Senior Manager Advertising
& Brand Experience
„Two dimensions will be crucial for future disruptive events: the ability to understand change and the agility to deal with change.“
Which digital channels have been most effective in reaching customers during social distancing?
"In general, we know that digital touchpoints “profited” more from COVID-19 than most non-digital or even live touchpoints. A simple but obvious reason: during the initial lockdown days, user behavior began to revolve around the consumer’s home as people had to remain there. Consequently, engagement with digital platforms like gaming, streaming or video went up. E-commerce and other touchpoints supporting our new remote reality did so too. Mobile touchpoints, in contrast, did not initially profit from the situation since people tended to stay at home. But again, this is a highly dynamic process. We are still learning."
With which approaches do you analyze and adapt brand & storytelling strategies to changing consumer behavior?
"Undoubtedly, Covid-19 has changed consumer behavior but it has not changed 100% of all consumer behaviors across all industries. For us as consultants, it is crucial to understand where things have drastically changed and where we can help make a change in real time. In other words: where can we provide a relevant, more human experience in these challenging days? One exemplary way among others, is to understand the changing data pre-COVID and during COVID to get a better understanding of how digital touchpoints will be used today. Take search data: since COVID we can see very specific new products and services trending in searches, while others seem to be less relevant. If you understand why – let’s say – a computer game, a type of insurance, or specific sports equipment has gone up in searches, we begin to understand what really drives consumers on a day-to-day basis. And this is where we can help marketers navigate in times of change."
Which role does data analytics play in adapting brand communications to customers and their specific context?
"Analytics play a key role these days. As every piece of brand communication will be tracked, measured and must deliver against KPI models, we have to respond to optimization requests. To be completely transparent, this has a lot to do with the digital requirements of the respective client and also with digital maturity. Some clients tend to go a rather traditional path, but we are increasingly seeing clients for whom every asset is going to be analyzed to check if it performs or drives conversion. And in 5 years, I assume we won’t have any campaigns that are not deeply rooted in analytics anymore."
What would you recommend for your clients to prepare their branding strategy for disruptions / sudden changes in consumer behavior?
"Nobody was prepared for a disruptive event of the magnitude of this pandemic. Possibly some medical experts were, but for most of us, COVID was a completely new thing to experience. So how can we prepare for something that we don’t know about beforehand? The answer is: we can’t. However, we can build processes that adapt and leverage disruption and learn from data. Disruptive events can be disasters like COVID or 9/11, but disruptive events can also be the rise of new technology, belief systems or sudden societal change. Whatever the actual event is, two dimensions will be crucial for this type of events – the ability to understand change and the agility to deal with change. "
Can you think of an example where a brand failed to use digital communication to engage with their customers? And what were the resulting key learnings?
"Obviously, there are many, many examples out there where change did not happen fast enough. VHS video chain Blockbuster for example. In the 1990s they were at the top of the media food chain with almost 6,000 stores in the U.S. The disruptive event: video streaming. In just a decade, Blockbuster Video shrank to just one store in Oregon. They are mainly selling nostalgia merchandise now. Using data to adapt quickly and to trigger bold decisions could have changed the course of history here. What can we learn from such a case? A brand that felt totally safe and secure in the mid 1990s shrunk to just one store 25 years later. There is no safety these days. Prepare to adapt constantly."