May 6, 2020

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DMI Podcast 6: Coping with Covid-19

Our podcast series - Ahead of the Game - continues from strength to strength. Every second Friday, we launch a new episode, each with a unique - and always fascinating - discussion on all types of aspects of digital marketing.

This latest episode tooks a close look at how brands are, and are not, dealing with the Covid-19 crisis and a discussion around lots of ideas to consider on managing now and into the future. 

Regular host Will Francis talks with Jørgen Helland of Norwegian marketing agency Los & Co, providing an interesting perspective from Scandinavia and lessons that apply to anyone.

You can find all our podcasts (and share them) on our public site as well as on all major podcast platforms. Just search for Ahead of the Game, DMI.

Listen to the podcast below. The full transcript is also below or you can download a PDF of it.

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How are Brands Coping with Covid-19 - Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Will: [00:00:00] Welcome to "Ahead of The Game," a podcast brought to you by the Digital Marketing Institute. This episode is a big Q&A, where we explore an area of marketing through a leading industry expert. I'm your host Will Francis, and today I'll be talking to Jørgen Helland. After a career spanning 15 years in digital marketing, he's now a brand strategy advisor for Los & Co and also a based marketing agency that just won Agency of the Year in Norway for its innovative creative, smart strategy work.

Jørgen works with a variety of consumer brands, all of whom are asking him what the future of their brand and communications look like amidst the Coronavirus crisis. We're talking on April the 29th, 2020 and facing an uncertain future. Jørgen knows how to architect brand strategy as well as anyone in the industry. So I'm keen to hear what he's telling his clients and how he's advising in the tactical short term versus the strategic long term. Jørgen, welcome to the podcast.

Jørgen: Thank you, [00:01:00] Will.

Will: How are you doing?

Jørgen: I am doing good, very good.

Will: Tell me, where are you joining us from?

Jørgen: I'm currently in my home office in Asker, outside of Oslo.

Will: So in terms of your work, current situation aside, for a moment... just explain to me in the simplest terms what you do as a brand strategy advisor.

Jørgen: I usually say that I help turning business strategy into brands and then turning brands into design marketing, communications, products, cultural activities internally, etc., but normally, I just say that I do brand strategy, and that usually makes people stop talking.

Will: What do you tell older members of your family when you go home at Christmas?

Jørgen: I think I normally just try to link it up to something they've seen on TV or like commercials or anything like that. And then we can sort of take it from there and...

Will: Think of the best ad you've seen [00:02:00] on TV, that's me.

Jørgen: ...yeah. or, I can tell...we can talk about how do you feel about the local shopping center doing this type of advertising in this time and age or if it's relevant to them or things like that.

Will: And how do you think the brand landscape in Norway differs from that in places like the UK and Ireland, in Europe and in America?

Jørgen: Well, it's difficult to assess, not living in a society what kind of brand landscape you're in, but compared to global brands, if you’re thinking about the digital brands that we all use or Facebook, Netflix, etc., or mega-brands like Nike, Disney, etc. Here, in Norway, Norwegian brands tend to have a bit more down to earth type of approach. It always seems a bit smaller and the value proposition always seems a bit less all-encompassing. [00:03:00] They also have a tendency of trying to be very concrete, the Norwegian brands, so there doesn't always seem to be a lot of fluff. We can be a bit more direct with the population.

Will: That sounds very Nordic, certainly.

Jørgen: It is.

Will: So what is the main concern that you're hearing from your clients right now?

Jørgen: Some of them are very concerned with how their marketing is suited or not for the current situation. They are looking into how to adapt their messaging, for instance, or to understand how the reality is changing from a consumer perspective. There are a lot of concerns about media budgets and media spends naturally. They have concerns whether or not to go ahead with planned events or adapting planned events.

Will: And are budgets being cut across the board or, you know, what's happening to those?

Jørgen: [00:04:00] Yeah, I mean, some of them...most events used to be offline, there used to be people gathering, there used to be somewhere, and now they need to either adapt them onto online areas, or they need to cancel. And then obviously, they have also planned for achieving some results out of these planned activities, so they need to start planning for not having the results of these activities.

