Fortune favours the brave: The spoils will go to the brands having a go

COVID-19 hasn’t dealt marketers an easy hand, says Think TV’s Kim Portrate. Yet many great Aussie brands have shown they know exactly how to play their cards, and they're the ones who will come out on top.

Like you, I have had to steer brands through all manner of economic conditions, disruptions and market headwinds. I learned – mostly by making mistakes – how to ride out the storm. But, like most of you, a global pandemic is new and totally uncharted territory for me.

Knowing how to deal with this great unknown isn’t easy: Cut or reallocate spend, change messaging or pivot the business entirely? These aren’t easy questions. Yet we have seen many brands nail the landing with incredible speed.

These brands, and their CMOs, have shown bravery, ingenuity and agility in a time when they could be forgiven for curling up in the corner and binge-watching A Country Practice or Married at First Sight (plenty of people are!).

Brands like BCF have shifted creative to speak to the new normal. BCF is a business Australians turn to over Easter as they pack up tents and eskies and hit the road.

Not wanting to ruin the Easter tradition for Australian families, BCF transformed into the official brand for backyard camping. The business created a new campaign replacing its original strategy of getting people to visit holiday towns devastated earlier in the year by bushfires. BCF general manager of marketing, Ben McConnell, told us the idea was developed on a Friday and on-air the following Wednesday.

Likewise, Coles redirected AFL sponsorship campaigns to introduce an extended advertising spot to share recipes perfect for isolation. Capturing audiences off the back of the news, the 2.5-minute commercial provides inspiration and something to look forward to for the next night’s dinner.

And the brand’s sponsorship of cooking competition Masterchef is keeping Coles top of mind for people looking for feel-good entertainment during lockdown.

McDonald’s is another brand that has changed its comms to reflect the altered needs of consumers, promoting its all new contact-less drive-through option.

Ditto, Lexus is advertising its offer to pick up cars for service and deliver them back to customers’ homes.

Many other brands have continued to advertise through the crisis, such as Suncorp, with Mark Ritson calling CMO Mim Haysom a “1-in-100 marketer” for the decision to stay on air, which she said was fuelled by evidence from previous financial crises that brands which continue to invest come out the other side the strongest.

Haysom would make Peter Field proud. The global authority on effective advertising told Marketing Week in the UK that, “The only sensible course for any advertiser who wants to maintain a presence through this recession is to be putting money into long-term brand building because the role of that investment is for the recovery, not for now.”

Ritson has publicly saluted CMOs that have sold their boards on increasing ad spend. And research from Kantar found only 8% of people think companies should stop advertising, instead encouraging brands to maintain a voice in market to reassure consumers.

And this is only a micro-sliver of the advice now doing the rounds.

It’s a full-time job to sift through this guidance to determine the best course for action. And so, we salute the brands who’ve forged a path through COVID-19. Despite limited information, changing business conditions and pressure to stay in touch with audiences, they’ll come through this crisis stronger, more agile and more connected to the most important people to any business: the customer.

From one marketer to another, I have to say, I’m very bloody impressed.

Think TV’s Portrate is just one of many executives who think of OMD as ‘consistent’

Kim Portrate is CEO of Think TV and the Premium Content Alliance


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