As the pandemic waxes and wanes we tentatively explore what business looks like in “the new normal”. For a start let’s just cut through the wishful thinking and just admit that the world that’s emerging as we head towards a post-pandemic future is just “new” which means it will be different and parts of it will feel to us, at times, abnormal.
Then, of course, we will adjust because that’s what we do and get on with life and business, both of which will feel decidedly different. Why? Because the pandemic is a global stressor that’s laid bare every weakness. We realized, for instance, that most of us used our homes mostly as caves to weather out nights and parts of the weekend. It’s a strategy that worked until we were obliged to stay in all day, day after day which is why DIY is surging.
Similarly our relationship with cleanliness is undergoing a rethink. But it is in marketing and advertising that the impact of Covid-19 is most felt and the areas where it will have the most long-lasting effects.
The “digital transformation” that was the constant talking point of business for the last ten years is now truly a thing. As a McKinsey report points out the pandemic pushed companies over the technology tipping point that is now permanently transforming business.
Similarly, consumer behavior has also changed, most of it for good. When advertising is mostly digital, the medium changes the message because the consumer is in control of what they see. As a result advertising is also changing. When your audience may suddenly be everywhere, when the message has to resonate at a level that reflects a primary need instead of activating a cultural aspiration. When flexibility, convenience, trustworthiness and availability factor well above place and price, then the ad experience needs to touch fundamentals common to us all.
Marketing too, is changing. The end-user experience that used to be a small talking point amongst marketers, before the pandemic has now become the primary point of interest.
These shifts reflect deeper, fundamental changes in mindset. When companies reposition themselves, as they do in order to survive, they also reflect a substantial shift in strategic thinking and its attendant budgets. Ultimately it is money that talks loudest and makes the most persistent point. When ad budgets have shifted to digital, when design money is being spent on user experience, when marketing messaging is about connecting with people as opposed to glorifying a product or service, it becomes harder to revert back to what was before.
So, How Do You Connect With Your Audience?
Given all these changes it is clear that “the new normal” we are heading towards is unclear. The one thing we can confidently predict is that it gives ever greater power to the consumer and makes the connection between a business and its audience critical to both.
When consumers do not want to waste time and money on bad experiences with businesses and businesses cannot afford to get things wrong too many times in their dealings with consumers the only winning strategy to apply is one that makes that connection stronger.
The strength of a connection between a business and its audience depends, as neuromarketing research bears out, more on neuromarketing and psychology than technology. It requires an emotional connection that is strengthened over time, rather than a bland ‘brand experience’.
The moment we realize that an emotional connection between a business and its audience hinges on the complex number of touchpoints that governs consumer decisions we begin to understand that the formula that leads to a real competitive edge in how your business operates includes all of the following elements:
- Emotional connection
- Visual appeal
- Solution to a problem
- Satisfaction of a need
- Proof of concept
- Trust and trustworthiness
Let’s unpack all this just a little. Unless the messaging, packaging, website, advert or whatever else you are using to market your business connects emotionally with your audience by faithfully reflecting their concerns it will fail to work as you expect. The visual appeal of your touchpoints is also key not least because they have to live up to expectation and help create that first, initial, sense of trust. Satisfying a perceived need and providing a solution to a problem your audience is experiencing are an integral part of the emotional connection equation and the way everything is presented. Finally, by being perceived as trustworthy and generating a sense of trust in your entire approach you also make it possible for your audience to engage with you further.
Summing up, the seven distinct elements of post-Covid marketing success are really a more holistic, integrated approach that humanizes your business, treats your customers as people and seeks to create a win-win approach to every customer touchpoint and transaction.
It is not really new. But in “the new normal” of the post-pandemic world it is the only sustainable way to do business. And that is actually new.