The Marketing Playbook for 2020 and beyond!

For a brand, the marketing strategy is extremely important, irrespective of its location or the stage of its business. Whether a company is a technology brand, a new age startup, a FMCG major, or a renewable energy or an oil & gas company, marketing is a key lever for growth of the business and driving customer connect.

There is a golden rule for marketing and brand communications- Brands need to connect with the customers and communicate in the way that works best for the customers. However, customers are now more aware and less tolerant. Hence, brands need to be cautious when talking about sensitive matters and also avoid a force-fit.

Marketing in 2020

The year 2020 has seen the rise of a new marketing playbook- driven by the new normal forced upon us by the Covid 19 pandemic as well as the changes in customer behavior. Brands have understood that they need to be agile and have a bigger purpose in mind. Also, they have realized that it is imperative for brands to position themselves as the ones who could solve the customers’ problem, rather than harping about their own success. The year 2020 has witnessed customer loyalty taking a hit as customers have become more price-sensitive and judicious in their purchases. Hence, brands need to continuously strive to grab attention and ensure a top-of-mind recall for themselves.

The new marketing playbook

While CMOs across industries revisit their Marketing Playbook to adhere to the rapid changes in 2020 while sticking by the ground rules to ensure that they have the basic checks in place, it is increasingly becoming necessary for brands to continuously innovate themselves.

The tolerance levels are going down globally and hence, it is best for brands to stay away from anything that may not be acceptable, like an unconventional humor or an unnecessary sarcasm.

Also, simply stating that the brands are doing the right things or standing in support of a cause is something that doesn’t pass muster in today’s era. It is important for brands to back up their support with robust action plan.

Here are some tips that can come in handy for brands revisiting their marketing strategy for 2020 and beyond-

Be genuine

This is the most critical. Customers are low on acceptance when it comes to brands that showcase hollow, generic or hypocritical sentiments. Authenticity will be the key going forward. For example, it is a good gesture if a brand runs a campaign thanking the Covid warriors. However, if it doesn’t walk the talk and is least bothered about employee safety standards at its workplace, it will end up facing backlash.

Be mindful when communicating on critical issues

It won’t be wrong to say that marketers generally focus on their brand’s set of key messages in all their communication. They try to weave in their brand messaging in everything they want to put out. However, it is possible that some topical issues or trending topics have nothing to do with your brand. Take the example of topics or incidents on global health, diversity, racial injustice etc. In case of such sensitive topics, it is best to keep the brand messaging away and focus on being simple and to the point. If that means that one needs to involve brand experts to help neutralize communications, brands should go ahead and do that. The objective should be to communicate the brand’s stance about the issue in a humble and believable manner.

Stay away from topics that are traditionally stereotypical                   

There could be brands that sell products for a specific category of target audience- for example makeup, skincare, or slimming products for women. It is important for Marketing teams in these brands to ensure that their marketing campaigns steer clear of content that may be derogatory or stereotypical- like body shaming, skin color etc. Hence, an advertisement that shows a woman as inferior or under confident because she is not fair-skinned or is overweight is a clear no-no in the current times.

Likewise, brands today are advised to stay away from the outdated perception of gender roles of men and women. It can no longer be about women taking care of homes while men building their careers. Also, it is no longer considered cool or acceptable to show women being mistreated by their in-laws, even in an advertising campaign.

Such stereotypes can not only result in brands missing out on their target segments, but can also lead to major backlash on social media that can in turn result in creating negative sentiment for the brand.

Listen and communicate accordingly

In the era of social media, it is imperative for brands to invest a lot of time in social listening. This will help them have an in-depth understanding of the target audience and what appeals to them. This will avoid a pigeonholed approach and help brands broaden the prospective customer base that they are targeting. For example, brands in the home cleaning space have targeted women as their primary customers for decades. This acted as a hindrance to cater to the male customers as well as was not in sync with the ‘equality of men and women’ concept that is now an acceptable norm.

Be human and apologise

In case the brand has goofed up, it is best to come out transparent and apologize for the same. No amount of beating around the bush can help, as in today’s super connected world; truth can come out any day and put the brand in a tricky situation. A sincere apology by a brand or its senior leadership for its failure or unavoidable error can be seen as a human gesture and accepted by customers. Infect, it can help enhance customer trust in the long run.

Research well

When you plan to launch a new marketing campaign, it is best to do research to understand customer sentiment or get a sense of the response expected. There are examples of some neutral looking campaigns facing backlash. Dove’s ‘Choose Beautiful’ campaign is a classic example. They labelled two doors as “average” and “beautiful” and filmed women as they chose a door to walk through. Many women picked “average” and then went ahead and expressed regret to the film crew, sparking a consumer backlash.

To sum it up, while brands rehash their Marketing Playbook to respond to the extremely fluid and evolving times that we are currently living in, it is imperative for them to understand that the era of superfluous communication is over. Brands that have a clear purpose, back it with action, have a forward-looking approach towards the society and are honest enough to own up their mistakes, are the ones who will emerge victorious. These are the brands that will not only be able to attract customers, but also will have a high customer engagement and retention rate.


The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Akanksha Jain
Akanksha is a seasoned brand communications professional with over 15 years of experience in working across global/digital public relations, corporate and brand communications, crisis communications, brand and market communications domains.

In the past, Akanksha has successfully planned and executed public relations/brands campaigns across India and over 30 other countries. She is a start-up specialist and has extensive experience of working with emerging brands. She has been associated with brands like Pine Labs, MobiKwik, VLCC and Power2SME and spearheaded their PR/brand/communication campaigns.

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