Marketing was already changing at a rapid clip. And then Covid-19 came along.

It’s become a platitude already, but Covid and its consequences are changing everything. In the first three months of 2020, life changed for just about everybody on the planet. The word ‘unprecedented’ in media has by now been used an unprecedented number of times.

As you can read elsewhere in our magazine, in a way this is actually good news for able marketers. Getting people to try something new is easier when they’re forced to do things differently to begin with. Someone who’s firmly entrenched in a fixed habit is much less likely to listen to you than something who’s looking around confused, wondering what to do next. And that’s most of us these days.

Concretely, what does that mean? The most important thing to note is that the Covid situation pretty much reinforces some already existing trends. Digital has been on the rise for quite a while, driven by adoption by new generations of businesses and consumers, and – a bit slower – by existing generations who sooner or later can’t avoid being sucked in. Even your Auntie uses Facebook nowadays.

The sudden changes prompted by Covid, social distancing, and frantic curve flattening point in exactly the same direction. The new changes are the old changes, accelerated by an order of magnitude.

This goes for any form of digital behaviour, be it social media consumption, online media, online buying, e-meetings, tele-working, tele-medicine, tele-anything. Those who play into these changes quickest today will be the winners of tomorrow.

So ‘going digital much’ quicker than you were already doing is the mantra. But what exactly does this mean?

What it doesn’t mean is just translating everything you were already doing to a digital context. People who lead a big part of their lives online behave essentially differently from those who don’t. The intimacy of an individual screen right in front of you calls for a much more personal approach. And a much more relevant one, too.

That’s not an easy job. It requires a different attitude to customer data than the traditional target group approach. It requires different technology too, and a lot more of it. The stakes of this new game are higher than ever. The rewards of getting it right will be greater than before; but the same goes for the penalty of getting things wrong. If you’re broadcasting an ad to a group of people and it’s totally out of whack for quite a few of them, most will shrug and move on, hardly noticing the irrelevant message they just received. But if you’re addressing someone personally, that’s quite different. We all remember the instances when a marketer addressed us with the wrong name, gender, or with a product that had absolutely no bearing on our lives.

So the stakes are high. But in a rapidly changing world, so are the rewards. These may be challenging times, but they are interesting too.

 

Jos. Birken
Publisher, AdAsia Magazine.

 

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