Will: Okay, so do you see some new rules emerging for how to adapt brand messaging? Because that's got to change in the current climate, we can't just put out the same campaigns. You know, have you had to change campaigns that were about to go out?

Jørgen: I think that there's a lot of campaigns that have been stopped, basically: the advertiser thinking, we can't show this, it doesn't feel sensitive, it doesn't deliver message in a context that we can sort of, be a part of. And so, I think a lot of [00:05:00] brands just flat out, just stopped it and assess to see what we're going to do and then move on.

Will: I suppose those brands are waiting to see what other brands do, there's definitely a sense that, that's happening, that people are kind of...some brands have sat tight, waited to see what these new rules are that have emerged so that they can then go and safely play by them.

Jørgen: Yeah, I think there's a lot of people looking-at-the-neighbor type of approach in this situation. Somebody has taken the lead and done something and then soon, a lot of them...a lot of the others have followed suit. Sometimes, brands and advertisers and marketing are not as innovative as you think they might be.

Will: Absolutely. I mean, of course, we're risk-averse in marketing to a point. It's supposed to be the most creative industry but at the same time, it's incredibly risk-averse, because, you know, we've seen what happens when you get called out for being insensitive or inappropriate in a single social post, for instance.

Jørgen: Yeah, I think that risk [00:06:00] is...sometimes is completely appropriate in the sense that it can lead to damaging results for the company. But in many cases, us marketers are sitting there talking about things that are important to us. And in social media, also believing that something is a very big deal, and you see absolutely no effect on sales numbers or brand exposure, or share of voice or anything like that.

Will: So I've been enjoying your Facebook group (Koronavett, or Corona-Watch), which I know exists on LinkedIn as well. And it shows how brands are dealing with the current crisis in Scandinavia, but also beyond. Just give me an overview, what's happening out there, who's doing it well, who's not doing it so well? What are you seeing as some really effective approaches? And what are you seeing as some, maybe less, or even badly handled, approaches?

Jørgen: Well, to start off with the latter part, I think that what is most effective [00:07:00] in this, situation is probably what is most effective always, which means being relevant and being sensitive and deliver a message that's in alignment with the strategy of the company. So you need to deliver value through the product and your services and the advertising needs to lead you into that with the right set of expectations. So the advertising that seems to be well working are the ones that seem to match the people's expectations of that product or service, or in essence, what the brand usually promised you that it would do.

So as an example, the ad for Guinness, where they were very early on into the crisis of celebrating how to be together and then not be together seems to be like a very fitting way of explaining what the brand was about into this new context, even though there was always the danger of seeming to promote that people would be sitting at home drinking [00:08:00] which, you know, is not the impression that you have after seeing the ads. So I feel like they balanced it out very well in that ad.

Will: Yeah, I mean, to me, there seem to be a few key types of brand response coming out here. There's like...I'd say there's maybe six or seven. There's entertainment, so free content, lighthearted, you know, stuff to do with the kids or puzzles, or you know, like Lego’s build of the day type stuff. And there's educational stuff. There's people doing free courses, live sessions of some description that show you how to do things. So you know, in the UK, we've got Pret a Manger showing you how to make their signature dishes. There's a lot of celebration of working from home culture for the kind of, you know, corporate crowd and people like us, I suppose.

There's virtual meetups and events, so BrewDog did a virtual pub, and cook alongs, festivals. Then there's just like the [00:09:00] helping out. So there's...fragrance brands and alcohol brands have started producing hand sanitizer. Brands have had to shift to show what they can do to be part of the solution. And you're right, it's almost as if brands have had to become even more themselves and show their true colors even more. But that's what we should always be doing is just showing who we are, what we stand for, what our values are, and how, you know, in a crowded digital world, we can be of value to people. But I suppose, you know, what are you telling people to do? That's quite a big thought, what are you telling people to do in the short term, today?

