Social distancing has radically transformed the way we live and work, forcing teams to collaborate with one another remotely and requiring brands engage with digital audiences in new ways. Despite this unprecedented moment of change, one thing remains constant: customers’ desire for connection, entertainment and content. How can in-house agencies keep up?
Meeting these needs will test the strategies and models driving brands’ in-house agencies. While IHA’s are known for their proximity to the client, cost efficiencies and speed of delivery, they must adapt in navigating the “new normal” we’ve all found ourselves in. Below offers some tips on where to focus your efforts in continuing to meet your audience’s needs without sacrificing quality and efficiency.
Double Down on Customer Obsession
Brand experiences thrive on inspiring an emotional connection by bringing people together and meeting customers’ needs where and when it matters most. With this, in-house agencies have a big advantage: they know the brand better than anyone else, often serving as a conduit between decision-makers and consumers. By aligning an understanding of customers’ needs and the brand’s purpose, in-house agencies are ideally positioned to recognize the new needs of their audience and enhance the customer experience.
“The first thing that brands are faced with is to go back and look at their brand purpose,” says Warren Chase, Chief Operating Officer of Firewood Marketing, which merged with MediaMonks late last year. “How are they anchored in that purpose and keeping their customers interested and engaged?”
At this time, having a clear dedication to purpose means recognizing how customers have been impacted by COVID-19—whether it’s a need for entertainment, managing stressors in their lives, a drive for connection or something else. “How can brands empathize with customers?” asks Chase. “Just be honest, transparent and open. Once you have that openness and transparency, people understand.” And that sentiment isn’t limited to customers alone; Chase mentioned how Uber, just as COVID-19 began spreading significantly in the United States, notified users of proactive steps the brand was taking to protect their drivers.
How are brands anchored in purpose, keeping their customers interested and engaged?
Next, consider how well set-up your in-house team is at acting fast in response to shifting customer needs. The mass push to staying at home might be only the first big change we see this year; as consumers come together through new ways of interacting and engaging, brands and their internal agencies must keep on their toes to realize opportunities for connection.
“All brands operate differently and say they involve the agency at different stages—some further upstream, some further down. When you’re in house, there’s proximity to leadership, to insights and data, and to decision-makers,” says Chase. “You get alignment super-fast when new needs or opportunities arise.”
Working From Home Doesn’t Sacrifice Quality
Having a brand strategy and to recognize opportunity is one thing, but how do you continue producing content when your in-house team is literally working at their houses? Production at home is still doable; even if mobility and personnel are seriously limited, you can still strategize around offering impactful content with just a single room, a single actor and a smart media plan.
This is an excellent opportunity for your team to heighten its creative efficiency through a fit-for-format approach to producing content. One of the simplest ways to do so is by refreshing or optimizing existing content in a way that quickly results in relevant assets at scale. We’ve taken a similar approach in transforming a handful of existing assets into a social awareness campaign that grew more effective week after week, using performance metrics to continually optimize and drill deeper into audience segments.
Tabletop assets are especially easy for producing at home.
This same method could be incredibly useful for brands who must reassess a content strategy, optimizing it to better reach consumers at home via digital channels. When high-quality stock video is added to the mix, you can keep your creative content current by translating the brand narrative to different contexts with the footage available. And through fast, scalable digital animation techniques, you can continue producing fresh, new content without missing a beat.
Proactively Build Digital Maturity
While digital transformation has been slow and incremental over several years, brands have only begun to recognize the imperative to elevate the need for creative, differentiated digital experiences due to COVID-19’s rapid spread around the world. But for in-house teams lacking the digital maturity and skillset required to make such a rapid change, brands can fill in capabilities gaps through partnerships.
Marketing Dive notes that filling these skill gaps can be challenging amidst hiring freezes and cost-cutting in response to the pandemic. “My belief is that marketers and companies will not look to take on full-time employees in lieu of [third-party services providers] during the downturn, the reason being that there is a tremendous amount of costs with doing so,” Forrester Principal Analyst Jay Pattisall told the publication. “Companies will likely want to outsource those to the extent that they can, because in the long-run, that’s a more cost-effective way to deal with it than making significant investments in employee infrastructure.”
This is the time for brands to act boldly, with a need to reach customers like never before. Whether adapting production efficiencies or finding new ways to reach customers within a shifting digital landscape, there are many options available for in-house agencies to better respond to audience needs through customer obsession. Thankfully, in-house agencies are well-equipped to adapt, and despite these rapid changes one thing should remain: a dedication to solving consumers’ needs through creative expertise, a clear sense of purpose and unparalleled brand knowledge.
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