How Corona Changed Marketing

Photo by Charlie Firth on Unsplash

There’s no denying; the past year shaped us all. It slowed the world down, it forced us to go inside and find new ways to interact, work and play. While it may be obvious to see how you were personally affected, it might be much harder to see how changes on meso and macro levels are playing out.

Online connections

One change, attributed to the forced steep learning curve of many employees to use apps like Zoom and Teams, is the way we connect online. In the pre-covid world, online connections for marketeers were much easier. It didn’t take much to convince audience members that contact was genuine because they had little to no experience in the field. Tricks like connecting on Linkedin through automated ‘real’ invites, or playing pre-recorded webinars posing as live ones. Because the general public wasn’t well versed in online connecting, many perceived these common marketing tricks as real and authentic.

What changed?

Because the world forced us to go digital, many people rapidly grew antlers for behaviors in the online world. We know when others are not focused in a call and we can sense the general mood of others through a screen. Which is why it has become increasingly hard to rely on automated contact for leads. Even with genuine contact, it is harder to convince a targeted audience that you’re not just in it to win it. Plugging your products or services will now come across as a pushy sale because we’ve learned to sense the difference between a salesy conversation and real engaging contact.

The influence of influencers

Much has changed in the land of influencers. Two major developments have caused influencers to change their game in a world that is locked down and digital.

Smaller lives, smaller vlogs

Many influencers rely heavily on things outside of themselves to make their lives interesting. They have to, because viewers won’t keep coming back to the mundane and standard. Filming the same boring afternoon every week will eventually get boring. This is why many (particularly lifestyle-) bloggers and vloggers continuously search for interesting and new content. Buying new stuff, taking trips, doing exciting things. With buying online as the only real option last year, the range of subjects to choose from has become smaller for many influencers. Which caused a chain reaction throughout the entire online landscape.

Let’s first look at the second development before we discuss the consequences of Covid on influencers and their work.

Legislation and the awakening of the public

In the land of influencers, it used to be easy to plug a product. All you had to do was talk to the camera, ooh and aah about it’s properties and place an affiliate link. (With this sentence I by no means try to belittle those with online occupations, nor do I want to ignore the fact that many of them have worked diligently and focused to build the audience they have these days. It’s not an easy life and it is not all glamour in the world of influencers.) Because engaged public is loyal and feels like their favorite vlogger is talking to them as if they were a friend, they take the recommendation and purchase whatever their online friend promotes.

Legislation in the past few years has made this increasingly hard to covertly advertise through affiliate linking, promoted products or paid advertisements. In the US the FTC¹ keeps a close eye, in the UK² regulations have been enforced to disclose any partnership online and in the Netherlands the RCC³ have declared that the field of Social Media Marketing has to stick to their codes.

Disclosures on ads gives the public an honest view of the (sometimes conflicting) interests of the influencer. Pairing this with the growing awareness of authentic connection online, has changed the scenery for many influencers.

What changed?

With fewer content options and an increasing awareness of the public, influencers have had to resort to genuine quality content. Many have had to resort to different content during covid, where they might have been less able to make their content engaging in the way they used to. Less trips, more home. Because this has been going on for the past year, their content has changed in it’s core. They’ve had to open up more. With literally turning inside, they’ve had to show more of that inside world. Which is also what many followers have started to demand. Show us the real you, show us that you also struggle with this changing world that we do not have control over. Don’t bother us with numerous ads, show us the real you, become personal. Because we’ve become more able to feel your personality online.

With many lifestyle and fashion vloggers adhering to the call of the public to become more authentic, the expectation of the public towards other branches of the influencer world has also started to shift. Making genuine content has become the pinnacle of online success, more so than showing off expensive or ridiculous things. The public now demands a truthful representation of the personality they are watching. They’ve started to expect disclosures for partnerships (which they do not mind, they are more than happy to watch a commercial to support your channel), they want to know how you are feeling because they are well aware that you are human. We want to see the flaws along with all the sunshine.