Jørgen: I think that... Well, there are a few, like, if you're meeting with or talking to marketing people or an organization that are knee-deep into day to day operations of just salvaging their business, I think the number one thing we're telling them to do is to save your business, do that first.

Will: Is that okay to do that? [00:10:00] I mean, do you think there's...I feel that it's a really fine line. I think some small businesses are saying, look, please book a...you know, buy a voucher to use later. Whereas, the big brands...it's a fine line between being part of the solution, but also saying, keep us in business.

Jørgen: I'm not referring to communicating this message of saying “buy our products to save our business”. I'm telling the people that I'm talking to, is that maybe your advertising is not the most important thing right now. Maybe the most important thing is to make sure that the wheels are turning internally in your business. And that means maybe you should do tasks that are not necessarily directly related to what you normally do. There's no point in marketing products if you can't sell them, for instance. So that's number one advice, just be a part of the team and do what you can to stay afloat.

Number two is obviously those basic things: go through all of your campaigns, see everything...all of your [00:11:00] messages. Go and check up on seeing...make an assessment at least (to see) if you're, you know, inside of what you believe is right for the situation and what is not. Watch the competition but more importantly, try to stay very close to your customers. Try to understand how they feel.

And I think that what we're seeing now is, as exampled by your list of six or seven things that there are different ways of doing it, is proving that we're always falling into the trap of thinking that everyone is still the same, just because now we have some sort of common grounds, that we're all stuck at home, doesn't mean that we're all the same people all of a sudden.

So it's a very simplified way of looking at the world and you would normally never do that, from a marketing perspective. You would try to be much more nuanced and much more direct to your customers, not everybody else. It would be much more into their needs in this time, rather than just, [00:12:00] like, everybody's stuck at home and we all need to fill our fridge.

So I think that the...your list is quite like...these are the ways that you can do it. These need to be looked at as tools for communicating your brand message rather than being the brand message.

And I wanted to mention one other factor that is... A lot of brands have fallen into the, "We do charity, and we use marketing and communication to show that we're supporting somebody else that's doing things to improve the situation."

And it just feels a bit like, why aren't they doing anything themselves to do this kind of thing? So in America and some places we've seen insurance agencies slashing their prices on car insurance [00:13:00] well knowing that people will hardly drive, that's a perfect act that's completely aligned with probably their promise of being close to their customers. And it costs them, it costs them money to do this. But it's an actual act, it's not just communicating, "We're here for you" and not doing anything on the other side.

Will: Yes. I feel we are approaching, or probably I think we've passed the point of "we're here for you" fatigue. Because I think I've definitely lost count of the amount of emails from brands that I'd forgotten I was even subscribed to, you know, saying that they're here for me, and that is nice. I mean, absolutely, it's great that they're doing that and it's great that they feel that they are reaching out on a more human level for once and I think, you know, that's great.

But they've started to all kind of fade into one and not really say much. And apart from the really standout ones that are very memorable, someone [00:14:00] like BrewDog making hand sanitizer or something like that, that kind of, you know, you remember. Just generally being there for you at this time with some vague words about how we're doing our best to protect you and our staff and our companies, it doesn't say anything. But, like you say, those are the sort of brands that would have...were struggling anyway with having anything memorable to say perhaps, and the same rules apply now.

Jørgen: I agree. And the problem with it, I would argue, is that there are more important messages coming from the government. There are more important issues regarding your own economic and financial situation, if you have a job and your health situation, all of that, than what, you know, 95% of these brands have to bring to the table. It's basically just noise, when you need focus. So I think that [00:15:00] a lot of brands should be much more sensitive to the whole complex of the situation rather than thinking about their one to one relation to their customers.

And I think that a lot of this is coming from how a lot of marketing organizations are rigged, where, you know you've planned for a large set of emails going out, segmented, and with messages and all of this kind of thing. And then suddenly you realize, that's probably not going to work or we're just going to waste a lot of time and effort on pushing these emails out so let's find something else.

And then, we're here for you, because we've been taught to believe that we're in sort of, like, a mutually exclusive relationship together. And you ought to know that I'm here for you. While really customers are not, they will...they just evaluate the value you give to them at every touchpoint you give.

