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19 ways society and marketing have changed forever

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I know sexy title right?

This time in our lives will be remembered for many things. Amongst them are the ways in which our society has already changed, responded and hopefully in all circumstances will have prevailed. And in a very short space of time.

Following are things I have noticed about the current state of play and what will happen in the next few weeks and months:

  1. There is more of a social licence to pass judgement

The usual throng of social justice warriors in some circles have gone a bit quiet. The rage against casual insensitivities against any group seem have paled against the current crisis. They have also been silenced by the media barrage of every article, post and video referencing the current crisis. This has left a gap. A gap for those who would otherwise remain silent to pass judgment on others with impunity – citing the coronavirus as a convenient smoke screen. And largely, in personal and in public forums, I have seen this pass by people’s attention without so much as a disgruntled sniff. We should be careful as we tread lightly into our new world of ‘never-befores’ that we remain respectful and in fact, use our isolation, as a future reminder that our tolerance, understanding, compassion are stronger bonds in the progress our society than childish blame games, name calling or public shaming.

Of course there are people who should be pointed out as being bad examples of bad behaviour, but there are others whose situation is much more nuanced and challenging than appearances would suggest. And as we sit in our homes, we have time, finally, to reflect and conjure up what our new society should be. We have an amazing opportunity to create new rules and use a collective, common, public voice to change things for the better.

Basically, cut the shit, cut come some slack and think hard, now you have the time, about the future you want.

  1. People’s lives will change forever and there will be no ‘going back to normal’

We’re all islands shouting lies to each other across seas of misunderstanding.

Rudyard Kipling

It’s now, today, where you have a glorious opportunity to imagine a better future. The end of Fight Club, with the financial debt set to zero. The end of the Matrix, where they make a new society without being controlled by machines, are both reminders that our opportunity is now. The world will have to reset.

And rather than creating a new world based in fear, anger or hammering home the message of what should have been, we can rebuild. As societies have done so many times before, we can rebuild it in whatever way we want.

It’s our choice.

This is an unprecedented time. In the respects that a society has never had this kind of opportunity, with as many resources as we do now. Only if we see this opportunity as a point to launch massive campaigns to benefit pockets of society which were otherwise overlooked, neglected or treated unfairly. We can demand a government that is systemised by accountability, less agency, less reliant and thus pressured by financial institutions.

We can be more compassionate business people and decide to run our companies with values that we actually follow. That we can use different bottom lines and non-negotiables other than the pursuit of profit. Our marketing can be more transparent, our sales cycles can be shortened because we can sell things to people who actually want our products.

We can distribute wealth, resources, education fairly. We can demand it, we can action it. And this is not sentimental, leftist clap trap, it’s seems as though it’s a necessity for change and long lasting prosperity in response to consumer and citizen demand.

So with that in mind, wouldn’t it be a shame if we went ‘back to normal’?

  1. The algorithms have changed and will change more dramatically.

This one is easy. The algorithms have to change. In terms of Search, Social and machine learning. They only respond to our online behaviour and whilst this time will be an anomaly, the way in which we consume, communicate and transact will continue to develop in new ways. The response, much like our response to the outbreak, has to mirror the dramatic change we have gone through. Companies who don’t reflect these changes will be left behind for the one’s that do.

  1. If brands are not talking about COVID-19 they will be left behind

Simple, Google has determined that attention is closely linked to relevancy and intent. The closer your offer or content is to what someone is thinking or what they want, gives you competitive advantage. If your content for the next 6 months, does not reference people’s struggles during this time, how you can help or how you can distract and entertain then people will switch off.

  1. There is a job shortage in marketing, and it will get worse

For every job listing in marketing, there are, on average, 350 applicants at Manager level and above and over 370 at graduate level and above.

Having analysed the major jobs sites there are roughly 165, 770 open marketing positions. According to statista.com there are over 979,000 people who are marketing professionals, either in a job or not. So if we apply the current rate of unemployment at 3.8%, which will undoubtedly increase, and add in a further wiggle room for people who are moving jobs, there are far too many candidates for the amount of jobs.

This has been a growing problem in marketing for the last few years. Employers expect to get more for their money and there is always someone who will do it cheaper, faster, better (maybe not better, but certainly cheaper and faster.) This has not only left a skills gap, but a distrust in results vs pay. Freelancers budgets are squeezed in particular and it’s only the bold and brave who are able to command proportional cash for their effort.