The most influential online personalities can count on loyal support of their followers and would be more than happy to click on an affiliate link to support their favorite bloggers. As long as you’re upfront and honest about it. Because we can feel it when you’re not.

Quick gains are losing fast

The past five to ten years have slowly but surely carved themselves out in time as the years where short term sales were everything. Set up a lead gen funnel. Create free lead magnets (freebies). Write a smashing e-mail sequence. Have a killer landing page and boom, in came the money. With a thriving economy, people are more willing to spend. But what if the pandemic causes people to stop spending all together? In the US the savings rate hit 33%, in the UK there has been a spending decreased by 10% and in Holland a whopping 42 billion was saved last year alone.

A screeching halt

With this new consumer mindset, impulse buying and fun spending has come to a screeching halt. The warning voice in every consumers mind has been magnified. Combining this with an ever growing awareness of online marketing techniques as discussed in the previous two developments, lead generations might start to crumble and fall more and more. With audiences refusing to spend money, with the general public more aware of non-genuine connections, with legislation protecting people from unfair marketing (think of GDPR⁷ making lead gen a lot harder), short term lead creation for quick sales has become harder and less profitable.

What changed?

The entire landscape of digital marketing is changing because consumer behavior is changing. Knowing that poverty and scarcity mindset actually change thinking patterns in the brain, and drop IQ levels with 13 points⁸, it isn’t hard to imagine how a broad shift in the populations spending habits has been brought about by Covid. The end is not in sight yet and economists are predicting that the effects of Corona will be felt for many years to come⁹ means we will probably not see the willingness to spend and the overflow of cash backing this up for the next couple of years.

How to market in a post-Covid world

In times of recession, marketing might feel futile. Why market when there is no short term gain? Why market when your target audience does not want to spend on your products or services? Why market when company budgets are already low? There’s not denying that the field of marketing has changed. Quite possibly indefinitely. But that is not to see that better days will come again. And you need to be prepared for when the sun starts to shine again.

Put your money in the soil, not the seeds

The time has come to start thinking long term. There’s this saying that you will reap what you sow. But if you reap from the seeds you planted and no one’s there to buy the crops, then your business still isn’t viable. Stop sowing seeds. Don’t put more into the ground. Instead, focus on the ground.

Soil has a tendency to deplete after a certain amount of uses. It needs to lie fallow to rebuild minerals and replenish the soil. If it does not restore, very little will grow. Seeds need nutrition. This is your time to create fallow land10. It is time to replenish your brand and let it restore. Even if it is not broken, let it calm down. Do not think of this years’ crop or even next years’ harvest, think of the years ahead. Make long term goals that are linked to your brand.

A household name

Now is the time to determine whether or not you will become a household name. Show your target audience that you have a strong brand by building on the name. Ask for their loyalty by not targeting your advertisements on specific sales goals, make your marketing softer. Aim only for your name to be memorized. Old sayings I learned in school 12 years ago come to mind: ‘top of mind’ and ‘brand awareness’. These softer goals mean more now than lead gen or vanity metrics. Focus instead on the genuine connection people are so desperate for right now. Show them what your brand is about. Show your audience how you care. It is time to show, don’t tell. Or, as I like to call it: Tell, don’t sell.

Being futureproof

The future is for brands who are able to look ahead. Who stay strong during these times. Who do not ask for consumers to support them, but who actively support their audience. Now more than ever is the time to engage, to show the face of the brand, to make content that matters. Instead of going in for the quick sell, go in for the long term relationship. Be present on the background. Let them come to you first. Then, when the world is ready again, you will have loyal fans and ambassadors, with whom you’ve weathered a storm. Now if that doesn’t create a bond, I don’t know what does.

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33 y/o writing about Digital Marketing, Psychology and Sociology. Likes to reflect on herself more than she should.