Will: That's a really good point, actually. Yeah, maybe I should start replying to those emails saying, "That's great, but I'm not here for you. I've stopped using you."

Jørgen: [00:16:00] “I will not...I will never be there for you. If you bring me something to the table, I might consider buying it, but I'm also sleeping with all of your competitors.”

Will: Yeah, exactly. We are very promiscuous as consumers. It's funny that, isn't it, how do you think... I don't know if you got an answer to this, but how do you think our relationship with brands, you know, the consumer to brand relationship, which has changed in the last 10 years because of social media, you know, and brand banter and brands trying to kind of act like people and being humanized? But how is this situation going to change our relationship with brands in that way, do you think?

Jørgen: That's a wonderful question. I think you need to take a step back and start looking into what kind of relation some brands seem to be getting to their clients and how they're stacked up. So as an example, in pure [00:170:00] panic over that I got an injury from running and I was stuck home, we...you know, we can go outside and that's what Norwegians do, we go outside and we've been outside all this period.

I couldn't run anymore, I got a hamstring injury. And I was stuck at home so I started looking into biking, cycling. And then I started jumping into those types of brands that are connected to the cycling world. And some of these brands are proper lifestyle brands, meaning that they engage so many aspects of anyone who's interested in them and their lives, and they sell an enormous range of products, but it's also lifestyles. their visual content, there are communities to engage in, there are routes to take part of, you can bike from home and be part of the brand together with the ambassadors online.

A very, very deep relationship to their consumers. And during a period of time like this, they are sort of giving the [00:18:00] opportunity for their consumers to engage even more, creating even deeper habits that goes way deeper than just like, "I'm going to the store and buy myself a new cycling jersey" or whatever.

It's actually, you know, shaping the fabric of everyday life because as a consumer you choose and pick those brands that make sense in the situation and is there on a practical term. And those attitudes with those acts will change your behavior. And that means that those brands can have a much, much stronger relationship to their customers on the other side.

Will: It's kind of made the difference between the most engaged brands and the least engaged brands. I would say it's making the difference between them more pronounced, you know, like you're saying. The brands that had taken time to build genuine community are winning right now.

The brands that haven't put that time in [00:19:00] are becoming even less relevant. There are exceptions, of course, you know, Amazon would be an obvious one, or perhaps because they're just a huge anomaly in the middle of all this anyway, because is there a community and I don't know, what even is that brand? But in...by and large, yes, almost created this even wider disparity between brands that are doing well and brands that are performing badly.

And I think that those ones that hadn't put the time in to create communities around them are going to really struggle coming out of this in a time when, you know, there's going to be all kinds of economic pressures as well.

Jørgen: Well, I think community is a part of some of the, especially more lifestyle brands. But I think that a company or a brand like Amazon, that has what we would...which we call is a very, deeply relational brand in the sense that it has a very deep relation to its consumers.

Whereas delivering a lot of products at a very high quality with...[00:20:00] I'm not saying that all the products you're buying on Amazon is high quality…but the service that Amazon is providing is of high quality in the e-commerce landscape. And also, that they can serve so many aspects of the experience that you're having right now. Meaning that they have a deeper relation to their prime users now than they had before the crisis. A lot of the competition for Amazon is suddenly just shut down, forgotten, not a part of everyday life. So I assume that Amazon will be in a much stronger position after this crisis than they were before.

Will: Absolutely, I think situations like that push... I think they're pushing us lots of ways further into a winner-takes-all economy.

Jørgen: Yes. And that's...to get back to your first questions, like what kind of brands will be strengthened from this. It’s obviously those who can leverage or create bigger relation to a larger portion of the group and [00:21:00] extract value from that relation over a period of time, and then have a very good way of incentivizing that right now.

Will: Absolutely.

Okay, so I mentioned in the intro how I wanted to quiz you about this kind of, you know, difference between tactical responses and broader strategic responses. Talk to me about how you see... I mean, as it stands at the end of April 2020, so obviously, we don't know how this is going to play out, but currently, how do you see it best being played by a brand right now in the short term versus long term picture?

