We all know these are crazy, quickly changing times. How are marketers dealing with it?

We attended the GDS virtual CMO conference recently. Because of COVID-19, the team for the normally in-person summit decided to go the video-streaming route and give brands and agencies the ability to discuss solutions now.

On the Polygraph side, this was very interesting to us, because we were able to see what brands like Salesforce, Coca-Cola, Cars.com and others were planning and prioritizing. How was COVID affecting them? How were they responding to BLM? And what was the path forward from here?

Plus, over the last few months, we’ve been involved in quite a bit of marketing and sales calls with organizations of all kinds, talking to dozens of companies. This has given us additional on-the-ground intel about the state of marketing.

Naturally, we can’t disclose any company’s specific strategies, but we can share in a general way the wider trends. Here then are some of our learnings:

  • Budgets are lean and restricted. Probably not a big surprise, but organizations of all kinds are being conservative with their spending and plans. It makes sense that post-layoffs, many are spending less, and trying to figure out how to do more with less.
  • Quick response time to the news cycle is required. As everyone knows, both COVID and BLM have had a big impact on corporate PR and advertising. Facebook is caught up in this, and the net result is that it’s hard to expect the normal continuous ad campaigns organizations are accustomed to. You need agile PR and Advertising teams to deal with quickly changing circumstances.
  • Organizational biases for and against advertising are coming out. Those who are aware of the data on the importance of advertising even in tough times, and those who’ve historically seen significant ROI from advertising, are continuing to advertise. Many have stopped, even though we believe it is to their detriment. As a Nielsen COVID-related report stated, stopping marketing and advertising can hurt a brand for a long time (3-5 years to recover). In confusing times, it’s even more important to stay top of mind with your customers.
  • Everyone has had to pivot, or at least think about it. Priorities are changing and companies big and small are doing new things. Orgs that normally work through distributors are looking at ways to go direct-to-consumer. Brands are thinking about their entire supply chain and how to fix obstacles in ways they never would before. Most are looking for new eCommerce options and improved ecomm performance.
  • There are many plans for content creation and SEO, because some believe these are more affordable than putting up a hard cost for advertising. However, content that no one sees will have no effect, and so the money spent on this may be completely wasted. Good SEO can take years to finally pay off in better rankings (and thus traffic), especially for the most competitive search terms. If you only have content writers, and don’t have copywriters and ad experts, you won’t achieve the visibility and traffic you want, which of course then throttles leads and sales.
  • More people are looking at ROI and CPA, which are performance metrics, because performance is what’s required right now to efficiently drive more business. Orgs that have no experience with conversion-focused marketing are having to find people who do so that they can improve their bottom-lines. The ones we talk to are extremely interested in our case studies and results. They’re looking for a track record of performance capability.
  • Advertising efforts underway are for branding and communication also- not just for ROI. There are many organizations that merely want to stay visible, expand their reach, or communicate important time-sensitive messages to as much of their consumer base as possible.
  • Branding and ROI can be effectively combined in one campaign. The smartest marketing efforts we’re involved with right now combine great content (for both branding and ROI purposes) with a testing process that ensures we discover the targeting and content that’s most effective for both goals. We always deploy hybrid top-of-funnel (branding) and bottom-of-funnel (conversion) strategies together to maximize our clients’ results. The orgs we’ve talked to have showed increased interest in this approach.

Want to discuss how we can help you with any of these changes? Reach out!

Brian Carter

An IBM futurist and top expert recommended by LinkedIn, Brian Carter has been a trusted influencer for over a decade. He's built programs and been a keynote speaker for companies like Microsoft, NBC-Universal, Citrix, Marketo, Salesforce as well as small businesses. He delivers motivational keynotes with practical takeaways based his 15 years of cutting-edge work. Brian is a bestselling author you may have seen on Bloomberg TV or in Inc, Entrepreneur, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. He has over 250,000 online fans and reaches over 3 million people per year.