The summer months we have just left behind will probably go into our collective memory as the "stay at home" summer. Sales of leisure boats, among other things, are said to have exploded, and along the coast there have at least been plenty of examples of clearly new captains where the pride in the new boat surpasses the knowledge of navigation and seaworthiness.
I recently thought about this in a conversation with a customer. They had invested several millions in a new profile, followed by a rebranding campaign, because their agency had said: «OK, this is the new you. But where will the brand live?”
Even the most blue-eyed first-time boys and girls from the summer of 2020 had probably thought in advance about where the boat should be moored when the summer holiday was over, or where it would spend the winter. After all, a boat can be a significant investment. The same goes for company profile and brand campaigns - you invest large sums in ensuring the quality of the logo, fine-tuning the tone-of-voice and polishing the use of images, but what good is it if no one outside of the marketing department understands and uses this correctly? How can one then expect all employees to also respect and contribute to a desired brand management practice?
Most companies are rarely challenged in such a way by their agency, and that's a shame. Many companies does not have the correct tools in place to be able to manage, take care of and make the most of the material they receive when they buy agency services. Simply put, they are a bit "old-fashioned", and it is no less common in large companies than in the small ones - perhaps on the contrary.
Often, key people do not even perceive that their routines are person-dependent, time-consuming, outdated and perhaps dangerously fallible. These are some red flags:
Do you use Excel files for project management, follow-up and campaign plans (perhaps placed on a file server so that several people can contribute)?
Is graphic material stored on a shared server - without metadata or the possibility of access control?
Does it happen that someone calls around looking for a specific file, and is told to "consult with Nina in HR, she can probably email it to you"?
Do you need an up-to-date overview of rights to photos, music, films or other graphic material?
Do you get market reports on Powerpoint or in pdf formats that you can not drill into when new questions arise?
We are already seeing examples of the pandemic acting as a wake-up call for marketing managers and directors: Many people feel that they need to do more, deliver better results, waste less time and manage with fewer resources. I recently spoke with the director of a hotel chain, who put it this way: “Before the coronavirus, we had a marketing department consisting of a dozen employees. Now four people have to do everything from the idea to launching the campaigns, in less time."
Demanding change processes
Change processes require that you change the way you work, and that you change the way you prioritize in your work. Where the classic marketing manager often spent a lot of time maintaining direct contact with the creative agencies, there is now often a greater focus on automation, on targeted, concrete KPIs, and on tools that can create continuity in the work in a way that provides transparency and efficiency in the organization.
In his book, "Atomic Habits", the author James Clear cites a British research report from 2009 which states that it takes an average of 66 days to change a habit. This is almost exactly as long as Norway, where the BrandMaster HQ is located, was in a more or less "lockdown" for the pandemic.
Regardless of how many offices or locations they had before, virtually all marketing departments had as many district offices overnight as they had team members. The challenges were not evenly distributed: Some companies had to stop all marketing work, and then their marketers may not have learned much. Others - as the initially mentioned the boat dealers - saw the market explode, and perhaps had enough with staying afloat. Still others seized the opportunity to perhaps turn the business model around a bit, acquire some tools and put in place systems that enables them to aim for opportunities.
It will be very interesting to look beyond the autumn and winter, while the summer's newly purchased boats spend time in winter storage, how many have used the time well. For those of us who work with marketing technology, we hope to see more people turn to existing tools to ensure that updated plans, files and campaigns are available to anyone who needs them. Who has invested in digitization, automation, efficiency and overview in their branding processes - in short; which companies have got their own house in order so that their brand has a safe place to live.
They can be dangerous in their respective markets in the future!
*This article was first posted in the norwegian platform Kampanje.