TRANSFORMATION IS THE NAME OF THE GAME | Marketing Futures Lead Talk Series

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No doubt the world has changed since the first time you heard that now dreaded word COVID. Some would argue there have been “paradigm shifts” happening in all sectors the human endeavor. We would rather say that things have just “sped up”.

Sure there are anomalies of things we could never imagine happening. Imagine walking in to a bank with a mask on in 2019. You would probably have been flattened by a security guy or worse. And who would have guessed that we would spend so much time talking about toilet paper shortages or trying to have a tête-à-tête with the food delivery person, just to have some different human interaction.

We heard in mid-2020 a lot of references to “the new normal” and how life will change completely forever. But our view at Marketing Futures has always been that what we are seeing is not so much wholesale change and rather a speeding up of trends we have been predicting for a long time. WFH might be a new acronym but the idea that we would shift to work from home has been talked about by market trend forecasters for a hundred years. The shifts to mobile commerce, payment, socializing were already on their way.
However, we all have to agree that the transformations that have been taking place and are underway have caught us with their speed and therefore the need for marketers and business people in general to get “with the future now” cannot be ignored, lest they want to be be left behind.

In order to help our partners and friends keep up and with the help of ICE Business Times we have been continuing our Lead Talk series to better understand how the transformations are taking place. We brought together small panels of a range of experts and practitioners along with some distinguished business leaders like Anis Khan, Former Chairman Association of Bankers Bangladesh, and Rahel Ahmed, Chief Executive Officer of Nagad.
What we learnt was that the real transformation was less about “everything is different” and more about “fast adapting to new ways of marketing”. End to end digitalization culture is the mantra for anyone who needs to grow. Internally within an organization first then externally with the stakeholders and comes the end consumers.

Anis A Khan put it well when he reminded us that seemingly everything is available to everyone:

“The transformation has led to global connectivity, where today any one can learn graphic designing, content writing and produce their own content and creative pieces”

So here are 8 hot lessons we learnt from our Lead Talk that will be imperative for every marketer willing to evolve and transform to reap the best outcome of the ‘new normal’:

1) We always forget Marketing is much more than Marketing Communication

Marketing is a much bigger subject where elements like product format, price elasticity, distribution and display consideration are perhaps more important to get right before thinking about “content”, “social”, “digital”, “promotion”, “influencer”, “advertising” and other communication tactics. The fundamentals of good marketing do not change: create a single strategy based on what people want and how your offer helps them achieve that need, desire, hope or allay a fear. What has transformed is being on top of what people want (doing constant better research), marketers need to put together stronger plans around strategies that are able to react to opportunities.

2) Social Media is 1000s of year old but more dynamic than ever

The biggest change of marketing in this era is the evolution of digital formats. And their adaption for providing social interaction. “Social Media” is the most talked about channel where brands and products wants to see themselves. Of course most actually mean “digital social media”. Non digital social is as old as mankind and to do this day there are many very powerful social mediums (just ask the biggest gossip in your apartment building or have a look at the way people wills still laugh and react to clever graffiti, or the way some have turned their face mask in to a place to use to deliver a message). But digital social media now dominates so much of our lives and of course the pandemic has only sped that up.

The above picture tells us that human behavior has always been the same, it’s the mindset and medium of communication which has changed over the period of time. What a good marketer has to do is to be flexible in capturing the use of the medium of the times.

3) Need for SPEED….

Near two years of the pandemic have just confirmed something we have all said all our lives: the fundamentals of marketing are moreover the same, what has changed is basically speeding up of things. What we expected about the e-commerce culture to happen in 5-10 years has happened in 12 months. Research and data were always there but now through technology marketers these days have volumes of information which is aiding them to make faster and accurate decisions by targeting the right consumers with the right campaign at the right time with (if they are clever) constantly updated messages. Reaction is the new rule. Brands and brand story telling are as important as ever, but they need to be able to tell those stories in every dynamic formats and variations.

4) The Flexible Consumer is now on the Block

Just think about a situation where there is a very intense football match going on at 2:00am in the morning and a bunch of friends watching together, suddenly they feel hungry and they get into their mobiles to shop around best possible food service solutions on offer at this weird hour and grab the best offer. Or they are watching each from their own bed, but in a group chat and all want to share the same treat or deliver something good and crispy to their mates.

That is the world of a potential consumer who survived the COVID. Anywhere, anytime, anything for anyone.

