HOW CREATIVE THINKING CAN CHANGE CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR

Behaviour change campaigns have always been some of the most exciting, head-scratching and brave projects to work on. With behaviour change comms you’re selling a product or service, but an idea, a passion or vision that aims to create lasting and positive change in a community.

Clever creative campaigns help to promote changes in knowledge, attitudes, social norms, beliefs and behaviours, they’re more than one hit wonders, their job is to win the public’s hearts and minds and elicit positive change. So, to get people to behave differently, as marketeers we have to think a little differently to our usual campaign planning.

From mental health to vegan food, personal finance to charitable giving, at O we’ve worked across a spectrum of campaigns that have had produced real-world change, and they all have a few things in common. To build a campaign that people not only see and remember, but also act on you should:

  • Get to know your audience and their current behaviours inside out, back to front and upside down. What do they currently do and why do they do it?
  • Find the barriers to changing their behaviour. Is it ease? Cost? A belief system?
  • Make the change easy and actionable. Break down the actions you would like them to take into small chunks, don’t ask your audience to make a big lifestyle change all at once.
  • Don’t preach. Telling someone they are wrong or bad for thinking or acting in a certain way is a sure-fire way of getting them to stop listening to you.
  • Be creative and stand out. The world is a busy place and there is lots of noise vying for your audience’s attention. Being seriously creative with your messaging will make your campaign memorable and help cut through the noise.
  • Keep measuring and evaluating. Keep track of the impact of your campaign and regularly refer back to your main objectives to make sure your results are moving you further towards your big audacious goal.

Here are some of our favourite campaigns demonstrating the tips above from the last few years:

TIME TO TALK

Time to Change is England’s largest anti-stigma campaign – challenging attitudes and reducing stigma towards people with mental health problems. O worked with the campaign leads to make improvement in the North East to public awareness, attitudes and discrimination in relation to people with mental health problems, to increase knowledge and improve confidence and break down misconceptions and discrimination.

Research shows that one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem at some time in their life. We aimed to bring the Time to Talk campaign to life by using real-life local case studies of people who have been affected by mental health problems and engaged them as campaign ambassadors. The campaign generated an additional awareness reach of 54,150 people, smashing the initial 15,000 target. Of those who recognise the campaign, 47% claimed it had improved their opinion of those with mental illness. How did we do it? We got creative. Alongside celebrity endorsement, a 48-sheet van roadshow, poetry competition, press campaign and video, we used the idea that 1 in 4 people will feel ‘blue in the queue’ during the January sales. Now, how do you get people’s attention on a cold, wet day in January to talk about mental health? You put a blue man on a park bench, bus stop, Metro train…. The January Blues ‘Blue Crew’ street crew dressed in blue morph outfits appeared ‘out of the blue’ on the streets of five cities and on the Tyne and Wear Metro. The campaign team supported the blue crew asking the public to sign the pledge and distributed signposting information. The eye-catching figures were used to create an attractive photo call to accompany a tailored press release for each location.

KIELDER WATER AND FOREST PARK

O was commissioned by Kielder Water and Forest Park to encourage a new audience to visit the park through the Living Wild campaign. Living Wild at Kielder was a two-year social media project designed to bring Kielder Water & Forest Park’s wildlife to life for visitors and residents, whilst also contributing to the long-term protection of the area’s incredible array of animals and plants. Research showed that a key barrier to attendance for non-traditional Kielder audiences was the fear of ‘doing it wrong’. For people who were new to the park, there was sometimes a nervousness that Kielder wasn’t for them, or that they would not engage with the activities in the right way – so our campaign had to change that.

#WildatKielder aimed to show all of the different ways that you could be wild in the park, whether that was a family day out, spotting wildlife, walking the dog – we wanted people to show what wild meant to them, and support them to understand that there is no right or wrong way of engaging with nature. We achieved this through a social media photography competition, working with a range of influencers from different backgrounds, social media games and a programme of content showcasing what you can expect from Kielder when you arrive, alleviating the element of the unknown which may have been off-putting to some first time visitors. The key to this campaign was not understanding why current visitors were visiting, it was taking the time to extrapolate why possible audiences were staying away. Once this was established, we were able to create engaging campaigns which brought the magic of Kielder right to their screens.

If you would like to speak to our creative director Lauren about bringing seriously creative ideas to your campaigns, or just want to chat through what’s possible, email l.regan@opr.co.uk or call 0191 2325690.