Jergen: I think that there's a lot of documentation now that proves that you need to keep on advertising through the crisis if you have a plan of being there at the end of it. Because you can increase your relative share of voice and you can take more space in the category: basically saying, if you don't advertise, your [00:22:00] competitor will, and sort of like take the market.

Or the other way around, if you do advertising and your competitor doesn't or your competitor goes bankrupt, you will have a relative higher share than you had before going in. So I believe that the long term play is obviously to stay on top in your customer's mind even through the crisis in any way possible. That's like the long term strategy aspect of it.

Short term, obviously, you need to try to meet your monthly targets, to put it like that - your key metrics -even though everything else is changing. If you immediately know that your operational and tactical targets are not achievable, you need to find some way of adjusting them so that you can actually execute them on a viable short term plan to win this month as well [00:23:00] as staying in line with a long term plan.

Will: So...to what extent is it okay to go off-brand or... I suppose that's the thing I'm trying to work out, like. Can we be adaptive and kind of just maybe step outside of, you know, the pure brand architecture, just to kind of react to what's happening now, work it all out later? I mean, how do we reconcile those things? And the fact that, yeah, six months down the line, our brand might have changed a bit anyway.

Jørgen: Yeah, exactly. I think that you need to have a conscious understanding of your brand and try to look at it from the outside a bit into this. And do you have room to step out and do, you know, go off-script? I think that a global health crisis is probably, you know, a legitimate reason to alter things and change things.

But I still would argue that you would like to know a bit [00:24:00] where you want to be at the end. And you also would like to understand and put into your planning on how the crisis unfolds, and what is happening when, you know, we will probably go through this period of release where we are optimistic about the future because we've been coming out of our houses, etc. But we also will go into deep recession, and that needs to be taken into account for what you're doing now.

Will: So I've been reading online about, you know, how to handle this crisis in the context of marketing. And a lot of commentators say that, basically, everything's going to be different after this and the rules are changing, the landscape is shifting to such an extent that we're going to have to completely change our approach. Do you agree with that?

Jørgen: No. I think that it's safe to say a lot of things will remain the same [00:25:00]. And maybe what will remain the same is the best starting point for creating a brand strategy. However, I think it's extremely important for brands and organizations to grasp and understand and make some best guesses or estimates or understanding of the future that we're moving into, because it will come rather quickly.

This is an unprecedented crisis with enormous impacts on the whole planet, on everyone alive, so that there will be something on the other side that does not look the same is absolutely clear. What's important to find out is, what does it mean for your brand and your business?

Will: But those core principles of brand and marketing remain the same? Is that what you're saying?

Jørgen: I think so. I think that the, you know, value proposition, brand promises and good ways of doing [00:26:00] pricing and product and placement and everything that you learned in school regarding marketing, those simple core rules that seems to have endured over a longer period of times, they will prevail.

The more interesting aspect of it is to see how they adapt to the current situation for your brand. If, for instance, are there key changes in your demographics? Do the channels of your distributions change dramatically? Are the competition landscapes completely different? Or suddenly your core target group used to have a lot of money, now doesn't have a lot of money at all? All of those kind of more deep changes from the outside: you can start looking into and start understanding now if you pay extra attention to listening to what the financial pages are saying in the newspaper [00:27:00], what the reports are saying from a lot of the larger consultancy houses, to hear what the experts on other areas than marketing are saying, sometimes. That's when you can start really understanding what will change and what will remain the same.

Will: So don't get too hung up on marketing hype. Because we love change, don't we in marketing? And I think we've become really hungry for it. And it might be just the era that I've grown up in as a marketer, but I think the advent of social media changed a lot. It really did change a lot.

And then things settle down a bit. And that change, in some ways, slowed and digital's kind of settled into what it is. But we just, we remain hungry for that dopamine hit of the great headline that tells us everything is different and that conference talk that's going to tell us about a new dawn, you know, and all this kind of stuff. But you're right, [00:28:00] it's those core principles that remain the same whilst looking at how your audiences changed in socio-economic ways, I suppose, isn't it?

