By: Tina Vasquez

As the world changes, so does the way we engage and connect as people and as businesses. This current pandemic has resulted in a universal shift and has led marketers to continue to do what they have always done best – adapt. Having the ability to understand consumer behaviors and staying on top of the latest trends will be the number one driver to stay connected. With this change comes new opportunities for brands to be a resource to their customers and develop more personalized, long-term relationships.

Local marketers had the opportunity to hear from some leading experts to get their viewpoints on this new business environment and how they have started to pivot their organizations to adapt to this transforming landscape.  The following marketers presented at the AMA New York Capital Region’s “Reengage and Reconnect Marketing Summit on May 29, 2020.

Russ Klein, CEO, American Marketing Association

Russ has seen much change throughout his ‘x’ number of years’ experience and emphasized the importance of focusing on the 3 T’s: themes, tensions, and trajectories. In a world of economic upheaval, there are many themes that have surfaced such as the evolution of work, anti-consumption and social tapping. With this comes new windows of opportunities and marketers need to reexamine the modern enterprise in the context of all of that.

Right now, a change in trajectory is needed for businesses and in order to achieve that change, they need to have a vision, strategy, and acknowledgment that their customers are looking for something more than just their product. Tensions in the market are changing consumer behaviors and will change the dynamic for business planning. Russ gave the example that prior to this pandemic, service and experience were key marketing drivers, while now recent surveys show that safety is considered a 5x more important service. This is inherently dividing market potential around social stands and brands should be wrapping themselves around social issues where they can present their point of view on these issues. “The bigger is better mentality is going to have to take a back seat to higher principles.” It is the time for brands to take control over what they think is essential to citizens.

Allen Gannet, Author & Tech Entrepreneur

How do you develop the right idea at the right time? Timing is crucial and so is creativity. For marketers, creativity is the underling theme of what they do and they need to channel their creativity with a focus on staying relevant and finding the balance of familiarity and novelty in their marketing efforts. Allen explained that in this world of change, you need to find that sweet spot of familiar and new to help customers adapt while giving them what they want. Allen explained that this new environment has forced people to become familiar with the virtual world and there are now new opportunities for customer experiences other than just offering metaphors to old offline experiences.

Contrary to popular belief, most people have the ability to be creative and Allen was asked, “How can we be more creative?”. Allen has interviewed world class creatives who said that they spend 20% of their waking hours consuming content. Content consumption allows a marketer to not only stay timely and relevant but allows the mind to discover and develop divergent thinking patterns.

Ray Brescia

Marketing has played a critical role in shaping our society. Throughout history, the use of marketing and technology has greatly impacted social change advocacy. Ray shared his research on this and how advancements in communication technology have resulted in a dramatic rise in social change movements. To take it out of modern-day context, he gave the example of how the telegram was a catalyst in the women’s movement.

Ray’s point was not that technology drove social movements, but rather social movements used technology to create networks. These networks focused around trust and the promotion of a positive universalizing message that stresses people’s shared humanity. When looking at our current state and the use of the largest communications technology – social media – it is evident that there is change and opportunity. Marketers need to become a part of the social change movement and use this channel to create a voice for their brand and better promote a humanizing message.

Bob Cargill

Now more than ever, businesses need to focus on marketing with a purpose. Consumers are no longer just interested in a business because of the product they sell. Instead, there is a growing interest to associate and support brands that have a larger purpose.

Bob emphasized that now is the time to put the businesses bottom line aside and show customers that you care about them. People are driven to connect and make a difference and you need to ensure your brand narrative becomes a cause that your customers can support. This purpose-driven marketing allows customers to connect more holistically with the brand and can help create a network of passionate brand ambassadors.

In the words of Bob, “this isn’t business as usual, this is business as unusual.” Authentically humanizing your brand is essential to forge long lasting relationships with your customers. Brands need to pivot and become comfortable utilizing social media to make that personal connection and cannot be scared to show some of their idiosyncrasies.

Rohit Bhargava

Be a non-obvious thinker. As trend curator and non-obvious thinker himself, Rohit discussed relevant trends that all marketers should be considering. This doesn’t mean that you need to be a futurist, but rather invest and develop your marketing strategy on what the future may bring. By making this investment and developing this forward-thinking mentality, businesses will be prepared to adapt to change.

One of the trends Rohit discussed is flux commerce. In times of change, business models shift as do people’s buying behaviors. What used to be a line between two different industries is now merging. For example, Apple used to just be a technology company and they have now also positioned themselves in the credit card industry. The line between different industries simply does not exist anymore.

Changes in the business landscape present opportunities to marketers to engage their creative minds and look at their strategy in a different light. As a business, the formula to make this change is non-obvious, so how do you put this into practice? One way to do this is through storytelling. Rohit stated, “People who understand people always win”. Understanding behavioral psychology and what your customers want is critical to building your content marketing strategy. You must understand how others are feeling and speak to this through content. One way to achieve this is by looking outside your industry and hearing from people that think differently than you. The more you know, the less you are going to panic during times of change.

“You can try to pitch yourself at being better than everyone else in your industry or you can choose to differentiate.”

Marketing is constantly evolving and recent shifts in our world and society have caused it to pivot even faster. A common thread amongst the speakers at this year’s American Marketing Summit was that personalized communication is paramount. It is not only enough to stay connected with your audience, but you must stay informed on what they value and what challenges they face in order to develop trust and deliver targeted messages with empathy at their core.

Stay connected – stay engaged – and prepare for a transformational decade in the world and in marketing.