The spread of COVID-19 in recent weeks is impacting brands in significant ways around the world, challenging both strategies and workstreams across all industries. Frequent cancellations of events one by one served as an initial barometer of the virus’ impact; not just affecting big-name festivals that attract crowds large enough that local economies depend on them, but also smaller activations. The situation begged brands to consider: how can they retain a close connection to key audiences in a time of social distancing?
While the West faces a need to quickly adapt to a new normal prompted by COVID-19, we’re a global creative partner that has serviced clients and areas hit by the virus since its onset in late 2019. Pooling together insights and experiences from teams across the S4Capital family, we’ve put together a report, titled “(Re)Activate Customer Obsession,” that recognizes this moment of upheaval as a profound opportunity for brands to reinvent their strategies and continually reach audiences spread far and wide—perhaps even better than before.
(Re)Define Goals for Customer Obsession
The need for creatively differentiated digital experiences isn’t new; consumer engagement has long migrated toward digital since the rise of ecommerce and social media, with consumers flocking to the convenience and connection enabled by always-on communication and digital personalization.
When unable to shortcut to experience through physical proximity, we deliver on the original intent of digital.
But for brands that have hesitated to enable these experiences, the trend to social distancing is a wakeup call. “As we come to grips with a world where we can’t shortcut to experience through physical engagement and personal proximity, the challenge is to deliver on the original intent of digital,” says MediaMonks founder Wesley ter Haar. “Interactive, tactile and personalized moments of magic that create conversation, conversion and commercial opportunities.”
To deliver such experiences, brands must invest in customer obsession. Namely, this means meeting audiences where they are—online—and tailoring resources to better prioritize their needs and enhance the customer experience. For many brands, in-person experiences are critical to cultivating a relationship, building a sense of community and driving emotional connections.
On our blog in the past, we’ve discussed the value of such activations—and the need for a digital layer to connect with audiences faraway. If your brand already has an event plan in place, take this as a moment to consider its goals and how that ladders up into your brand purpose. Our report offers a series of thought-provoking questions to help brands zero in on a digital strategy that aligns with their specific needs.
(Re)Group and Replan
Whether you seek to retain value by pivoting existing plans or are simply struggling to anticipate “what’s next,” our report to reactivating customer obsession offers practical advice on how you can begin to reevaluate and prioritize your goals—and where they fit within digital activations. This is essential not only for brainstorming what new experiences your brand can provide, but makes a critical first step in evolving your operations with the digital skillsets and capabilities needed to deliver them.
Having to face an event’s cancellation is tough, because so much work and preparation had already gone into it. Recognizing this, a move to digital can feel daunting—and you’ll certainly find that strategies must shift, and that what worked for a physical experience may not translate well to a live, digital one. But as we’ve mentioned above, view this unfortunate circumstance as an opportunity to make something even better: a deeper investment in digital, for example, allows brands to build up their data capabilities to better understand which experiences are most impactful, and when.
“One of the things we do is in the data: in social listening and finding the right trigger areas in regions where things are happening,” says Aaron Nava, Director of Digital at Circus, which merged with MediaMonks earlier this year. “From there, we’re able to develop a point of view for brands.” Through increased digital maturity, brands have a greater perspective on how to achieve more meaningful, lasting interaction at different points in the customer decision journey, and become more customer obsessed in the process.
Social listening and finding the right trigger areas lets us develop a point of view for brands.
Having a clear sense of purpose is key, too. In-person experiences thrive on inspiring an emotional connection through bringing people together and appealing to the senses, and brands must think carefully about how to inject emotion into digital alternatives.
“Brands shouldn’t aim to think about virtual conferences as replacement of what they had previously scheduled. It’s impossible,” says Kate Richling, CMO at MediaMonks. Still, she notes that you can offer some pretty cool (and in many ways, better) activations that are designed to assist your audience and enrich relationships authentically. Drawing from several example digital activations and scenarios, our report walks readers through what to consider in developing such experiences.
(Re)Imagine What’s Possible
Faced with an immense shift in how they must communicate with consumers over the next few months (and how to pivot back to normal, whatever form that might take), we all stand at a critical moment to reassess strategies. But constraint is beneficial to creativity, and we look forward to tackling more unique brand activations that fundamentally redefine consumer relationships. By taking this moment as an opportunity to hone your digital skills and reimagine what’s possible, your brand will be well-equipped to anticipate consumers’ emerging needs both in the near and distant future.
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