Jørgen: Yeah, I think that the whole aspect of newness and new technology like a magic wand that sweeps over a category and changes everything. I think that will definitely be a part of our landscape for the next few months. Because it represents hope, in one way. It means that something can come out of this better than it used to be. We can get rid of inefficiencies, we can stop wasting things, the planet will be better, consumption will change, consumers will be much more educated in terms of what they will buy, your quality value proposition will be valued much higher than it was before, our deep devotion to the community will be respected in a much broader sense than what it used to be.

And all of [00:29:00] that comes into a very nice spin, if you want to put it that way, into, you know, change, (as it was in one famous big presidential campaign back in the day). So I think that definitely there is something valuable about thinking that things will change. But we will also see the opposite, that people will like to go back to what it used to be. And that everything that dragged us into that direction of saying that this will change will also be the same thing that will drag us back to saying, you know, "What's most important is me, my home, my family, my comfort, my safety, my health, my financial situation": those core needs that are...that doesn't really have room for disruption or innovation or radical new, weird brands with products that you never heard of or don't understand what they are]. You're maybe not going to be in the room for that exploration yet.

Will: Indeed. [00:30:00] Yeah. And you know what, when people ask me what... I'm a digital marketer but when people ask me about the trends that they should be looking out for, one of the things I tell them is actually if I could tell you one of the biggest changes that I've seen over the last few years and I'm seeing, it's actually the development of brand purpose.

And it's the fact that, I think, we've gone from...in the last 10 years, you know, we've gone from a world where brand purpose was kind of just like a, you know, a kind of post-rationalized bit of waffle that would be stuck on a brand, maybe a bit of corporate social responsibility, a charity, affiliation, that kind of thing. And now, we've moved into a world where, you know, some of the key brands that today's consumer engage with, people like the Body Shop, or TOM's, you know, these very purpose-led brands are really showing up the incumbents and now they are having to adopt far [00:31:00] better, I think, purpose-led initiatives, whether that's environmental, sustainability, poverty. How does this crisis affect that? Because on the one hand, you know, the climate crisis has gone out of the window. I mean, you know, we really have gone from extinction rebellion protests all over the world to like, no, there's...completely forgetting about it.

But on the other hand, like you say, when you look at the, you know, Maslow's hierarchy of needs, we are not caring much about self-actualization and all that, we are just getting back to those really basic human needs. I wonder what effect that will have on this kind of growth of purpose in brand marketing.

Jørgen: I think that...when it comes to this whole aspect of having organizations having a purpose, first of all, being able [00:32:00] to identify it and put it into words. As a sociologist, I know that they...it's not like they invented purpose. It's always been there. People do go for a reason and they do join an organization and they do understand why things are the way they are, they just sometimes just don't have the right vocabulary for talking about it. And on the other side, you will...I could hardly believe that people were going in to buy new, you know, cream in The Body Shop or thinking, "Oh, what's the purpose behind this cream?" They are thinking, “I want this product, it costs this much, it's in my budget, and it does this kind of wonderful thing for me. How this organization thinks about itself is rather irrelevant to me”.

So I don't think you should ever confuse purpose with like a value proposition or a brand message. I think it's a very dangerous path to go down and you will end up with a lot of very generic and boring and irrelevant communication. But when it comes to [00:33:00] this whole way of creating an organization and having some sort of understanding of why we are together, and that transmits into the customer’s world, I think that will probably be even more high on the agenda.

On the other hand, if you follow Maslow, that's probably one of those things that we wouldn't have to need to have met anymore. I don't care who produced it as long as it's good for me, and I want to buy it, and that that will be it. But the irony regarding sustainability is obviously quite clear when we...now that we have a situation where we can actually see physical evidence of what happens if we change behavior dramatically overnight, suddenly, that comes down on our list as not important anymore.