WANT YOUR BRAND TO STAND OUT IN 2021? TIK TOK YOUR WAY TO THE TOP

Remember in 2006 when brands argued over whether their brand really needed to think about Facebook? Don’t be that guy. TikTok isn’t all dance moves, lip syncing and teenage drama (ok, it partly is exactly that), it should also be a key strategy in engaging with your audience in 2021. Based on forecasts (released in September 2020), the number of TikTok users in the UK is expected to reach almost 11 million individuals by 2021. Despite common misconceptions about users, only 25 percent of users in the UK are between 18-25, more and more we are seeing 30 – 50-year olds adopting the app, producing and engaging with content. Whether you are looking to increase sales, build brand advocacy or manage your reputation, TikTok cannot be ignored as a key method of getting in front of your audience.

What are the benefits of jumping on the trend?

  1. Influencers

Whatever platform you choose, working with influencers is good for business. Word of mouth and peer recommendations are still the most successful tools in a marketer’s arsenal, and the lines are blurring between ‘in real life’ friends and the people we follow and engage with online. If you can’t get your product directly into the hands of your clients, working with influencers is the next best thing. Millennials trust user-generated content 50 percent more than other media and more than 55 percent of over 45’s trust a review on a personal blog and 92 percent of customers trust earned media over all other forms of advertising. Not only that, 61 percent of people have made a purchase based on a recommendation from a blogger and user generated content is 35 percent more memorable than other types of media. Working with bloggers and influencers is an effective way of building your brand credibility and speaking to your potential customers in an authentic way, and they have their audience’s attention now more than ever.

The followings of UK influencers alone are staggering, Jamil Jamel Neffati has over 9.6 million followers, Amelia Gething is topping 7.3 million followers and topping the UK follower chart with over 16.6 million followers is Holly H. However the same golden rule of influencer relations still applies when working with rising TikTok stars – don’t be sucked in by big numbers, choose people who are right for your brand and have the ear of the audience that you want to engage with. Working with micro-influencers at scale gives you a much higher chance of your content going viral. With this in mind TikTok has built their own influencer platform called Creator Marketplace; using the platform you can find and work with influencers that are perfect for your niche or big scale audiences.

  1. Paid advertising

TikTok is one of the most exciting new advertising channels because it has the scale of Instagram, but it’s not yet saturated with advertisers, making it much more affordable for impressions and clicks than some of the more established channels. As well as all the usual suspects when it comes to targeting (age, location, demographic) what works particularly well on TikTok is targeting people who have viewed similar content to yours – for example if a user regularly favourites or watches full videos of cookery inspo, chances are they will be a good candidate for your new food product launch, if they engage heavily with fashion influencers and content with a certain aesthetic, they may well be worth targeting with your new shoe launch. You get the idea.

  1. Organic content

Don’t be put off if you can’t stretch to a paid ad campaign just yet, TikTok is much more powerful organically than other channels. Unlike Facebook and Instagram, TikTok’s algorithms mean that organic content (content with no spend behind it) can travel much further. On TikTok it is possible for a well-crafted piece of content to get 1 million views, without having any followers at all. Basically the demand for content on TikTok is much higher than the supply, so there is a real opportunity for brands to produce content to fill the demand. What this comes down to is having a clear creative vision for your campaign, researching your audience and what they enjoy and creating content that gets people talking. TikTok is built to show more people great content, that means that if your video starts getting noticed it will be served to more and more people.

With every campaign the mode of delivery is only one part. Your creative has to work for the channel and strike a chord with your target audience, but when it’s done right it will really deliver. If you would like to talk to our creative director about how a TikTok and influencer campaign can move the dial for your business email l.regan@opr.co.uk

It’s not woke, it’s good business – putting the cause into your marketing strategy 

Emerging out of lockdown is a new wave in marketing, just this week I’ve seen two exciting collaborations that show we are moving into an era of purpose as a business strategy.

John Lewis has launched its new ‘Style with Purpose’ collection, edited by social influencer Erica Davies and modelled by real women on their own doorsteps. The collection donates 15% of sales to domestic violence charity, Refuge, Barbour also launched an activation with Selfridges, as part of the department store’s Project Earth campaign, partnering to create an electric Land Rover Defender to mark its commitment to environmental issues.

Here at O, we have seen a marked increase in clients wanting to revisit their brand purpose and work together on a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy that can find creative routes to re-establish their commitment to their causes, from local community to the environment. Movement in this direction can only be a good thing, but often the benefit it also has for the business is overlooked.

