The Struggles of Marketing During a Pandemic


Struggles of Marketing during a Pandemic

It has been roughly half a year since the pandemic hit us and changed the way we live. About 122 million Indians have lost their jobs. Small and mid-sized businesses ran into liquidity crunch while many big sharks managed to pay their employees something, if not their full salaries. As the world started adapting to the new normal by the end of April and May, many businesses successfully pivoted their focus towards Digital Marketing, and here’s why:

The average time spent on social media by millennials has almost doubled during the pandemic. Digital Marketing has become the next big thing and boy is it thriving during these lockdowns! Brands such as Nike, Coke, Samsung, and Amazon (just to name a few) have been at the forefront of judiciously utilizing the internet to gain traction and customers since well before the pandemic. Here are some stats showing time spent per day (in minutes) on digital versus traditional media in the United States from 2011 to 2020.


Online learning platforms like Skillshare saw up to 300% Month-on-Month growth during the government imposed lockdowns. Of course, a lot of this exponential growth can be tagged to the type of service it provides –Online learning, which is best suited for times when individuals are forced to sit at home which makes them want to upgrade their skills at the comfort of their homes. Note that Skillshare did not use any of the contemporary marketing media such as television, radio, or newspaper ads.

As global trends depict, expenditure on traditional media such as the newspapers, radio, television ads, hoardings, etc. have taken a dip while expenditure on the likes of Google Ads and Facebook Ads has increased considerably.


Source: TechCrunch

Although these stats are representative of the US market, it is very safe to assume the trend to follow (and it very much is) in other major economies of which India is a part.


The Struggle of Traditional Businesses

As Digital Marketing is gaining momentum, old school businesses are following the norm and are focussing on building their online presence. Sounds great right? Wish it was that easy but most of them are failing. Simply buying a domain, posting content about the offerings of your business, and updating your social media is not sufficient.

It is important for businesses to write down their brand objectives, mission, and vision statements which makes their brand identifiable and trustworthy. Your marketing, your website, your social media, and your online presence MUST be in line with if not completely revolve around these mission and vision statements. Nike will always post about motivation, perseverance, sweat, and success. It will not post about things that do not fall in line with its branding.

Engaging audiences and gaining interests of audiences that are genuinely interested in your offerings is a continuous and evolving process, most definitely not a project which you work on for a month and stop tracking.

Online shopping has gained tremendous momentum. Amazon has added hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue and thus their valuation during the pandemic. And due to the sheer convenience and competitive pricing, this gained momentum is here to stay. To quote from a very interesting analysis by Michael G. Jacobides and Martin Reeves from an article in Harvard Business Review,

The pandemic has amplified and accelerated an existing trend rather than created a new one; people were shifting to e-shopping before the lockdown. But the shift is structural rather than temporary, because the scale and duration of the enforced switch, coupled with the generally positive performance of the channel, suggests that in many shopping categories customers will see no need to switch back. So retailers must shape their strategies to the new normal.

Structural here means that it is here to stay. Many geopolitical scenarios make long-lasting if not permanent changes to businesses and the Covid-19 is without any doubt one of those scenarios.

If you are a traditional business owner, ask yourself what made people visit your stores? The owner of a McDonald’s chain would say that customers would meet their loved ones and have a good time. Owners of mattresses and furniture would say that their customers preferred the physical testing of their products before buying. The key is to deliver these key factors to your customers online. Confused? Bear with me for a quick second!

Makeup Brand Sephora used to allow customers to walk into their stores and try their products before buying. Since it is no longer safe to continue this practice, they introduced AI applications that allow their customers to turn on their cameras and try their products virtually!

Adapt- Improvise- Overcome

What are your thoughts on marketing difficulties during the pandemic? Have you come across any brand doing things differently? Open to opinions and suggestions!

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