Will: Yeah, indeed. It's fascinating how priorities have changed, you know, for everyone.

Jørgen: But they will...the priorities will come back though, that's important part of understanding. Even though if you [00:34:00] have a socio-economic situation where people are losing their jobs or losing their incomes, etc, they still want to be human beings, they still want to express themselves, they still want to feel good, they still want to enjoy themselves, they still want to do other things. It's just that your priorities change...now they've changed more dramatically than they will have changed at the end of the crisis.

Will: And we have very short memories...

Jørgen: Yes, of course, we do.

Will: We do. You know, we come out of wars, and all sorts and when things return to normal, it's amazing how, you're right, those priorities come back and we start to want the unimportant stuff again, you know?

Jørgen: Yeah,

Will: I just want to expand a little bit on...the way you were talking about short term versus long term, you know, okay, so we get licensed to step outside the brand a little and, you know, obviously, kind of think on our feet and react in the [00:35:00] best way we can, but what's the longer-term strategy for a brand? How should I be thinking about six months time? You know, what should I be planning for October 2020, for instance?

Jørgen: I think you need to put down some assumptions about what the world will look like at that time and then make an assessment if there is anything you need to change. And in most cases, I would say, most likely doesn't have to change at the core of the brand, maybe some tweaks in messaging, maybe some things that are being out of place.

I have a client that had planned for doing a campaign regarding social gatherings in connection to the (re)opening of the universities in early September. And all of that campaign makes absolutely no sense because it was designed to be a part [00:36:00] of events in the universities with 2,000 people or more, and that's not going to happen. So like I said, you need to understand how you plan for those activities to happen, you plan for those results to come in. That will be different.

Will: Yeah, absolutely.

Jørgen: So, I would just...either you can take this time out to take a step back and start looking a bit more on your overall brand strategy, like how does it relate to the category? How does it relate to the customers? Are there any fundamental shifts that we will believe that will be in place in October or November? Or will Christmas be completely different this year? It probably will. But we can only assume how, in one way or the other and that will be different on so many aspects in terms of travel and traveling abroad and all of these kind of things.

[00:37:00] I think it's important for ourselves that when we're working this is, at least we start looking at this as something that we can manage when we get there. For most people, including me, I believe that that sort of involves grasping and understanding what I believe it will be, even if it's probably not a good scenario.

Will: But yeah, I suppose now's a good time for brands to kind of look inward and just spend some time on... Because we have the luxury of perhaps a bit more time to ironing out the kinks in our brand, working out on a deeper level who we are and, and yes, who we might have to be in 6 months, in 12 months’ time.

Jørgen: I'm curious, for you guys that work more closely with digital marketing and digital marketing campaigns. From my experience, these are vast and extensive systems that are put into place, and not all of this work is either manual or easily detectable. [00:38:00] I remember during the first period of the crisis, even after two or three weeks, we obviously got ads that were created from way before that they haven't been able to pick up on that was completely changed. Do you see that the complexity of digital marketing is a problem of...by executing a different strategy? Is it just like a machine that keeps on rolling or do you have the agility to just like, pause, stop differently within a short period of time?

Will: I mean, it depends on the organization and whether they're using a media agency and or doing it themselves or, you know... I think that, yeah, most brands would have a really direct view and control over their inventory whether it's on, you know, display platforms that could be showing up anywhere, or if it's in very focused places like Facebook and Instagram or Google, wherever.

So I would hope [00:39:00] that the ones...there may be some slipping through the net but I would hope that any brand, even the really big ones, have a really tight handle. It's become so much easier to do that in recent years. And I would say because those tools have become more democratized, your average brand marketer or your average marketer, they know a bit more about what the media agency's doing and why and how, and probably starting to feel like they can do it themselves anyway, but that's a different topic. And so, yes, I would think that digital marketers have a really good handle on their inventory and are being agile and adapting and pulling stuff and putting different stuff out.