Profit is not just a shareholder benefit, when invested into growing companies through staff development and job creation or by putting back into charities, communities and causes, it is necessary to make money to make the world a better place.

The ‘kindness economy’ was a term coined by retail expert Mary Portas, borne out of a new wave of consumerism that has been accelerated during the pandemic.

The biggest change to come out of lockdown has been a shift in people’s values and mass ‘consumers’ have now been replaced by socially-conscious shoppers.

The term does not just apply to shopping for goods, but we believe it has rolled into the purchase of business-to-business services too. Having all witnessed bad practice by some big companies over the pandemic, we are now looking to buy from businesses that treat their people, the community in which they work, and the planet well.

Mother nature has become a big concern, the pandemic has shown us the impact of lockdown on lowering pollution and waste and has made us stop and think. Recycling, buying local or second hand, swapping car travel for zoom calls or walking to work to benefit the environment has started to become the norm already and this means every business needs to rethink what it is doing to make the planet a better place.

Portas says we now have a triple bottom line, People, Planet and Profit in that order.

The interesting thing I note when advising on CSR strategy is that the businesses that get the first two right, always make a profit. They also tend to stick around longer, growing a business with real roots and longevity.

CSR is the most exciting and creative part of any marketing strategy – cause-related campaigns join up internal comms with the customer, because clear values are the glue that gives everyone inside and outside of your business a reason to work with you or buy your goods. Plus having a cause you care about can be activated in so many creative ways that is fuels your content strategy with wonderful storytellling too.

If you would like to explore your Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy and make a real difference, start today by getting in touch with kari@opr.co.uk

Join us for our Autumn Webinar Series…

Quick learning woman silhouette isolated on white background
Over September and October we’ll be hosting a series of webinars and workshops to share insight and to start the discussions around the big challenges businesses are facing right now and the opportunities ahead with robust marketing and digital strategies Post-COVID. We’d love for you to join us, for more information or to book your slot please contact kirsty@opr.co.uk.

Tuesday 8th September – 11.00am
Marketing in a Post-COVID World
Finding your new tribes and engaging your customers in new ways. We’ll be discussing consumer behaviour and how your old customer profiles may need not paint a true picture post-lockdown. Creating flexible marketing strategies and more.

Tuesday 22nd September – 11.00am
Digital Strategy just got really serious!

The world went digital overnight, the only to communicate and sell was virtual and online. Steve Maybury will talk you through the ‘new’ digital strategy for businesses and why it’s so important to future proof your business against disruption.

Tuesday 6th October – 11.00am
A Creative Recovery

The pandemic has encouraged bold marketing messages, emotive creative and ‘together’ campaigns that have united entire nations. Lauren Regan our creative director will talk about the perfect creative campaigns and how we can use creativity to help our businesses to recover quickly.

Tuesday 20th October – 11.00am
Building a Disruption-Proof Brand
Purpose driven, transparent brands that really live by their core values have been the winners of 2020, with brand loyalty remaining highest through the pandemic with the world’s most purposeful businesses. This workshop will talk you through the importance of transparency, dealing with change and putting the right foundations in place to build brand loyalty.

Lessons in lockdown…Kari Owers, MD

How are You?

Right back at the beginning, one of my business mentors texted me to ask ‘how are you?’ Sometimes leaders need to hear those words too and I remembered the power they can have on someone’s day – so my first lesson of lockdown was to ask how others are doing.

It’s very easy to get caught up in your own drama, but talking to others helps you get things in perspective, share war stories and break down your issues.

I hope it’s a habit I never lose sight of when everything gets back to normal.

 

Track the numbers

It’s all too easy to feel a lack of control when outside influences throw your carefully laid plans out the window, but it’s worth remembering you can always affect some things – and by getting close to the numbers you maintain some element of control. At the very least knowing your P&L inside out, ensuring you have a clear and realistic pipeline of work where possible, you understand your cashflow – and you track the wider economic trends – you’ll be ok. At the very worst you’ll maybe know the point at which you won’t be ok, and you can reach out for financial support.

 

When it gets dark the stars come out

This was my mantra after the 2008 recession, as a very young business we survived because some people really stepped up. Look out for the stars, sometime they are the quiet ones – but remember to recognise who really made themselves available and supported you during times of crisis.

 

Don’t languish in lockdown mode

The change of pace actually got quite nice – lunchtime walks, slow starts to the day over a coffee with no commute, time for some yoga after work. All great habits to keep but I think it’s too easy to get too used to a slower pace and its not going to get you where you need to be – by the end of May I was firmly looking over the horizon, challenging myself to go further, be more ambitious and can-do – remember to always lean forwards, even in a headwind!

 

Look after yourself

I have learned that I work better when I have time to think. So my diary is never going to look the same again. I know where I add value to the business and that’s the only stuff I will be doing. The rest of the time I will be making sure I get good sleep, exercise and eat well – and don’t sweat the small stuff. I mean if a pandemic can’t teach you that, then you’re a lost cause!

 

CRISIS COMMS JUST TOOK A SPIN IN A NEW DIRECTION

Public relations gets a bad rap a lot of the time, especially when handling a crisis situation – the word spin is often used when a PR steps into the eye of the storm.

Having handled crisis communications for well over a decade now, from court cases to natural disasters, never could I have predicted such a seismic shift in how to handle a crisis as Covid-19.

The world has changed radically in this storm – and finally crisis comms has come round to my way of thinking – transparency is key. The key rules of crisis PR are planning – ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ as they say.

But when we were all sat in our offices at the start of 2020, not many of us were planning for something like this. Covid-19 has affected so many lives around the world, and the economic impact has been and will continue to be massive. As the pandemic has made its way around the world at pace, businesses were also faced with a tsunami of issues  – and the public wanted answers.

When will you close to protect lives? When will you reopen? How are you protecting your staff? Why can’t I buy your goods? How are you self-distancing? Why is my delivery late?

Everyone’s a critic

Social media has made everyone a critic, and before facts are checked, minds are made up in seconds. None of that is really new, but here are my observations of how crisis communications have had to adapt and will likely change the way businesses have to communicate for good.

1- There is no agenda – other than the main agenda. There is only one thing that matters when communicating right now – saving lives. Nobody cares about any other agenda – so you shouldn’t have one.

2- The walls have come down. Many businesses that aren’t used to press attention feel an inbound enquiry is some kind of attack, or at best a trick – and social media criticism is viewed with contempt. I spend a lot of time explaining to business owners that tackling criticism head on requires absolute transparency and speed; we live in a world where nothing else is tolerated now. Be open, be timely and be yourself. If you have to hold your hands up and say you don’t know how you’ll cope but you are trying – that’s ok just now. We are all in the same boat of uncertainty. With an honest approach people understand that you are facing something you’ve never faced before, so if you are being deliberately opaque, evasive or are actually not doing the right thing you will be remembered for it long after this pandemic.

3- Facts matter. I’ve always diffused a situation by simply sticking to the facts. Under attack by an angry customer – what are the facts? A disaster is unfolding by the minute – what are the facts right now? The Number 10 Daily Briefing plays this card – they show the scientific facts first and foremost. Any announcements are often numbered – for example ‘here are the 5 steps to recovery’ or the ‘3 ways we will help businesses’ today. Facts and numbers matter – they should provide clarity and stop us straying into assumptions or confusion.

4- Front and centre. Every business leader should be media trained – that’s what they say. My belief is that every business should show leadership – you don’t need trained how to swerve questions or stop fiddling with your tie – you need empowered people ready to speak openly and honestly with the public. Front and centre – that’s where your leadership team should be in a crisis. Right up there speaking to their staff, their customers and the press. If that comes in the form of a written statement or video, so be it. As long as it comes from you, is direct and honest, and is communicated well before rumours start to breed.

5- Every negative needs a positive. As any crisis concludes I also ask – what are you doing to put things right in the future? At the moment sometimes it’s hard to see past the unfolding chaos to think about something positive from the situation, but many businesses are doing the right thing, right now. For example: Despite having to close all their hotels – they kept rooms open for NHS workers. Despite all shops closing and staff furloughed, they made deliveries in the community where they could. Despite not being able to manufacture – they’ve made PPE. This pandemic has brought communities closer together, and businesses large and small have put aside their normal lives and done some good. This shift in how we communicate shouldn’t always have to come out of a crisis, and one positive of the Covid-19 pandemic must surely be that in the future it won’t.

 

Kari, MD

REACHING THE ‘AT HOME’ CONSUMER

With real life events being cancelled, the Flymo team and O threw our carefully laid plans out the window this year and went back to the drawing board on how to inspire children and families to get out and enjoy their outdoor space.

The end result was an incredibly successful collaboration with influencer Skinny Jean Gardener, for a digital activation which reached just under a million families across the UK. Over the Easter holidays, Skinny Jean Gardener took over Flymo’s Facebook page every morning to encourage families to get gardening while socially distancing, resulting in over 60,000 families tuning in every day to watch the show.

From top tips on how to make gardening fun for families, games and top tips for growing your own, the content kept families coming back for more each day and increased engagement on their social media channels dramatically. The O team worked closely with Flymo to understand the problems that the brand was facing during these strange times and align with the overall business strategy for handling the crisis. Flymo was keen to keep brand awareness high with one of their core markets, families, as well as share positive, helpful and engaging content that their consumers would love.

Working with influencers

Working with influencers successfully isn’t always about picking the person with the highest following online, it’s about choosing the right person at the right time and keeping your target audience at the front of mind at all time. Influencers can be anyone, from celebrities to your next-door neighbour. And influencers with smaller communities are proving more influential than their celebrity counterparts with 54% of consumers believing that the smaller the community, the greater the influence. All in all: bloggers, even the smaller community ones, are influential.

Skinny Jean Gardener fits the Flymo brand perfectly, down to earth, fun and likeable, he makes getting out in the garden an activity to do together as a family, not a chore that has to be conquered before you can enjoy your space.

Flymo is no stranger to pushing the boundaries when it comes to influencer activity. From launching the #FirstCutSunday campaign each year through bloggers and influencers to encourage millennials to get out and  get mowing, to getting product into the hands of celebrities that their target market love, including Joe Wicks.

So why has this strategy been so successful for the brand recently?

While the UK is in the midst of an unprecedented national crisis, we have seen huge spikes in online and social media consumption as people stay behind closed doors. Research by Global Web Index found that we are seeing substantial increases in people checking social media across all ages; 27% among Gen Z and 30% among Millennials, Flymo’s two key markets in the UK.

Influencers doesn’t just mean bloggers. Stars of Instagram, Facebook and more recently Tik Tok draw in huge audiences, and if you can’t physically get your product into the hands of your potential customers, this is the next best thing. If you currently have stock to sell or want to continue to be front of mind and build a connection with your audience, getting your product into the hands of influencers during this period can be extremely powerful, but only if it is handled sensitively, strategically and with expertise. Our message had to be relevant, community-minded and ultimately useful, hard sells are not going to resonate and could be considered insensitive as thousands of people across the UK struggle to make ends meet. As consumer spending habits change, influencers like Skinny Jean Gardener are uniquely placed to provide useful content including great recipes to cook at home, fashion tips for home working, how to entertain the kids, staying fit indoors and healthy or make-up and hair tips if you can’t get to the salon.

Emotion plays a strong role when it comes to choosing a brand

Emotion plays a strong role in the decision-making process, especially if we are feeling confused or scared in other areas of our life – your customers have warm, friendly feelings towards the people they follow online. The lines are blurring between who is a friend and who isn’t. It’s clear that a brand is only as good as the consumer’s mental representation of it. If this representation is only made up of certain attributes like features and pricing, the consumer doesn’t have any emotional connection with the brand that will influence their preference and action. Positive emotional content in the mental representation will not only encourage sales, but also drive loyalty. Basically – we like things that make us feel safe and happy, especially now.

But ultimately your strategy needs to result in sales right? Well here’s the thing, Millennials trust user-generated content 50% more than other media and more than 55% of over 45’s trust a review on a personal blog and 92% of customers trust earned media over all other forms of advertising. Not only that, 61% of people have made a purchase based on a recommendation from a blogger and user generated content is 35% more memorable than other types of media. Working with bloggers and influencers is an effective way of building your brand credibility and speaking to your potential customers in an authentic way, and they have their audience’s attention now more than ever.

As we all look for ways to cope with self-isolation and social distancing, we are seeing more than ever people looking for ways to simulate real human contact, exactly where social media and influencers come into their own. We have to remember that influencers are also in the  same situation as us and with more time on their hands they are certainly not going to stop producing content  any time soon, the trick is to harness their increased  visibility and use it to form real human connections with your customers, they won’t forget it.

Digital Transformation – using technology to solve problems

Over the last decade, ‘Digital Transformation’ has been on the agenda for almost every business. This year, the world went digital almost overnight.

