As The Chair of an integrated agency in Leeds and a previous owner of an international agency, I have seen many things. I do have to admit though, like many others, less than a year ago, I didn't see this coming.
The good news is there is not only light at the end of the tunnel, but many other guiding lights if we know where to look—and seek help.
Whilst the rules of lockdown may be changing, consumer behaviour is likely to lag behind official guidance. It may well change forever. Early research suggests that consumers will be shopping online more, post-pandemic. And that those who do intend to return to physical retail or entertainment venues, will do it slowly.
1. Keep your customers, your audience, engaged.
Make sure your brand positioning is as relevant as it can be right now and for the foreseeable future. Take the time to consolidate, review the market and prepare for the next six months.
For businesses reliant on physical locations, staying relevant is a particular challenge. There's continued uncertainty over how long it will be before high streets reopen, audiences are welcomed back to theatres or sport is played in crowded stadiums. So it’s important to stay focused on how your brand can still resonate with your audience. Keep speaking to it; never stop persuading.
If digital is currently your strongest channel, concentrate on what gives you cut-through and maintains engagement.
For example, re-purposing old content, as Creode client Northern Ballet have done with their “pay as you feel” season. This can engage established audiences as well as attract new ones—all the while, building relevance at a time when people may be craving cultural content. Similarly, Arsenal have launched a podcast series to engage fans through lockdown, which helps to fill the football void.
We suggest focusing on the following areas:
Are you lucky enough to be one of businesses that have seen an upturn during lockdown? Then don’t lose sight of the greater opportunity to come. Take the time to test and learn. This will maximise the potential from new customers when the more places begin to open up.
Think about what made your business relevant during lockdown. How does that translate to a post-lockdown world?
Our advice? Plan longer-term, but keep flexible. Even in the best of times, things change—fortunately the digital channel is a very responsive tool and technology really does help with cut-through. Okay, I would say that in my role as Chair of a digitally integrated agency, but monitor results and you'll set yourself up for a successful return.
2. Be consistent and connected
Businesses operating in purely digital spaces have proved that consistency across all channels is a very powerful brand brand loyalty tool. If your brand is used to being supported by positive retail experience, this can be supplemented with rich digital experience. Be there for your customers, be consistent and relevant and they will still be there for your business.
In a world where physical interaction is limited, people want to share their positive experiences with brands and feel the sense of connection they bring. Identify the opportunities within your brand to support customers through these uncharted waters. Focus on brand building, partnerships, strategic alliances and generate earned/social media.
Look at what activity is still relevant. Digital assets are great for communicating important information, but also review what you can repurpose and what you should park in favour of new initiatives.
For some sectors, online purchases are hitting all-time highs, with average daily deliveries eclipsing the busiest days before Christmas. This gives you real opportunities for learning and identifying new customer habits through robust testing and thoughtful analysis of patterns.
3. Prepare for a positive return (on investment)
Our role as an integrated agency is to stay ahead of client requirements and be able to respond to technical, market and media changes.
The truth is that this will only have moved the digital revolution on by a couple of years for most businesses. Yet consumer habits are showing signs of considerable and potentially lasting change. This presents opportunities for forward-thinking organisations.
For our integrated agency both in Leeds, London and of course WFH, we're cross-pollinating creative ideas and technical approaches. And we're doing it with clients from a variety of sectors and business models. This means we create real, business-transforming solutions for our clients, helping to overcome challenges and identify new opportunities.
We understand that day-to-day business can be tough for many brands. But I see many businesses looking at this as a time for investment in the future. A chance to rethink and create and be proactive. Many will make a positive change and capitalise on the benefits of multi-channel.
Our role is not only delivering the hard-working solution, but keeping ahead of developments with technical, sector and customer insights.
In a few months’ time if you have performed well, you will have sustainable traffic to a robust content-rich website. And a consistent brand message across all your digital channels that will have engaged your audience. You will look back and see this has been one of the most influential periods for your business.
If you are focused and yes, a little bit lucky, the foundations will be set for years to come. Glenn Patterson is Chair at Creode, integrated agency, Leeds and London.