We are standing at the edge of a precipice and how businesses go forward from here is a make or break question. Although global markets predicted 2021 would be a new chapter, sadly, here we are navigating through a third wave of Covid-19. What does this mean? Think of it this way – It is almost the summer of 2021 and consumer behaviour has returned to the new normal with the vaccine widely distributed. However, will this mean things are back to normal and consumer spending is back to pre-Covid levels? As a brand communication and media strategist, I can choose to be optimistic, but the realist in me remains on the edge of my seat when looking at market recovery predictions for 2021. So, what can we expect for the industry in 2021?
1 The Best or the Worst of Times?
This will depend on what you make of it. The pandemic has redefined the operational and strategic spheres of all businesses. Be it e-commerce or new product launches based on new consumer needs, Covid-19 has forced brands to fundamentally re-evaluate their route to business. Brands need to pay close attention to their consumers’ changing needs and adopt a mindset of not only ‘what if’ but of ‘what next’ to ensure maximum visibility in an increasingly dense but diluted digital world.
2 Prioritising Brand Reputation
As the world moves further along the digital spectrum, online channels, from social media to user generated (UG) forums, will enable people to adversely affect brands by publishing negative reviews or amplifying misinformation and unfounded rumours. Brands need to learn how to operate in a post-truth era and act quickly and aggressively in responding to negative or false information.
3 Practicality With Human Emotion
Covid-19 has truly enabled marketers to test what works and what does not as well as what may work today and may not tomorrow – and marketing is one of the humblest professions that allows us to constantly reinvent the wheel based on numbers. But there is more. Although we may think of creative solutions and new ways to tackle issues through technological advancements, we must keep the human aspect at the core of everything we do, because at the end of the day, we are marketing to human beings.
4 Health and Happiness Will Dominate the Brand Narrative
Putting mental and physical health and overall happiness at the forefront of the brand communication, despite Covid-19 social distancing challenges will continue. Will it end? Only time will tell, but for now brands hold a responsibility to educate the public about health and happiness and offer hope of a better tomorrow, especially to Gen Z audiences.
5 Micro-Influencers Will Create Winning Content
When planning brand executions, we tend to be swayed towards influencers with large followings. However, as Kali Ridley wrote in The Future of Marketing 2021, “The future lies not with megastars and their millions of followers; it’s with micro-influencers.” The industry is becoming more and more saturated by the minute and the challenge is to make a choice. Although micro-influencers may have a smaller following, their content sometimes has a much bigger and better impact than those with a mass following.
6 Public Good Takes Precedence
Consumers are looking for deeper and more public involvement by the brands they love, and striking a balance between business and people will be a challenge for brands in Pakistan. To make an impact with the next generation, companies have to be meaningfully purpose led (not just as a part of a CSR effort). To voice more than just sympathy, brands will have to weave together their purpose and their product in order to deepen insights into trends, cultures, lifestyles and give experience via performance, convenience and value.
7 Flexibility and Agility Will Make or Break You
Covid-19 has shown us how unpredictable business and consumer behaviour can be. While brand communicators tried to figure out the best way to navigate through these times, the one factor that helped them rise to the occasion was flexibility and agility to quickly pivot in terms of changes in direction or strategy. Moving forwards in 2021 means more personalised media solutions that enable greater consumer engagement, ensuring that stakeholders are managed and actively communicated to, as well as the ability to navigate a volatile and risky environment. If you are set in your ways, this is the time to adapt and grow.
8 A Personalised Omnichannel Approach
We know the pros and cons of each media channel and the most common practice towards omnichannel (cross-channel content strategy) was to treat each one equally, often only repurposing content with minimal changes to make it fit for use for a particular platform. Think of it this way – would you want to watch the same TV ad on YouTube cut to a six-second bumper? In 2021, brands need to adopt a curation strategy to omnichannel and ensure the content is adapted to align with the channel it is being placed on.
If the pandemic has taught brands anything, it is the fact that they must figure out ways to survive in an increasingly uncertain world, writes Eisha Salim.
9 Consumer Loyalty Is Critical
Given the Covid-19 impact, businesses need to understand that consumers are in a flux. Lifestyle choices have completely changed and new solutions are needed. This means that consumers who were once loyal to a brand may no longer feel the same way if it is not relatable to their concerns and provides concrete solutions. Companies and brands able to retain existing and attract new consumers though relevance and the value of their brand positioning will be the winners. Invest in visibility and use research to ensure you are still delivering a ‘meaningful difference’.
10 A Strategy That Goes Beyond 2021
Even if the pandemic ends tomorrow, will that mean marketers go back to their old ways? Absolutely not. Think of the next five years and have a crisis plan in place. The pandemic has destabilised the marketplace and its impact will still play out. A young growing population, Millennials growing older, political and economic unrest as well as developments such as space exploration and clean energy advancements. The future now means there will be a series of disruptive events and if you are looking to win, your plans need to evolve with these changes to help maintain high levels of stability in the wake of further uncertainty. Future trends need to be programmed and tied into business performance metrics. Brand teams, strategists, communication experts and everyone involved in the brand have a mammoth challenge ahead to ensure that the market is actively adapting and adopting ways that will help them stay afloat. They will also have to plan for future success rather than harping on the mantra of survival. The question is: are we prepared for it?
Eisha Salim is Business Lead and Head of Planning, Brainchild Communications Pakistan. firstname.lastname@example.org