Today’s article is from our Homegrown Magazine, Lockdown Edition, where we share insight for future communications and celebrate the home-grown businesses from the North continuing to do great things. For your copy please email kirsty@opr.co.uk

Transformation

We have all been forced to change almost every habit and routine, switch every face-to-face meeting to a video call and even communicate with our teams and our loved ones virtually. For every business and every person the change is having different levels of impact, but one thing is sure, we’re all still finding our way and getting used to a new ‘normal’.

In the UK only 17% of the thousands of businesses surveyed felt their business was fully ready for remote working or to offer their services and products digitally. Of those businesses who were able to operate remotely, 79% felt their team’s productivity would drop and that they did not have the right systems in place to be able to communicate effectively.

But despite the disruption, businesses are adapting quickly, and in the UK we have some real positives to take from lockdown. People are innovating, and finding new ways to engage with their customers, some are developing new websites and apps in super-fast time, others improving their online systems, most getting their online experience right in weeks when it’s been on the ‘to do’ list for years. As a nation we are ‘doing good’ – in the UK, businesses are using their strong digital presence to raise thousands for local communities, charities and to support key workers. They are sharing positive news stories and sending digital love around the world.

So what now?

Online engagement is up 82%, online search and traffic numbers are off the charts and every generation is trying new technology online. We’re spending longer researching, trust is higher than ever before and, what’s more, consumers are enjoying online experiences and sharing them far and wide. 73% of consumers who had tried online shopping for the first time, said they would continue, even after lockdown was over and more than 69% of users felt more confident to seek financial or legal consultancy online and to share personal details.

However, all this extra time to research and explore online, is leading to heightened demands. The number of online reviews and customers dropping off slow, poorly-optimised sites before they make a purchase are at an all-time high. So how do businesses take this opportunity to engage with their customers and continue their digital transformation?

There are a lot of definitions for ‘Digital Transformation’, but the most consistent and widely used is:

“Digital Transformation is the use of new, fast and frequently changing digital technology to solve problems.”

For every business technology should be different: there is no one-size-fits-all approach and technology should be used to solve your problems as a business, to solve problems for your people and to meet the needs of your customers. Do your systems need to be more efficient, do your current systems lack security, is there a risk of breach, do you need better internal communication systems or new ways to process orders online? The list of potential problems that need to be solved is endless.

For your customers, solving their problems should always be top of your agenda, but now it’s even more important to do this well, and you may find that they have a whole new set of issues or needs as we navigate life post lockdown.

Use data and trends to help you to plan your digital strategy

Listening to your customers and watching how they  behave has always been the key to getting your  technology or digital offering right. Now everyone is spending so much more time online, digital interactions, leads and sales are representing a far larger proportion of businesses’ incomes.

It is therefore more important than ever to ensure you are gathering and analysing the data that you have at your disposal and using it to influence your marketing and business strategies. Look carefully at what works, what doesn’t work, where you have gaps or where you may need to improve, and be prepared to tweak your approach to suit shifting demand.

Listen to and analyse consumer trends and behaviours, how your customers are interacting with you, what research they are doing, how they are doing it, and what was their experience: once they arrived on your website, which pages did they visit and what did they buy? If they left without buying, why did they do that and what can you change to improve that in future?

Furthermore, look at their reviews and feedback: don’t be upset if it’s negative: use it to learn from mistakes and make your business stronger. Let all of this this data help you to decide how to use  technology for the best now and in the future.

Going Digital

Digital transformation doesn’t always have to be extreme, but it should be constant. We’ve seen our favourite bars and restaurants switch to online ordering and take away, using their social channels for live DJ sessions at home  and delivering video masterclasses for cocktail making  and gin tasting, they’ve adapted and embraced new ways of maintaining their brand loyalty online.

Whilst Covid-19 has accelerated the need to review all of our technology, our online channels and our strategy going forward, the need to use technology to solve problems will always be there, along with the need for businesses to plan for different scenarios so that you can adapt quickly. This is a great chance to re-set and to think long-term about how you can continuously innovate with technology, improve systems, adopt new technology and change how you operate digitally.

Plan for the future

Trends around cyber security, website performance, SEO, usability, chat functions, app speed, online events and  content marketing are heightened right now, but these  are all topics of conversation that are here to stay. When considering how your business will transform over the next few months and beyond, think about how your digital capability will match the way your customers are feeling right now and what is likely to be important to them in the future.

