can marketing leaders turn for help and inspiration at this time? We’ve compiled a list of 16 diverse and helpful resources for marketers—relevant to all industries, both in consumer marketing and B2B.
Resource #1: Harvard Business Review’s How to Market in a Downturn
This oft-cited article by John Quelch and Katherine E. Jocz dispensed valuable advice in 2009 on the marketing successes and failures of dozens of companies through recessions from the past four decades. The authors identify patterns in consumer behavior—honing in on the difference between essentials, postponables, and expendables—that help guide companies to understand evolving consumption patterns so they can fine-tune their strategies accordingly.
Resource #2: Edelman’s Brand Trust and the Coronavirus Pandemic
Leading communications firm Edelman recently published a global study on the critical role brands are playing during the coronavirus pandemic. No surprises here; the data speaks to the power and necessity of brands and makes the case for protecting employees, shifting products and pricing, informing and empathizing, as well as creating a sense of community. With 62% of respondents stating their belief that their country will not make it through this crisis without significant participation from brands, the report offers direct and tactical guidance about how brands can relate to customers and make a difference. The report calls out a few standouts, like Microsoft’s Healthcare bot on the CDC website and HP’s donation of 3-D printers to hospitals to produce masks. The bottom line? Brands can either build a new level of connection with consumers or erode trust altogether.
Resource #3: Advertising Age’s Regularly Updating List Tracking Marketers’ Response to Coronavirus
Advertising Age has put together an extensive ongoing list of all the COVID-19-related actions taken by marketers of top brands. The list includes information about activities such as campaigns and partnerships like Reebok’s “hero in your community,” and the virtualization of events—like Mercedes-Benz’s Concours de Zoom.
Resource #4: Carol Meyers on How to Lead During a Crisis
Managing your go-to-market (GTM) strategy is a challenge in any circumstance, even more so now that we’re facing a pandemic and looming recession. Boston VC firm OpenView Partners interviews Carol Meyers, who has helped four companies—Shiva, Unica, LogMeIn and Rapid7—through massive growth periods (including IPOs). With her considerable experience adjusting go-to-market strategy on the fly, Myers offers her perspective on the importance of strong leadership, great communication skills and empathy for one’s team.
Resource #5: HubSpot’s Roundup of 33 Free Online Marketing Classes
We’ve always admired Buffer’s thoughtful (and popular) Science of Social Media podcast, but their two-part series on how to adapt social media strategy for these times is particularly useful. In this two-part live session, Buffer’s Kevan Lee and Darcy Peters speak with Janet Mesh, CEO at digital marketing agency Aimtal, tackling questions ranging from adjusting paid advertising to marketing with empathy. Each podcast is less than 15 minutes and packed with info. With 25,000+ weekly listeners, apparently we’re not the only fans.
Resource #7: Gary Vee’s How to Make 64 Pieces of Content in a Day
Serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk (a.k.a. Gary Vee) is a treasure trove of marketing ideas, and his 64 pieces of content a day is no exception. This little gem from a few months back is filled with actionable advice for marketers, like how to post your TikTok clips to Instagram stories, how to use Facebook and Instagram polls for market research, or how to create your own memes with the Preview App or Microsoft Paint. It’s content that isn’t designed for any particular crisis or change in consumer behavior, but it’s good “evergreen” material that can help your organization respond quickly and consistently, on all channels, something demanded by all crises, nonetheless.
History’s greatest minds—from George Washington to Frederick the Great to Ralph Waldo Emerson, along with Super Bowl-winning football coaches and CEOs—have embraced the wisdom of the ancient Stoics because they realize that the most valuable wisdom is timeless. The Daily Stoic offers insights and exercises for a full year, designed to bring serenity, resilience and self-knowledge. The book serves as a spiritual anchor and includes quotations from the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the playwright Seneca, and slave-turned-philosopher Epictetus, as well as many lesser-known luminaries. You might even brush up on your Greek terms while you’re at it.
Resource #9: LinkedIn’s Most In-demand Skills for 2020
Marketers love data, and knowing which business skills are in highest demand from recruiters is a clever twist on using data to your advantage. LinkedIn typically publishes its research once a year to help recruiters keep their finger on the pulse of how businesses are looking at hiring—and which skills are in high demand. This year, the most in-demand hard skill was blockchain (a newcomer to the list), and the most in-demand soft skill was creativity. Take a look to see what else made the list.
Resource #10: Square’s Town Square Business Resource Center
Payment processor Square offers a surprisingly good source of valuable information for business people of all sizes and industries. With various dropdown menus to customize your search, you can find hundreds of helpful resources, like this wellness trends 2020 report released based on transactional data from shoppers—addressing everything from Keto to CBD skincare and plenty in between.
Resource #11: AdWeek’s Webinar: The Uncertain Impact of Today’s Shopping Behavior: What Will Be the Effect on CPG Brand Loyalty?
For many U.S. households, the grocery shopping experience is no longer business as usual. Limited store trips and disruptions with the supply chain have created challenges today, but what does the longer-term impact look like? How will brands adapt as shopping behaviors continue to evolve? This webinar (available on-demand) looks at how buying behavior has changed across CPG categories and how it continues to evolve, and ultimately offers a vision for how CPG companies can emerge from this pandemic with strong brand equity.
Resource #12: New York Times How the Virus Transformed the Way Americans Spend Their Money
This New York Times article is based on data from Earnest Research, which tracked and analyzed credit and debit card purchases of nearly six million people in the United States. If you’re anything like the rest of us, you’ve spent a lot of time on data visualization charts to understand “flattening the curve.” The New York Times has put together a fascinating guide to how U.S. consumer spending has changed.
Resource #13: Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas Awards
Every year, Fast Company honors the top organizations driving change globally with its World Changing Ideas Awards. This year—amidst the combined economic collapse and COVID-19 crisis—the list carries even more weight than usual. From over 3,000 entries, 26 winners and hundreds of other finalists were selected by a roster of experts in social entrepreneurship, philanthropy, venture capital and activism. See powerful examples of innovative thinking—such as 3D-printed houses whose walls can be built in 24 hours.
This report from Forbes Insights discusses how some companies are using customer data to handle the long-term disruptions in many industries, such as retail, transportation, and more. One of the conclusions is that 78% percent of the executives surveyed in the study “either have, or are developing, a customer data platform that is a dedicated environment managed by their marketing organization and is separate from other databases or platforms.” It’s an interesting read, and provides both hope and some actionable insights for executives in many different industries who are struggling with disruption.
Resource #15: Fast Company’s take on How Airbnb Made Missteps with Its Marketing
By now we’ve all read about the backlash against Airbnb in the company’s decision to refund guest reservations while leaving hosts out in the cold. In a very public mea culpa, CEO Brian Chesky issued a formal apology to hosts, announcing a $260 million Airbnb relief package. Fast Company authors Ana Andjelic and Jessica Davidoff make a case for learning from Airbnb’s mistakes—mapping out how marketing decisions should have more to do with maintaining a customer relationship than in generating revenue or demand. After all, how much a brand invests in its customers during a crisis—showing reassurance and empathy—defines its long-term success. “If there was ever a time Airbnb needed marketing, it is now.”
The importance of leadership in a time of crisis can’t be overstated. Individuals are seeking validation of the uncertainty they see as well as reassurance that there is a plan forward. Great leadership requires a delicate balance of bravery and authenticity. Where to begin? From writer and entrepreneur Josh Steimle comes Entrepreneur Magazine’s short and sweet—but powerful—leadership advice, which we wanted to include as our final resource to marketers.