Why marketing will never be the same after Covid-19

Some businesses have flourished during the crisis because of the way they communicate with their customers

FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a protective face mask amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) walks near an advertising poster in Kiev, Ukraine June 3, 2020. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich/File Photo

The Covid-19 crisis has brought many changes to our lives. Steps that some business leaders requested for years, such as incorporating a remote-work option to enhance employees’ work-life balance, took effect without a trial period.

Overnight, our strategies and business leadership were put to the test. Over the past few months, we have seen some  businesses become innovation pioneers while others have been exposed for their lack of a proper crisis management plan.

Content marketing is a way to humanise your brand and share useful information without advertising directly.

One area of business affected heavily by the crisis has been marketing. We've had a rise in requests for new digital strategies from our clients, that want changes rolled out quickly. Those who were once sceptical of digital marketing now want to take advantage of the increasing amount of time consumers are spending online.

While digital marketing is now the king of the industry, it’s also changing the sector's future landscape. Here's what marketers need to prepare for next:

More time online is here to stay

Global social media usage increased 21 per cent this year, according to data from Statista. This includes a 14 per cent rise in audiobook consumption and a 36 per cent increase in news consumption. People are spending more time online, and I don’t believe these figures will drop after the crisis. Users are realising the potential of video, online events, and working remotely, and some elements of our quarantine behaviour will be carried forward.

Content is the future

With more people tuned in online, marketers are resorting to digital solutions to reach their customers, advertising on social media channels and through social media influencers. We are also seeing more content marketing, with companies sharing relevant information and building trust with their consumers.

A pharmacy chain in Saudi Arabia adopted a new advertisement approach during Ramadan which focused entirely on content marketing. During one-minute television advertisements, they shared tips on how to wash your hands properly and protect yourself against Covid-19. They didn’t advertise a single product throughout the Holy Month.

Content marketing is a way to humanise your brand and share useful information without advertising directly. If you are managing a bank, your content marketing strategy could discuss tips on how to save more money, or how to start your dream business. Content is produced by adopting your target audience’s voice and tone. By sharing content that is relevant to your clients, you can keep them interested so that they also tune in when you have a new product or service to promote.

Seventy per cent of consumers prefer to get to know a brand through content rather than advertisements, a 2015 white paper from Northeast Ohio Media Group found. This type of marketing can also boost social traffic to your pages organically, as clients share the conversation on your behalf. Think about what your brand could bring to the table.

It’s not just about you

Consumers are intelligent and support brands that care about their employees and their communities. When the Covid-19 crisis first hit, several social media users urged others to boycott an online retailer that wasn’t providing protective gear to their staff at the production factory.

The pandemic has shed more light on working conditions, how companies take of their teams and the importance of supporting businesses that give back to the community. This conversation is likely to carry on, and with the ease of exchanging information online, consumers can quickly find out which companies support a larger cause.

Make sure your customers know about your culture, how you take care of your employees and how you do your part to sustain the environment or support the community. Now is the time to implement a corporate social responsibility strategy for the long term.

Hopefully, our working lives will return to a 'new normal' soon. In the meantime, however, how brands market themselves will take a more indirect and native approach with content at its core. Speak your customers’ language, be relevant and give back to the community.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi