Let’s be honest. For the foreseeable future, forget about last year’s set marketing goals. The pursuit for brands to stay relevant has never been more…uhm, there’s that word again – relevant. As Madonna has tried for years to reinvent her brand to resonate with evolving audiences, it has been the quest of every brand to stay relevant pre-COVID-19.
Businesses with goods and services to sell are struggling from week to week to merely keep its doors open, its staff employed and its liquidity going. In 2020 the heat sure got cranked up. And not just a little, but by a gazillion degrees Celsius, as we face business unusual.
When cooking on high heat…
The recipe during a pandemic disaster seems to call for the pot to continue cooking on high heat; for the foreseeable future.
But shall we advise brands to get out of the proverbial kitchen and close it?
Is the current business climate making it impossibly difficult time to cook as normal?
There’s no denying it, yes.
Shall we do what great chefs do under pressure, and try mixing up the ingredients in favour of those that work best in a pressure cooker?
Sounds like a good idea.
And shall we try adapting products and service offerings to cater for a different market, say to those who really need soups or stews right now, and make the most of a moment in time when we can be innovative and blend the last of the pantry items, while feeding this pressure cooker for the foreseeable future?
Let’s do it!
The saying that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade has been flaunted by the wise for ages. And with good clout behind it.
The business of caring, together #inthistogether
The idea for businesses to ‘mix their ingredients’ by teaming up in collaborative campaigns reflects the trend notable across industries over the last few years. Brands and high-clout individuals have been collaborating successfully to share what they are good at. Nike, KFC, McDonalds, Amazon and Woolworth have collaborated with great results to boost impact and reach new audiences.
The one underlying golden thread found in most collaborations has sprouted from the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are seeing some innovative cooks in the kitchen. Public and private organisations are pooling resources to help and support people to make a difference together.
Let’s look at two such collaborations.
Bearing the world’s trust
Ford’s reason for existence is to become the world’s most-trusted company. We love their recent shifts in response to COVID-19. Ford and GE Healthcare joined forces with 3M to assist in the production of health equipment to manufacture respirators for those who need it. Ford is also shifting its focus away from selling to new customers and towards relieving stress of current customers. The company’s ads for new vehicles have been replaced with informational ads about a car payment relief program for customers. It’s not the first time we are seeing these strategies by Ford. In fact, it is consistent with the company’s response to global and national events in the past. For instance, during the world wars, the company led manufacturing efforts and built tanks and planes. In response to natural disasters, Ford has offered relief in the form of similar programs that it is extending to customers now.
The people’s car becomes the people’s hospital
Locally, another motor manufacturing giant, Volkswagen South Africa, is collaborating with the German government, the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber, Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality and the Eastern Cape Department of Health. Together they are converting an old VWSA component plant in Port Elizabeth into a temporary medical facility for 4 000 COVID-19 overflow patients who require oxygenation. VWSA is contributing R28 million to the project. Germany is contributing R40m to South Africa to acquire test kits and hospital equipment to fight Covid-19.
12 Reasons for brands to collaborate
In the book, The Collaborative Leader: The ultimate leadership challenge, authors Ian McDermott and L. Michael Hall defines collaboration as ‘the ability to pull together to actualise a shared vision or solve a problem and innovate a new solution’.
The benefits are endless:
- Co-funded campaigns save money – Who has extra capital during a worldwide crisis? Not many. Sharing costs allow brands to take on marketing initiatives which they wouldn’t be able to afford on their own;
- A supportive environment – A solid support network with other brand partners becomes a safe space and it allows for shared experiences;
- Providing access to genius – Two minds are better than one. Business collaborations unlock access to innovation and improved services and products;
- Taking on larger challenges – Collaboration enables brands to take on challenges that are too big for a single brand;
- Delivering increased return on investment – Collaboration facilitates brands to accomplish together what they could not accomplish apart. Collaboration unleashes larger results;
- Managing risk better – Managed well, collaboration can reduce risk and fears;
- Gaining competitive advantage – Many cutting-edge brands are gaining competitive advantage as they access more talent to increase synergies;
- Injecting vitality – It enables brands to have more fun, be optimistic, and live out their reason for being. Don’t we need optimism during COVID-19?;
- Promoting quality relationships – Collaboration enriches the quality of relationships with customers and within industries;
- Providing inspiration – Collaboration improves morale and motivation as employees are working on something bigger than themselves;
- Fostering resilience – Collaborations makes brands more resilient because it allows for leaning on others during tough times; and
- Humanising organisations – Collaboration enables brands to align their work to impact the world on a human to human basis.
Go out and collaborate!
To stay relevant and flourish beyond this pandemic, brands could take that first step to look for similar or complementary brands that have goals in common or could share customers to reach new customers.
There are many business or community platforms allowing member businesses to benefit from a network of SMEs, large corporations or entrepreneurial minds. Start talking to each other. Ask how you might help each other?
Consumers are craving inspiration. Effective collaborations – when created for a purpose – produce measurable results. Whether consumers are scrutinising or admiring brands, they are always looking up to them to see whether they can handle the pressure in the kitchen.
Most marketing strategies for the remainder of 2020 have done a one eighty, and the way brands talk to customers have changed.
Disruption is uncomfortable, but often the best dishes out of the kitchen are those ones born out of accidental experimentation.
By Sunet Schoonees, Account Director at Hatch Communication