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Get Ready for the “Reprieve”: Rethink Your Marketing Now

As the country begins to go “off pause,” we’re about to enter what many experts call the “reprieve”: The time period before we resume life—and business—as usual. 

But marketing in this “new normal” will be anything but. Research shows that the overwhelming majority of Americans believe that life as we know it will never be the same. They’re probably right. And that means our marketing strategies (obviously) can’t be either.

It’s time to rethink everything you ever knew—and reevaluate everything you’ve ever done—to market your brand. Sounds a little scary, right? Well, if you’re not (at least) a little scared, you’re not paying attention. 

The best place to start is with the marketing basics of who, what, where, how and how smart. Ask yourself:

  • Who are you marketing to? How have they changed? Whether your targets are graduating high school seniors or high-net-worth financial clients in their 60s, no one is thinking or feeling the same as they did before COVID-19. And because all effective marketing begins with “who,” that means you may be starting from scratch on programs, strategies and media plans. Now more than ever, it’s important to understand customer sentiment and mindset. 
  • What does your brand stand for today? Is it still relevant to who your targets want—and need—you to be? If you haven’t been in touch with your constituencies consistently and often during the pandemic, you’re going to have some ground to make up in the coming year. The time to figure out that strategy is now. 
  • Where is your competition? What are they saying—and how are they faring? With everything from banking and healthcare to higher education taking their experiences online, consumers now have a larger consideration set in virtually every category so many of us are now facing slightly blurred market geographies and new, bigger competitors with deeper pockets.  
  • How are you connecting with your constituencies? When COVID-19 forced you to quickly shift messaging from being promotional to being authentic and “real,” how did you fare? What strengths and weaknesses did you uncover about your teams and processes that you can take with you going forward? How do you pivot given the changes in your targets, brand truth and competitive set to be more agile in your changing market dynamic? 
  • How smart is your media spend? The starting-from-scratch mindset may carry over to your media plans and budgets as well. There’s no question that the ROI of every dollar spent, and our ability to measure in real time, will be more important than ever. Moreover, historical assumptions we’ve used to make some of our basic decisions and models will be less relevant in the new marketplace.

“New normal,” “next normal” or “anything-but-normal”: Marketers and business in general are surely going to be facing a set of challenges unlike any of us has ever seen before. There is no “post-pandemic” set of marketing best practices lying around from the 1918 Spanish flu. We’re just going to have to use this “reprieve” to start coming up with our own.