Good branding requires the ability to adapt and address today’s uncertain times. This is an opportunity for savvy companies to build creative campaigns that address the multitude of issues in our current environment, from a declining and volatile stock market and data privacy concerns to #MeToo accusations, global political unrest, the impact of tariffs and the “Trump Slump.”
Businesses need to adapt to this unstable market and ensure that marketing efforts are customized to today’s climate. Whether brands focus on the issues or not, it’s important to be cognoscente of them while developing marketing strategies and campaigns.
Many of us on The Tangent Agency team started our careers during the 2008 recession, and this forged our paths and creativity by making us agile enough to overcome challenges. Based on that experience, here are five tips for marketing in uncertain times:
1. Flex Your Brand Loyalty Muscle
Brand loyalty and reputation motivates consumers to choose one product over a competitor. Best-in-class production and continual innovation is a mandate because if you settle for the status quo, you risk being left behind.
Listening is a necessity for businesses that want to build brand support. It’s important to not only listen to the news and trends, but also to listen to your target consumer. We love data at The Tangent Agency because we pride ourselves on building every program and campaign through insight-driven strategy. That being said, it’s important to never lose sight of the fact that you’re dealing with people. The brands that establish the strongest relationships with their customers are the ones that find the right blend of data with a human touch through creative instinct.
2. Respect Your Audience
Consumers are savvy to marketing spin, so advertisements and promotions must feel genuine. For instance, Gillette’s “Boys Will Be Boys” commercial shows the company’s commitment to having an impact on social good by donating $1 million for the next three years to charities that promote better male role models.
My advice to brands looking to lean into campaigns with social impact is to be organic and true to your brand. Treat your brand as a person, and ask, “Is this something this person would support and do?” If the answer is no, then consider another tactic that is more on-brand.
3. Don’t Be Afraid To Pivot
Today’s marketers need to be nimble and ready to pivot when new circumstances arise because there is a maze of political and cultural issues to avoid or embrace. Advocates and activists are seeking platforms to express their views and have found their voice through social media. A brand’s social media could unwittingly be used as a platform for political debate, and brands need to be ready to respond in real time. Mistakes may happen due to variables outside of your team’s control but it’s important to be strategic in your response.
Brand authenticity, loyalty and listening can quell a crisis, but only if brands appropriately react when marketing goes awry. It’s easy to be distracted by the volume of complaints, but an agile company can pivot quickly. Consumers tend to give more grace to brands that are transparent about the issue and correct the problem immediately with a positioning set to change the conversation. This applies to both crises as well as unsuccessful campaigns that need adjusting.
4. Customize, Customize, Customize
Part of knowing your customer (KYC) means customizing your marketing campaigns to different audiences. If you’ve been listening to your base and creating genuine campaigns for them, then you know where you can take risks, be opinionated and champion your consumer on a personal level.
A great example of customization done right is the creative materialsUniversal developed for The Grinch. The outdoor campaign in Los Angeles addressed getting a job as an actor, while Chicago mentioned the lack of wind — each piece of creative specifically reflected relevant and relatable scenarios tied to each location but, most importantly, was done in the authentic voice of the character.
Businesses should make use of listening tools, such as propensity marketing tools using artificial intelligence (AI), and communicate in an honest, organic and brand appropriate way. While you can reach millions through various digital platforms, what’s most compelling from a marketer’s perspective is to find and engage the right people versus the masses. Businesses can use these as tools to position a brand as a friend and confidant to target consumers.
5. Break Down The Silos
The return on investment (ROI) for marketing will continue to be scrutinized during these times of tightened budgets, so it’s important to make the most of every dollar. One of the best ways to save time and be more efficient is to break down silos that exist within marketing and sales.
We’ve worked with entertainment studios as well as traditional brands, and one thing is very clear: Large companies typically end up having silos. Silos form to create specialists, but in today’s marketing mix and “click-of-a-button culture,” it tends to breed redundancy, miscommunication and a limited vision of how all the pieces of a project fit together.
Success comes when our clients lean on us to be the connective tissue between departments and to ensure the consistency of a campaign. Beyond quality and consistency, building a bridge between the silos enables streamlined communications between specialized departments, so the messaging and creative don’t get slowed down.
At The Tangent Agency, we work with clients from the seed of an idea throughout the complete life cycle of the project, so we know the value of collaboration. It is crucial to bring each department together for the common good so that everyone is driving in the same direction. Businesses need to build bridges, not walls.
The New Normal
Today’s consumer is cautious and has more options than ever, so they’re careful about how they spend their discretionary budget. Marketers can overcome this obstacle by being more strategic in how to reach them during this new normal.