Africa Travel Week

Marketing in post-COVID times

Brands are needing to embrace change and adapt to different way of doing business. Cecelia Adjei explores how the can do just that.

So much has changed over the past few months. We all want to get back to a sense of normality. We want to meet friends, eat out, travel and have experiences outside of our neighbourhoods. We’re dreaming of what we had instead of looking forward. In the spirit of Van Hoozer, we should, ‘Learn from the past, prepare for the future, and perform in the moment’.

Taking stock of the past and acknowledging the present doesn’t have to be scary. Brands are having to do the same, reflecting and exploring ways to embrace the changes. We are already grouping life into pre and post-COVID buckets. How will we react? What do marketers need to consider in these times to ensure they get it right?

THE SHORT LONG TERM EFFECTS

The situation we’re all living through at the moment is forcing us to react differently in our personal lives. In the post-COVID era brands should be thinking about how to effectively operate and identify what this means for them in the long run.

Many brands are already on it. The Premier League, the NBA and other sporting leagues were forced to press pause on all play before most of the world went into lockdown. They are now considering safe, sustainable ways to provide quality entertainment when they are able to.

Fashion is the same. The industry is having to rethink ways to present hallmark events such as Fashion Week. What is a runway in the post-COVID era? These might seem like short term reactions to these extraordinary times, but these changes will contribute to future-proofing the offering. It is about trial and error,

COVID-19 didn’t come with a guide book, recovery won’t either.

ONLINE HABITS

New consumer behaviours have developed. We’ve become even more digital-driven, the increase in online shopping has meant some brands have had to swiftly improve their infrastructure to service customers better.

With two-fifths of UK high street retailers being forced to close permanently, online shopping will be a big part of the future. As Bill Gates said, ‘If your business is not on the internet, then your business will be out of business’.

It is the same with education, the majority of which is now via online courses and study sessions. The core focus of the online experience needs to be the end user. This period creates opportunities to assess and transform the online experiences, making it memorable in a digital (web, mobile, electronic customer relationship management, social) environment.

But beware. With all the choices on the internet customers are also seeking value for money (and have the time to search for it). Enter the savvier spender, your frugal Fran. Redundancies, furloughs, insecurities about the financial landscape and the looming threat of a recession is expected to have a prolonged effect on spending habits. Providing value is key — try rewarding brand loyalty or providing tips instead of pushing sales this will help you stand out, retain and grow your customers.

THE DEMAND

A recent McKinsey study outlined the two key things people in China wanted to do when they ‘got back to normal’: eating out and travelling. Clearly we’re all done with banana bread and need a change of scene.

As absence makes the heart grow fonder and we’ve waited some time, it has to be memorable. This is an opportunity to level up your offering. Across the tourism industry, we’ve seen a shift towards virtual travel, which has provided an alternative way to see destinations and attractions from home.

Virtual tourism will not replace travel in real life but for the moment provides an innovative and safe alternative. Plus some of these experiences are impressive and will have a role in the planning and inspiration phase. Check this example from Angor, Cambodia here.

Current travel restrictions and concerns for safety means there will be an increased focus on recovering the domestic travel industry first and foremost. This presents an opportunity to focus on community-centric initiatives and discourage over-tourism by promoting less well-known areas.

To achieve this successfully, standard one-dimensional marketing plans will not work, not for potential visitors and local stakeholders. As time goes on and the situation relaxes, we’ll begin to see travel to neighbouring countries return too.

Just last week, several Baltic states introduced the concept of the ‘travel bubble’. Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia opened their borders to each other’s citizens allowing them to travel freely within the region. Australia and New Zealand are exploring a similar plan.

Change is on the horizon, things are looking up.

THE PIVOT: CHANGING TACTICS

Across industries, brands will need to think about how they will operate in a post-COVID era and what that new normal looks like for their customers. Communication strategies need to accommodate these new dynamics, as a business as usual approach won’t work anymore.

It’s not all doom and gloom as some things have and do work well, thinking about how these can contribute to planning going forward, is a great springboard.

So, what other things should brands consider? Let’s bring it all together, some tips:

  • Technology You’ve introduced new products to your teams, a shock at first but you’ve seen productivity increase and you’ve broken down traditional siloed structures. The impact of your delivery will mean that digital experiences have improved. Build from here.
  • Be objective about your objectives Core values are a firm foundation, your objectives and strategies will need some adjusting to weather the storm. Be bold with it or be left behind. Check-in on these regularly and flex where needs be.
  • Keep calm (Yes) and carry on (No) The great thing about change is, it’s guaranteed. Challenge your existing approach, don’t do business as usual. Reflect on your values, guiding principles and what is most important. New opportunities may arise which is great. Stay grounded in your truth.
  • Communicate Internally and externally keep in touch, stay connected. Don’t go down the rabbit hole alone, take everyone along the journey with you, remember there is no guide book. Give others a chance by sharing the responsibility.
  • Keep your ear to the globe We don’t know exactly what the future holds, but we do get signs once in a while. Listen in. Keep a close eye on systemic risks and think forward.
  • Dare to dream Companies like Uber, General Electric, IBM and Instagram, were born in times of great uncertainty. Find the silver lining and follow it. Pressure makes diamonds, right?
  • Channel mix Content marketing as we know it is changing but customers will always remain at the core. Understand them by being present and connected. Think about your approach to influencer marketing: if you have modest budgets, explore working with specialists, community heroes, locals.
  • Partner up Connect and collaborate through partnerships. Spark up some conversations and see where they lead to. Ensure they are relevant, align with your values and are mutually beneficial for parties involved.

The pandemic has been a steep learning curve for many brands. The next challenge is learning how to embrace and operate in a post-COVID era while being true to yourself and the audience.

Cecelia Adjei

Cecelia Adjei

Cecelia manages the non-commercial partnerships activity across areas of film, sport, fashion, food and music at VisitBritain, the national tourism agency for Britain. Managing VisitBritain’s portfolio of brand partnerships includes developing strategies for campaign delivery and leading on develop-ing compelling international marketing campaigns to encourage tourism visitors to Britain. Visit-Britain uses recognised titles and characters to build fully integrated campaigns. Cecelia has worked on exciting screen tourism partnerships, including: Kingsman: The Golden Circle, King Ar-thur: Legend of the Sword, BFG, Spectre, Paddington Bear, Minions, Victoria, and Downton Abbey. No one day is the same in Cecelia’s world. She is also responsible for supporting teams in forming suitable partnerships for campaign activity across VisitBritain & VisitEngland. Cecelia manages the recruitment of lifestyle content partners, working across PR and content.