Open sourcing information and other new marketing ‘themes’

As restrictions ease and businesses shift out of panic mode, it is a good time to reflect on the key learnings from this period. Through open sourcing information and shared industry learnings, Toby Dewar discovers common marketing themes that are emerging, from creating local content to shifting strategies out of stadiums and into intimate moments.

One of the key learnings we can take away from the COVID-19 crisis is a greater willingness among brands and categories to openly share learnings or to join together to respond to needs of the community and customers. The ACCC even relaxed consumer law rules to allow major supermarkets, including Coles and Woolworths, to coordinate with each other “when working with manufacturers, suppliers, and transport and logistics providers”.

This theme of open sourcing information, and sharing insights or advice has been a wonderful positive to come out of this period. Although it has brought great pain and uncertainty to many, some sense of positivity is now coming through in marketing. From taking fewer pot shots against trade releases, to making time to share observations, checking in with long lost colleagues and simply asking whether people need help.

Challenging times are often an interesting time to be in marketing. Recent client conversations have raised several themes that I feel compelled to share.

Brand distancing… being more local

In a recent conversation with a global FMCG brand, they expressed the current challenge of managing the direction from their global head office – in other words, have the normal conventions of rolling out global strategies and creative become completely redundant? In their case, the distinction and speed of how Australia is transitioning back to ‘normal’ is at odds with what is happening in the majority of other markets, particularly the head office in Europe.

This becomes even more extreme when you consider the differences in phases between Australian states at the moment. Making the case for more bespoke local creative or simply to restart investment in marketing is a real challenge, but a huge opportunity for local marketers. I think this opens up significant opportunities for media agencies and media owners to be more proactive, show greater flex and create local content. From experience, this can also equate to speed and efficiency, and it needs to be a key focus of growth as the market slowly starts to correct in H2.

Sport is back… but in smaller tribes

There is a lot of hype about the return of sport with AFL resuming this week. There is an underlying sense that will be one step towards normality. Live sport is a fundamental part of our lives and a proven builder of brands. Sports is viewed live the majority of the time, compared to other programming, making it a highly captive and engaged audience. Viewability and attention both soar during a live sports event.

But the makeup post-COVID will be different, with the epic moments at stadiums replaced by intimate moments at home. In a recent catch up with a supermarket CMO, they called out the need to think differently in how they go back into live sport. For them it is the role that they play in the more intimate moments at home and how they can add to the atmosphere in millions of ‘mini stadiums’ or ‘tribes’ right across the country. They believe now is not the time to just rely on the scale of the codes or the enormity of the impact it will have, but instead to carry forward more intimate, smaller moments that people will have.

Not sure? Just ask your dog

One of the outcomes from this period that I have discussed with marketers is this sense of being consumers again, and how this can help solve problems or unlock creativity. In a conversation with a Pet Food CMO, they spoke about the positive influence of dogs in recent months and their incredible ability to distract, comfort and accompany you across the day. In many respects dogs have become the ideal work colleague: completely loyal, supportive of your ideas, by your side and they never hog the microwave.

The mental health benefits of owning pets has long been recognised, but their ability to get you up from the couch and out for a walk is a hugely powerful part of being a marketer. In a pre-COVID world the luxury of going out and observing was a rare experience, but if we channel our dogs and commit to getting out and really seeing and smelling the trees, we can carry forward this greater awareness of how consumers are feeling and thinking and apply this to our brands.

Ultimately, it’s about being human and making meaningful, sincere connections with other humans – whether they’re colleagues, clients or consumers. That should always have been the ‘normal’ in marketing and advertising and in business generally. It may have taken a crisis like the current pandemic to give us that dose of reality and bring us back to compassion, empathy and a sense of community.

Toby Dewar is director of customer engagement of Foxtel Media, and has over 20 years of media and marketing experience at organisations such as Westpac, Telstra and McDonald’s.

Photo by Annika Gordon on Unsplash.