Maybe it’s chatting to you online, or engaging with an online community group, or maybe they just want to know that your website is secure so they can make that decision to purchase. Digital transformation is not about a new App, a new website or installing the latest team chat tool, it’s about understanding why you need technology, how you can adapt digitally, how changes enhance experience or the problems you can solve.

What skills and services do you need to take your business forward post lockdown?

A few weeks back we released our ‘Planning without a Timescale’ blog, which gave a guide to how we were helping our clients to understand consumer insight and available market data to plan for their future.

Now that we’re starting to ease out of lockdown, we are moving our focus to what you can do with those insights in terms of planning for recovery, new markets or attracting lost business back again when confidence in normal life starts to return.

With a perfect storm of business challenges, heightened by pressure on team members working remotely, the Coronavirus outbreak has tested the resilience of every business.

Whilst some have seen a pivot towards digital channels, and in some cases growth or recovery in sales as a result, for many there is no doubt that this period has highlighted the areas where attention is needed if the business is to survive, recover and grow.

According to research from Raconteur and Forbes the top areas businesses felt they needed to improve included customer services, communications, team leadership and use of data insights.

Customer Services

The jump towards digital customer services has replaced the face to face experience, with consumer trends throughout lockdown consistently showing us a few things, we want a better experience, a better service and most definitely better customer support, regardless of how we access it. Over the last three months our buying habits have changed (we’re spending more time researching, we’re trying new brands and we’re trusting online purchase 300% more), but so have our attitudes to service. We’re more aware and less tolerant of slow website speeds, functional issues or slow response times for customer support queries and we’re leaving 102% more service and product reviews that we did pre-lockdown. You need to focus on what really matters to customers and how they feel throughout their entire journey with your business.

Communications

To communicate or not to communicate? – that has been one of the big lockdown questions. With some brands saying all the wrong things, and some saying nothing at all, which will you remember? As consumers, we’re feeling anxious and nervous for a return to ‘normal’, with data across all sectors showing that our confidence is at an all time low. Now is the time that every business needs to communicate, whether it’s to talk purpose, show how you’ve adapted or to instil confidence in your customers that it’s safe to return to your stores, hotels restaurants or offices. Transparent, honest and regular communications should be at the top of every business marketing priorities for the coming months.

Team Leadership

Aside from the practical elements of leading a team remotely and the individual wellbeing issues as your people continue to navigate this extraordinary time, post-lockdown, leadership skills right across the team will become your most powerful asset. Taking individuals back to team working, physically welcoming an anxious team back to the office and helping them to feel safe, boosting morale and motivation as everyone forces themselves back to the daily commute and forgotten routines, all while needing every single person to give 110% to get the business back on track – this is no easy task. According to Google search data, search terms around staff well-being, internal communications and searches for ‘Head of HR’ rose by around 300% throughout April and May.

Use of Data Insights

Data is always an incredibly powerful tool, whether a business is using it to keep a close eye on their finances or to determine customer insight. But when lockdown began, the world changed fast and so did people. Our behaviours changed rapidly; how we felt about brands and what we considered our new essential purchases; and as we come out of lockdown all businesses need to harness better data to determine which customer behaviour changes are here to stay and how their sales and marketing strategies will need to adjust to meet these new needs. It’s not about having a ton of data, it’s about using it to stay relevant that is important.

Planning ahead

Every one of us has been impacted during lockdown, but as business owners we can’t sit still and wait for the storm to pass before we consider what our strategy could look like for the next six to twelve months and what skills we will need as we move forward. Like every business, we have adapted too, by transforming some of our client-planning techniques into a recovery and growth programme which is acutely relevant to the issues we are all facing right now, but also to help create the flexible strategies we will all need to face the future head on.

Our senior team include qualified marketing strategists, employer brand experts, digital and social media planners and PR & comms consultants that have decades of experience in many sectors from tech to retail, FMCG to finance  – all of whom together build your recovery programme.

These strategy services include:

  • Consumer Data and Insights mapping
  • High Growth Audience Profiling & Segmentation
  • Marketing Performance Audit (Budgets, ROI)
  • Recovery Marketing Plans (to recover lost revenues)
  • BD Strategy (for High Growth Products and Services)
  • Brand and Communications Strategy (relevant messaging post COVID-19)
  • Internal Comms (Employee Engagement Strategies)
  • Outsourced Marketing Director Service (Board-Ready External Support)

This week we also launched our new ‘Outlook Hub’, which is filled with insights, practical guides, useful resources and strategy recommendations for recovery and growth.

