A South African Marketer’s Views On A Global Pandemic
Written by Mint Group Head of Brand, Sugeshni Subroyen
The rules of engagement that defined the last decade have been chucked out the window, ushering in a new way for marketeers to connect and engage with their audience.
Living through a global pandemic is historical in many ways and navigating these unchartered waters as a marketer makes me feel almost maverick. It is part of a marketeer’s DNA to see the silver lining in every crisis.
This approach really helped me to survive the last three challenging months in South Africa. As a marketing director for a group of companies scattered across the globe, I have learned many new lessons about positivity and marketing; some very expensive, others eye-opening and truly life-changing:
Timing is everything … until lockdown happens
In early March, we booked a few digital billboards in the Sandton CBD coupled with Google and LinkedIn ads as part of an AI-driven sales campaign.
This campaign was guaranteed to succeed as we could offer clients a drastically reduced rate for a competitive technology product therefore, blowing the competition out of the water and making it very hard for companies in need of this product to say no.
While this campaign was genius, it could not withstand Covid-19. With all ads booked to launch the same day that the President of South Africa ordered a national lockdown it was destined to fail as the Sandton CBD was a ghost town for the duration of the flighted billboards.
The lockdown also meant that the economy was spiralling downward, fast, causing businesses to hold on to whatever cash they had even when presented with the most amazing solution offer in the market. As a result, we needed to shift gear like most South African businesses and change our strategy to fit the new unknown times we operated in.
There is no magic bullet!
Not even Chuck Norris could render billboard marketing successful amid a national lockdown.
As such, we did not find some magic communication channel
that only reached business willing to make massive investments during a global economic crisis and grave uncertainty. Instead, we changed our approach from enabling through selling to empowering through industry leadership.
We increased our focus on thought leadership, made our training resources and digital enablement initiatives free during lockdown, and ensured even closer relationships with our clients to see how we can support them with initiatives, such as rolling out crisis communication apps for those with existing PowerApps licenses.
While our genius campaign was not successful, we continued to build our brand amid a time when the world turned upside down and turned businesses inside out, and we helped to support businesses and educational institutions around us during a time of crisis.
No more touch and go
Instead, it’s just go go go! I find my days filled with meetings from beginning to end. The beginning of lockdown was filled with solution and go-to-market initiatives to ensure all current assessments, consultations, solutions and products were 100% geared for online distribution and enablement.
The pressure was intense, but us marketeers are made of steel! There is no challenge we will not accept, no solution we will not help build and no limit on the number of webpages we can create! We all pulled together as a company and we did it. It was not touch and go. It was just go!
Speaking of touch, another aspect of lockdown that was hard to come to terms with, was the inability to have face-to-face conversations and interactions with clients and leads when needed. The in-personal aspect was a big loss, but we learned to gear our digital efforts to ensure we were connecting, engaging and establishing ongoing trust.
We are documenting history as we go
I read a fascinating piece about how pandemics threaten humanity every 100 years and by far Covid-19 has been the most documented pandemic in history. We have a wealth of information at our fingertips and as content producers, we have the ability to control and guide the narrative in a responsible way.
As South Africans, we create a meme for everything. I guess it’s how we cope with a global pandemic. But even more fascinating is the fact that we are documenting history through every meme, post, article and solution.
With no handbook available to help guide us through this global pandemic, we are writing the rule book as we go along.
Marketing is now the king, the queen and the pope
As Marketeers, we have always known that we are awesome, but this awesomeness has never shone brighter.
During lockdown an organisation’s online presence, channels and communication was its only way of existing, connecting and growing. As such, we experienced a significant reliance on us creatives to work much earlier in the process with our solutions teams to disrupt the market and craft solutions that speak to Covid-19 related problems.
Leading a creative team during these crazy times meant giving them full autonomy to get on with their projects in a way that makes sense to them. If a team member felt the need for a midmorning run with their sock-chewing puppies to re-energise and bring absolute genius back to the table then so be it. If a tiara and cape-clad four-year-old princess joined our catch-up calls and made us all laugh, enabling our brains to fire next-level creative ideas during our catch-up meeting, then great! Embrace it!
Leaving the rules from the previous decade means that we work according to our unique home environments and produce the same calibre of work as if we were all together in our fancy office park with the dramatic water feature. In fact, sometimes we get more done for less as we are better able to balance humanness with productivity.
Ultimately, our new situation is challenging and scary as we are operating both professionally and personally amid the unknown. But amid the uncertainty, the fear and the chaos, we choose to look at the glass half full and see that even amid a global pandemic we have managed to become even more human, humble, and connected, which means we are able to produce more awesomeness, faster!