Lauren Douglass, SVP Global Marketing, Channel Factory discusses why marketing should not be seen as a “Dirty Word” The marketing function has long been considered less than essential, a back office ‘nice to have’ for businesses with money to spare. It is often marketing roles that are made redundant in times of business uncertainty, and the current climate is no exception. Research by the Chartered Institute of Marketing found that 40,000 marketing jobs have been lost in the UK alone as a result of COVID-19.
Is it any wonder that marketing practises are seen as a tick box exercise that, traditionally speaking, are rarely linked to the bottom line?
Arguably the most ‘visible’ marketing technique – advertising – is often seen as sensationalist, unfactual or simply untrue and even downright dirty. In fact, the annual Global RepTrak 100 study by the Reputation Institute found that just 15.4% of UK consumers believe what companies say in their advertising campaigns.
So what actually works?
This past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened feelings of emotion and anxiety in consumers, which is something businesses cannot afford to ignore. The way in which they reach their customers today is a fine balancing act, one that requires understanding, engagement, and interaction in the right way, as audiences today seek communications they can trust at a time of crisis more and more.
To get this right, a business must be sure that their overarching ethos and core
message aligns not only to the business objectives, but also to the fundamental cares and concerns of their customers. What does their business stand for? What are their USPs? What differentiates them from competitors? What are their key values? Why should customers trust them?
Agreeing these details at a high level will allow all business activity to have a central focus, not least appropriate advertising campaigns that are aligned to fundamental communications that are relevant to their specific client base.
Channel Factory’s own research shows that consumers actually prefer to buy from brands committed to socially conscious causes – demanding transparency, authenticity and relevant/relatable communications from the brands they engage with.
Actively speaking out on global issues gives your brand a bigger platform to promote its ethos and reinforce its trustworthiness in the minds of your target audience. Ice cream makers Ben & Jerry’s support of the Black Lives Matter movement is an excellent example of this. Whilst tackling inherent racism has no bearing on selling ice cream it raises the company’s profile generally and communicates to the public their moral and honourable philosophy.
SME’s have undoubtedly been hit hard by COVID-19, with more than half reporting an impact on business development as a result of lockdown measures. As a result, many companies will have losses to recoup and as restrictions begin to ease, a focus on financial recovery will be at the forefront of business strategy.
A study by Xero states that the resilience and recovery of small businesses post-COVID is acutely impacted by how digitally enabled they are. This is likely because digital strategies are low cost and help put smaller to medium-sized businesses in front of customers in a similar way to bigger organisations – levelling the playing field.
In addition to this, SMEs have a unique advantage when it comes to bouncing back. Larger companies are renowned for slower process change but smaller businesses tend to be more agile in their approach and perhaps more open to adopting more cutting edge digital practices.
Similarly, SMEs are often recognised for their commitment to customer service and involvement in local communities. As a result they are in an excellent position to utilise these relationships, combined with nimble and engaging digital marketing strategies to reach out to new audiences in an authentic, relevant and socially conscious way, and ultimately increase their position in the market and drive economic growth.
There certainly is no one size fits all approach for business success in the current environment – every business is different, and every business is unique from industry to customer base, and their marketing strategy needs to reflect this. The continued growth in online combined with more people supporting independent, small businesses certainly paints a vivid scene for small and medium sized businesses looking to take advantage of what digital marketing and advertising can offer. And further, suggests that most audiences will respond positively to this approach, particularly as the lines between marketing and commerce continue to blur.
It is clear that, more than ever, it is essential that companies understand the sentiments of their customers by keeping marketing at the forefront of their business approach. It will be those businesses that adopt a robust marketing strategy at the core of recovery plans that will thrive in a sustainable way, and ultimately survive in our ‘sink or swim’ economy.