ARE YOU UNDER THE INFLUENCE?

Why now is a good time to consider working with influencers

While the UK is in the midst of an unprecedented national crisis, we have seen huge spikes in online and social media consumption as people stay behind closed doors. Vodaphone has already reported that data usage is up 30% in the UK and 50% across Europe, where counties like Italy and Spain have been on lockdown for much longer. Research by Global Web Index found that we are seeing a huge increase in people checking social media across all ages; 27% among Gen Z, 30% among Millennials, 29% among Gen X and 15% among Boomers. Recent reports also show a substantial increase in engagement with influencers, finding a 76% increase in daily accumulated likes on Instagram #ad posts over the past two weeks alone.

Influencers doesn’t just mean bloggers

Stars of Instagram, Facebook and more recently Tik Tok draw in huge audiences, and if you can’t physically get your product into the hands of your potential customers, this is the next best thing. If you currently have stock to sell or want to continue to be front of mind and build a connection with your audience, getting your product into the hands of influencers during this period can be extremely powerful, but only if it is handled sensitively, strategically and with expertise. Your message needs to be relevant, community minded and ultimately useful, hard sells are not going to resonate and could be considered insensitive as thousands of people across the UK struggle to make ends meet. As consumer spending habits change, influencers are uniquely placed in the current climate to provide useful content, including great recipes to cook at home, fashion tips for home working, how to entertain the kids, staying fit and healthy or make-up and hair tips while you can’t get to the salon.

Brands that make you feel safe

We know that in times of crisis or uncertainty, consumers retreat to brands and channels that make them feel safe. Influencer’s fan bases trust and like them, so naturally we will see their affinity grow as the public attempts to find glimpses of “life as usual” online. Emotion plays a strong role in the decision-making process, especially if we are feeling confused or scared in other areas of our life – your customers have warm, friendly feelings towards the people they follow online. The lines are blurring between who is a friend and who isn’t. It’s clear that a brand is only as good as the consumer’s mental representation of the brand or product. If this representation is only made up of certain attributes like features and pricing, the consumer doesn’t have any emotional links towards that will influence their preference and action. Positive emotional content in the mental representation will not only encourage sales, but also drive loyalty. Basically – we like things that make us feel safe and happy, especially now.

Adopting an influencer strategy allows you to introduce your brand to new audiences with credibility. Millennials trust user-generated content 50% more than other media and more than 55 percent of over 45’s trust a review on a personal blog and 92% of customers trust earned media over all other forms of advertising. Not only that, 61 percent of people have made a purchase based on a recommendation from a blogger and user generated content is 35 percent more memorable than other types of media. Working with bloggers and influencers is an effective way of building your brand credibility and speaking to your potential customers in an authentic way, and they have their audience’s attention now more than ever.

We have already seen that brands investing in their digital strategy have found it much easier to continue to build and strengthen their relationships with customers during this testing time, but its not too late. Working with influencers is an affordable way to get an introduction to new audiences in a creative and memorable way, gain knowledge and data about their likes and habits and increase your discoverability online – something which is especially important in today’s climate.

Where to start?

Influencers can be anyone, from celebrities to your next-door neighbour. And influencers with smaller communities are proving more influential than their celebrity counterparts, as Technorati also reports 54% of consumers believe that the smaller the community, the greater the influence. All in all: bloggers, even the smaller community ones, are influential.

The bigger the influence, the more exposure your brand gets. This is where a lot of marketers go wrong in choosing influencers for their brand. This is because exposure doesn’t automatically help you create emotional bonds with consumers. If you’re looking to just create brand awareness for the time being, top influencers may be a great idea. When you’re looking to form emotional connections, however, you need to focus your efforts on mid-level niche influencers. They could be Instagram influencers, Tik Tok stars or YouTubers related to your business with good engagement and fan following. Unlike big influencers, mid-level influencers often have the time to engage with their audience and are much more cost effective.

As we all look for ways to cope with self-isolation and social distancing, we are seeing more than ever people looking for ways to simulate real human contact, exactly where social media and influencers come into their own. We have to remember that influencers are also in the same situation and with more time on their hands they are certainly not going to stop producing content any time soon, the trick is to harness their increased visibility and use it to form real human connections with your customers, they won’t forget it.

 

Author: Lauren Regan, Creative Director