With the current climate as a backdrop, I don’t know the solution is for the industry as I am sure more than just marketers have been affected. My suggestion though, for any marketer is to expand your network, get your face and ideas online, publish often and create a body of work that is not just your CV.

  1. Agencies are scared for their livelihood

I have been on more than 17 agency/freelancer slack, facebook and linkedIn groups. The general concencus, is either fear or pivot. And pivot fast. Everyone in these groups have been very helpful, willing, if not clambering for attention (me miss I know the answer!). But as I am sure the landscape will change for all industries, agencies and clients will need new ground rules on engagement, fees, tenders, pitches and communications.

  1. Content marketing will get harder and the internet got noisier

In scary times people want reliability. The threshold for gaining consumer trust just went up. People need to have more guarantees that their time or money will not be wasted.

Content, then, will take on new meanings, and in order to survive, you will have to niche down. And niche down hard. Targeting, audience, segmentation, technical SEO, distribution to smaller groups will be where the opportunities are. Even just starting with 1 person, will maybe where some brands and content producers will have to start again.

More than this, now everyone, including me, are giving their stuff away for free, how do you gain attention or traction in a noisier environment? Check out my article on this. Which is why you should using more personal connection tactics. Make messages come from people rather than brands, use email, text and even, dare I say it, call people!

And now is the best time to plot your customer journeys and write and produce content that is mapped to their pain points and demonstrate how you can support them during this time.

  1. There has never been a better time to practice more ethical marketing practices

I have been a big advocate of achieving higher standards in how we market to people responsibly. And treat people’s attention as a privilege earned, rather than a right. It’s less about stats and revenue to markup on your analytics dashboard but more about connections. It’s about fighting for your customers’ beliefs, being kind, doing the right thing, in spite of costs or profits, and realising that this will be a big way of how consumers assess a brands validity in the market. ROI, can be more than just ‘revenue ÷ cost of effort + cost of goods.

I have even written a manifesto to this effect.

The world of never-befores or as Charles Handy called it, The Age of Unreason, models of marketing built on big traffic, clicks, conversions and retention will have to change. It might be more of a reverse funnel. Giving rise to usefulness first, building proven trust, then asking for money upfront, at a smaller price point, then reaching wider audiences with a more mass market offer.

And if you can prove all of this, then all the better.

With that mind brands will need to respond on an individual level, using technologies available, to drive understanding and empathy first then logic and the sale second. The heart then the mind.

Moreover a disclosure to spending habits and endorsement, differentiating between paid content and organic, tracking, how data has been obtained and generally conveying a better sense of decency will give you a leading edge as a marketer and brand.

  1. Marketing will need to be more transparent

Growth and scale of companies will shift to more segmented offers and transactions helping people on an individual level rather than on a group identity level. The consumer persona won’t be based on big macro demographics, but rather based on emotions and needs.

And as grand manipulators of the human conditions, marketers need to show their work. Let me know, as a consumer, why I might be buying and what I am buying. Any chance you are obscuring or not showing truth, then I am not buying. Even more so in an economic downturn.

Brands will not be able to ‘carry on’ they will need to be having serious trousers on, zoom calls, right now to demonstrate that they understand, they can help and they can guide their customer base to something better.

  1. SEO and Automation may be the only way to save your business

It’s clear. Search should be a large component of your business and if you don’t have the fundamentals sorted, then now is the time. You should update all your meta data, your google my business, your search profile and the health of your backlinks. The algorithms have already been updated and will have new criteria based on relevancy, yes, but also helpfulness. So you may find that you will be out optimised by a lesser brand, because you tried to maintain the current status of your Page Rank and content.

Automation will also be the first thing that can save you money. You will be able reduce process load, overheads, buy yourself some time to think and drive sales. You’ll also be able to automate your sales process. Think what is repetitive and manual and think of a way you can either get rid of it or a way you can automate it. More often than not, you can solve this through tools such as, Zapierautomate.io and braze. It does not have to cost the earth and whilst you may be quiet, there is no better time.

  1. When travel restrictions are lifted, business may not be able to keep up with demand

If you are thinking, ‘when this over, that’s it, I am booking a holiday!’ you can guarantee 15 million other people will be thinking the same thing. It will be tough. A boom for some, for others, smaller operators, will be left behind, when bigger operators will be creating offers left right and centre. And for those who have have been able to remain in business there will be plenty of opportunity.

