Webinar Recap: Marketing Skills for a Post-COVID-19 Era

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Everything — including the way marketers used data — came to a halt when the pandemic hit. Given that all data builds upon the past, many companies found that what worked in 2019 suddenly became irrelevant in 2020 — a quick and jarring pivot.  

The effectiveness of marketing is measured by the consumer behavior it’s designed to predict. What can marketers do to meet the challenge of consumer behaviors that have changed due to COVID-19 and wider shifts in cultural psychology?

In an hour-long, intensely detailed, and conversational webinar, Matt Tumbleson, brand director for P&G Ventures and GA marketing instructor, sat down to talk post-COVID marketing strategies with Ben Harrell, CMO for Priceline; Philip Markmann, CMO for L’Oréal; Salim Holder, Co-founder + CEO of 4th Avenue Market and GA instructor; Rebekah Rose, director, P&G Ventures; and Rory Sutherland, vice chairman at Ogilvy UK. 

Three Things We Learned

Changes in consumer behavior necessitate changes in how we think about marketing strategy. This expert-driven webinar encouraged marketers to rethink their approach in three key ways: 

1. Data doesn’t drive everything.

Marketing strategists have increasingly found themselves taking a back seat to big data. This is not to say that data-driven marketing strategies have no value, but COVID-19 caused many businesses to flounder as the data they relied on was no longer as informative and impactful as it had once been. 

All told, what became expected consumer behavior morphed in a way that was not effectively predicted by marketing data; there was no precedent in the data most businesses were leveraging to address the psychological and emotional impact that a global pandemic would have on how consumers spend.

2. Marketing must be future-focused, not past-focused.

An ever-present consequence of data is that it’s reactive and not proactive. Ben Harrell sums this succinctly: “What worked yesterday won’t work today. What worked today won’t necessarily work tomorrow.” Never has that been more true in a post-COVID-19 era, when many consumers have altered not just how they shop, but why they shop and where they shop. Many are questioning whether they need a product at all and opting instead to purchase products or services that deliver deeper meaning or enhance their connections to other people. 

Sutherland importantly notes that “People don’t buy what something is; they buy what it means”.

3. Engage relationally, not transactionally.

Marketers must keep pace with changing customer profiles. Consumers saturate the internet, but COVID-19 accelerated already prolific online activity. As Sutherland explained in an intriguing keynote speech, “Understanding consumers’ wants, needs, motivations, and fears has become much more important following COVID-19.”

This is hardly more visual than with Gen Z, which is distinctly digital-native and cause-driven. Marketing challenges change with every generation, and companies must adapt to how upcoming generations effectively respond to marketing, but Gen Z has proven to upend many cultural marketing expectations. It’s a generation that values an emotional, authentic approach and is quick to flee from companies too heavily focused on the traditional transactional method. If Gen Z is an indication of a longer-lasting trend, marketers really must be quick to adapt.

On to the next. And next…

As Salim Holder of 4th Avenue Marketing pointedly asks in the webinar, “Do we know our consumers as well as we think we do?” This question helps define big ideas you’ll experience in this engaging webinar filled with actionable insights from a panel of marketing experts. Watch the entire webinar here.

Want to learn more about how General Assembly can help you unlock marketing skills for a post-COVID era? Get in touch.