I think the thing people are really struggling with, in terms of paid advertising is - that's different. Being a brand in social with organic content, of course, you can be helpful, you can try and be light-hearted, you can be positive. But in...paid advertising's job is to drag people through [00:40:00] into the store and sell stuff, or at least if it's not that kind of...you know, it's not an e-commerce brand, drag it through some sort of...drag the person, grab them, you know, and pull them through some sort of experience.

And that's a different thing. That's far more hard-nosed, mercenary kind of channel. And I think a lot of people are struggling with that, how to reconcile that, you know, click here, do this, buy now, with what's going on now, because that always feels a bit insensitive to a point. And I don't know what the answer is, I think it very much depends on who your brand is. But for a lot of brands, I think there's certain types of paid advertising that just don't make sense right now.

Jørgen: Yeah, I can imagine. And I also remember when I was working a lot with this, that the conversion optimization is very dependent on the context of the consumer. And since that changes radically, your numbers would be completely different than what they normally would have been. And you will have all of these weird [00:41:00] examples of one ad performing better than the other one. And you wouldn't really know why any more. Usually before you could sort of assume that it was because of, and you just, you know, you say, "Oh, this coffee was better." But now they can be completely different thing that goes on behind...on the customer's side.

Will: I mean, what a lot of reports are showing is that CPMs are down, so it's cheaper to advertise, but also return on ad spend, as a metric, in general, is up. So people are getting more return out of ad spend partly because those CPMs are down, because it's very category-specific. You know, certain categories like household, baby, food and drink are hugely up. Fashion on the other hand is...well, obviously, for some brands it's just disappeared. But that's, in general, if anything, slightly down. [00:42:00] So, for some brands this is an absolutely fantastic time to advertise because it's cheaper and more effective than ever because of the context of the consumer, just like you say. And for that reason, that's why obviously Amazon's having an absolutely brilliant time but lots of other e-commerce players are as well.

I'm aware we're coming to the end of our chat and I suppose, before we go, what I'd love to ask you is, you know, for listeners, what is your key piece of advice for any brand marketer who's listening to this episode? What would you tell them?

Jørgen: Be a voice of reason. That's a good start, I think. Keep your head cool in a situation where things seem to be flying around and people are risk-aware. You have to remember people respond differently to crisis. Crisis is a very defining factor of any organization. And this is one that is external. The most [00:43:00] damning crises are the ones that are internal and you feel like everything is breaking down and the relation to your colleagues and how you viewed the world has changed. So now we're all in it together. But there's a lot of irrationality going around, people are tempted to do a lot of things, to act on things. And I think that the brand marketer needs to be the ones that are sort of protecting the brand from doing all of these other kind of things that maybe some people in Product or in top management like to do just irrationally. They need to be the voice of reason in a chaotic landscape.

Will: Yes. And it's that bigger picture, isn't it? Because like you say, sooner than we know, hopefully, this situation will be over, even if that is, you know, some of the more pessimistic estimates being even a year or more till it's really kind of gone. But even so, in the great scheme of things, your brand is going to be around for decades. You know, there's a bigger picture to this, isn't there? [00:44:00] And you're right, we have to kind of keep the ship on course. There's a little obstruction ahead, but that doesn't mean to say we change the whole trajectory of our course.

Jørgen: No, I think that to be the voice of reason is also to be proactive in terms of what's to come and what situation you are in right now. So I don't see that a lot of brands will come out of this in a better place if they completely stop communicating, stop being a part of people's lives, stop having relations and stop their marketing. It doesn't seem like that would be a very viable way, unless they obviously have no business at the time and in that case, a lot of especially tactical and performance marketing will be just a complete waste of money.

Will: Yeah, absolutely. Well, Jørgen thanks so much for your insight into the challenges of a brand in the midst of the Coronavirus crisis. It's been [00:45:00] really great to talk to you, and yeah, thanks so much for your time. It's been very valuable.

Jørgen: Thank you. Will.

Will: Take care of yourself. Chat you soon. See ya.

Jørgen: Adios.

Will: If you enjoyed this episode, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. And for more information about transforming your marketing career through certified online training head to digitalmarketinginstitute.com. Thanks for listening.