Conversely, companies who stay afloat, offer a good service and have maintained contact with their customers, may well not be able to keep up with demand. People who won’t be able afford to go abroad, will look to holiday in their own country. Will small hotels, resorts, beaches and parks, be able to keep up? Will they be overrun? I think so.

  1. This will go on for longer than we thought, and it could get worse before it get’s better. 

I aim to be an optimist in most situations. But if this continues at the rate that it is, and continues to create financial fallout in its wake, then there will be untold difficulties that lie ahead. Yes there will be fantastic opportunities for those willing to try or those who are lucky, but many people’s lives will be upended. I have already lost 5 out of 7 of my clients!

Judging from how this disease and economy breakdown have spread, east to west, on a conservative estimate things should be looking better by June, in the UK. However, across the world it looks much worse. And whilst there is this disparity of people unaffected and people in the brink of despair, there will be so much repair and reclamation needed before communities can rebuild.

Being that optimist, I hope I am wrong and the virus, miraculously, when least expect it, will simply disappear.

  1. If you could not think for yourself to solve problems and relied heavily on the internet on how to do anything, after this we will become even more reliant on the internet. 

There are billions of searches per second. Most of them now are related to the current crisis. But one thing remains consistent, that ‘how’ is the most used word in searches. Our culture of immediate results has now expanded. We are physically immersed and inseparable from our content and screens, so the transition to a stay-at-home life, is not an immediate shock, but rather a slow decent into total internet reliance.

With a restriction to social interaction, which is massively important for brain development, we compensate by replacing what we can touch, interpret and interact with, i.e other people and places, with a screen. The screen takes something from you. Independent thought. Why think, to know how to do something, when you can search for it? Right? Why wouldn’t you? I do it myself. But if we could spend 30 minutes a day interacting with something other than our screen to solve a problem, then we will be far better off when this thing is over.

  1. Isolation does not mean we need to be isolated. 

Yes we are isolated. But we are not alone. And no-one should go through this without the support and help from their community. And as long as you moderate, in all aspects of your new life, why not meet new people? Why not get involved in new groups or re-connect with groups you have not seen in a while. It’s not as if you can say you are busy or you are going out.

And I entirely acknowledge that for some, this is a big challenge. Speak to people who you can trust, speak to people who are helpful and uplift you. But the overall message is to SPEAK!

  1. There already is and will continue to be a creative boom

I am on Dribble and Behance, the social and portfolio sites for creatives, and ‘people be busy’. It’s almost a wash with new projects, new ideas and creativity at a rate I have never seen.

It’s amazing, but also during any crisis or when we feel lost, we need to make sense of this. Just using me as an example, I have written over 10,000 words for work, written 4 poems, and created 3 videos. And I am working less hours, because I also looking after my kids. I am not saying this brag, but to show that I too am scared and need to make sense of this. I usually try and express myself by being creatively active.

There so many amazing creators out there already. And maybe some of the best have been waiting for this opportunity to hone their masterpieces. If given the time and space for thoughts to blossom into something spectacular.

  1. We need artists, musicians, actors, dancers, writers, comedians, DJs, designers, marketers, to express and channel our rage, anguish and fears into creations that let creativity and expression help us overcome and inspire. 

And further to the point above. A creative call to arms, has risen. If these groups could channel their collective might into messages of positivity, resilience to galvanise the populous, then this crisis will be so much more tolerable.

Creative people! Charge!

  1. There are some major opportunities for people with these business and skills: Online courses, cost effective coaches, digital marketers, cyber security professionals, financially savvy business development professionals, creatives, automation specialists, alternative non-VC investors. 
  2. Trends, stats, corporate reports are now meaningless and a bit pointless, unless they are health related or help people. 

Don’t send out industry reports. Just don’t. We are inundated by stats every day and don’t need some meaningless trend analysis. We need help. We need helpful tools, that will make us respond, quicker, act faster and be able to get us through this period. If a stat is helpful, sure, use it, but industry reports are a waste of time if they are not helpful and generally prove what people already know. And any stat that tries to incapsulate this time will have no bearing on the world in a few months’ time.

Be helpful, be present, give away your secrets, help those who need it the most, love first, judge last, build up, bear witness, cry, laugh, do ‘virtually’ anything you want and most importantly:

I love you.

Stay safe.

Andrew

Image credits – Open Peeps by Pablo Stanley.

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