The splurge of ecommerce sites is showing people varieties of brand and services. They have become smart and continuously changing, expanding, refining their interests, mindset and purchase action, so any brand needs to maneuver themselves accordingly.

“Digital Bank/NEO bank will come in the scene very soon in Bangladesh” – Rahel Ahmed- CEO, Nagad

On the other hand the traditional mindset of people who still feel comfortable to walk in a bank and do financial transactions or do wet markets grocery shopping are now forced to adapt to technology based solutions for the sake of health and hygiene. And the challenge to the marketer is to give everyone the experience they want. Better, faster, easier but also seamless from the past. In previous generations innovation meant disruption … now it means just better (don’t believe the disruption myth … people do not want disruption, they just want what they want, even if they don’t know how it will be delivered)

“Digital is just a catalyst which is driving this transformation between consumers and business’ – Shahriar Amin, Head of Activation, JTI

So in order to connect to consumers of today and tomorrow, micro moments and intent driven decision making is the key thing, where context will also play a key role for the success of any brand.

5) Products need to be like Chameleons

This new world is also demanding product variations in terms of their placement, flexible pricing, product content variations. Choice or at least the illusion of choice is becoming more important day by day in a world where we have spent too much time in lockdown. All that time browsing to fill in time means surprise is more valued than ever. For example, different e-commerce sites has different tones and style so positioning a particular product in different platforms might be the name of the game.

6) Products are Delivered, not Picked Up

A huge number of people order food from home every day now which was impossible to imagine even two years ago. Food/entertainment/experiences that were only a short time ago “destinations” in a real sense are now virtual destinations that are delivered to your door or screen.

“Testing and trial of products before was done through activation, now it is done digitally like Unilever has a software called Smart Pick” –Rifaqaat Rashid – Manager Unilever

And researchers are predicting growth will be 10x in the next 3 years’ time for home deliveries. Or more. Remember in 2019 we thought 2020 might see rises of 20, 30, 50% in some categories of delivery that ended up growing by multiples in a year. So there has been a significant shift in the supply chain process.

With this insight there has been a change in the activation process in everything we do. Take the example: our food partner WOW MOMO Foods. When we used to run live Lead Talks in 2019 we did them in restaurants to ensure a convivial and open discussion. In 2021 we run them as webinars and our partner delivers food and beverages to each guest as the show begins to enhance our shared experience.

“OMTM- One Metric that matters is important for sales driven campaigns in digital” – Ariful Bashar, Head of Digital, Grey Bangladesh

7) Shift in Media Spending

There was always a belief that seasoned organizations focused more in “Up to Down” (Brand Awareness to Sales Conversion) media spending strategies but with the exponential growth of the start-ups and investment in new mediums exploding, with huge growths in employment and participation marketers are looking and trying to structure a reverse strategy of bottom to up (Sales Conversion to Brand Awareness) media spending tactics. Which means that brand story telling needs to be more structured than ever, the strategy of brand development clearer than ever and the use of media to build the content of those stories both more complex and more opportune than ever.

8) Agency the Right Partner for Marketing

An ideal agency should be one step ahead of clients in this transformation process as clients always moves in a methodical manner whereas agency needs to be dynamic to give fresh ideas and taking risks to make a client’s life easier while providing structure. Planning is more important than ever. Too many marketers have and continue to make the mistake of “trial and error” and therefore getting lost. Agencies should be their guide.

Today’s agency should be able to connect the dots. Understanding the client’s needs and creating the marketing campaign in line with that need and ensuring fine execution-all are very important.

The changes are evident to almost everyone but the complexity of such high-speed transformation is sure to perplex many. To navigate through the murky water marketing in the post-pandemic work, the job market will demand skills sets which the colleges and universities needs to ensure by producing flexible thinkers, where employers need to have their staff in “constant retraining” mode and marketers will look for partners to understand what people want and how to be flexible in delivery.

And not the least whenever we speak about marketing, people is the word which is always and should be constant. Yes, they may be consumers, customers, clients. But first and always they are PEOPLE so we as marketers should try to understand their emotions and desires to connect better with our brands products. And keep transforming how we learn about them and serve them.

*Lead Talk is an initiative of Marketing Futures where we bring together small groups of marketing and business leaders to discuss the key issues in live webinars

by Dave McCaughan & Faiyaz Ahmed 


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