- In today’s ever-evolving world, consumers are looking to brands to respond and react in real time to their changing needs
- Building an agile marketing plan is a foundational step towards maintaining and growing the connection between a brand and its consumers
- Leaning into digital technologies allows organizations to adapt quickly and anticipate changing needs before they come to the surface.
We’ve long been told that the only thing constant is change, but no pithy phrase could have prepared us for the tidal wave of disruptions that came with the year 2020.
The onset of the pandemic changed the world at a breakneck pace – online sales grew 43% in the first three months alone – and companies have scrambled to adjust their marketing strategies along the way. In this attempt to keep up, brands are making more noise but not necessarily more of an impact.
The average person is consuming more media than ever, but as new technologies and evolving behaviors continue to unfold against the backdrop of a global pandemic, how can marketers ensure that their brands are responding in ways that move the needle and truly resonate with customers?
The key for brands is staying engaged with the topics that matter most to their consumers and creating marketing plans that help bring the company into those conversations in a valuable way.
Deloitte’s 2021 Global Marketing Trends report digs deeper into this very topic, leveraging survey feedback from a global cross-section of consumers and executives gathered during the early months of the pandemic.
The resulting data offers insights that empower executives to swiftly and thoughtfully adapt their offerings and messaging in a way that is most relevant for their core audience, ensuring their marketing and advertising strategies don’t miss the mark.
In addition to findings from the report, the following summary highlights the value of an agile marketing plan and outlines the steps needed to implement this approach within your organization.
How the pandemic changed the marketing playbook
Obviously, much of life has moved online, and companies that have been able to meet people there have benefited. The big question is how permanent the move is. Our data suggests much of this shift will live on after the pandemic is resolved, with 63% of consumers surveyed agreeing that they will use digital technologies more than they did before the outbreak began.
Willingness to implement new ways of doing business or communicate is being noticed by consumers with a majority of those surveyed (66%) expressing an appreciation for organizations that leveraged digital technologies to bring these shifts to life.
So, ready to take that leap? Read on to learn how.
How brands can put agile marketing into action
Building an agile marketing plan starts with an organization shifting its focus from messaging to action.
Whereas in the past marketing plans may have been disproportionately focused on what companies say through an established set of channels, the disruption caused by the pandemic means that companies need to focus on what they do through a set of channels that may be new, or existing channels being used in new ways.
This in turn requires buy-in from beyond the CMO stack. While no small task, starting from a shared, enterprise-wide vision for the brand is an essential component in ensuring that the plan reflects the unique insights and needs of each key player.
With that foundation in place, teams can set three phases in motion:
- Understanding their customers’ current needs and responding in real time
- Responding in the right channels
- Rapidly launching and testing new offerings
First, understanding the consumer’s current needs and desires means listening carefully to the messages they are sharing. By leveraging tools such as machine learning, AI and other social sensing capabilities, brands can forecast where a conversation is trending and adapt their messaging accordingly.
Of course, collecting this information is only one piece of the puzzle. Effectively understanding what consumers need from brands, whether that’s a new product innovation, service offering or new way of communicating, calls for a streamlined customer data platform (CDP) that combines information from a variety of channels, devices and platforms into a single, concise reference point.
By drawing on data from a diverse cross-section of sources, brands are able to establish a more holistic and authentic view of their core customer and position themselves to more accurately and quickly address their evolving needs.
With a clear view of the consumer established, brands can now turn their focus internally, creating a channel strategy that works in concert across the customer journey.
According to our research, C-Suite executives identified digital technology and sales and marketing as the two most critical functions for the year ahead, opening up a number of new avenues for organizations to reimagine their consumer interactions.
For the majority of brands, approaching an agile marketing plan through the lens of digital technologies includes increasing their presence on social media (67%), significantly altering their online platforms to meet new needs (57%), and increasing the number of virtual events or workshops to continue engaging with their consumers (49%).
Finally, agile marketing plans rely on a company’s ability to not only act thoughtfully but quickly as well.
Despite the fact that over half of respondents in our Global Marketing Trends research were able to name a brand that quickly pivoted their offerings during the pandemic – and an astounding 82% of those said these new developments made them want to do more business with the brand – only 35% of organizations are leveraging customer feedback to rapidly prototype new offers.
While difficult to execute operationally, the ability take responsiveness beyond messaging and media execution and extend it to product/service offering and channel fulfillment will be a source of competitive advantage for companies that can execute.
From a year that saw overnight change in consumer behaviors and massively accelerated pushes towards new digital advancements, we’ve seen first-hand how fast the world can evolve. We all know what needs to be done – meet changing (and increasing) consumer expectations.
The hard part is doing it, but organizations that get it right will see increased share.
Michael Barrett is president at Deloitte Digital’s Heat, working with companies to drive growth by developing new offerings, expanding relationships with existing clients, and bringing in new business. A principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP, he has more than 20 years of advertising experience, in a wide variety of roles in the industry.