Marketing plays a vital role in many businesses, and successful marketers adjust their marketing strategy and tactics from time to time, and even sometimes pause them, as circumstances require.
At OPPOTUS, we always make it a priority to serve as a voice of the industry, to share valuable market insights and provide actionable solutions to support the growth and innovation of the local businesses.
In light of the recent Covid-19 pandemic and Movement Control Order (MCO) across Malaysia nationwide, recently extended to 12 May 2020, we have invited business leaders from various industries, from corporate to agencies, to share their reflections, challenges and considerations going forwards during these unprecedented times to emerge stronger.
* Views and opinions expressed below are largely exact verbatim with very minimal edits to suit.
The Power of Collaboration and Community is Vital
Mandy Chan, PR and Business Development Lead at Oppotus
Marketing is about understanding the consumer mind-set, considering that when people are anxious, it doesn’t give the confidence to purchase. As it may be, it’s time to evoke emotions and make personal connections beyond the products or services and turning to cause-related marketing and mission-related marketing. Studies have proven that consumers want to buy products and support business that give back to the community. To a mark degree, young adult consumers represent one of the most promising market segments when considering ethical and sustainable consumerism.
One of the standout effects of the Covid-19 outbreak has on advertising industry is that more people are staying at home. Worryingly, this also means the impact is being felt most keenly on event marketing and Out-of-home (OOH) media. On the bright side however, people are still seeking social community despite physical social distancing. In particularly, ‘#stay home’ and ‘#dudukrumah’ has become a trending hashtag, virtual communities are popping on social media and we’re increasingly seeing celebrities and influencers turning on live platforms to bring people together and entertain.
There is no doubt that the coronavirus has left its mark in history – the question is rather how much things will change. All in all, the short-term impact of the Covid-19 outbreak will probably result in a downturn for many industries, however this global pandemic may present a silver lining for brands and marketers to rise to the occasion and make a memorable impact.
Recovering Through a Long-term Mind-set
Eugene Lee, Regional Director of Marketing (Asia Business Unit) at McDonald’s
As the world changes due to COVID19, it’s important to be focused the current crisis, but more important to have a long-term mind-set to realize what the “new world” will be in 6 months.
Right now, the biggest challenge for any marketer is generating the right and relevant content for their business. With emotions running high, how do we continue to sell, but remain sensitive to how consumers are feeling? That balance is crucial.
Short term sales decline is going to be inevitable. However, it’s important not to lose sight of winning the long-term brand war. Sales WILL recover but coming out of the crisis with positive brand perception will give you the momentum to recover much faster. Personally, would you support a brand that touched your heart, or another that was just trying to take your money during the crisis?
And as the world changes, increases in digital and e-commerce are already happening. These heightened digital behaviours will likely sustain at new highs post-COVID19. Even the most apprehensive customers are now forced to perform some form of online transaction; and after experiencing the convenience, are unlikely to fall back to their old ways.
In summary, the current hardship and revenue loss that comes with the crisis is inevitable. However, what we can do is focus on the future and how to rebuild our businesses for the long term.
Marketing Lessons from the COVID-19
Audra Pakalnyte, Head of Strategic Initiatives and PR at Fave Group
There are three lessons that Covid-19 has taught us at Fave, which are helpful for any marketeer and business owners to manage during any crisis:
1. Contextualize the message. Whichever marketing campaigns we had planned a month ago, overnight became irrelevant. There was an instant need to address the fear of thousands of businesses on Fave platform that might go out of business since most of the retail shops had to close. During the first week of the MCO we have launched the “SaveOurFave” movement allowing businesses that are closed to pre-sell their eCards for upfront revenue to keep them afloat; and customers can do their part to contribute towards supporting their favourite local businesses by pre-purchasing a stored-value card while getting extra savings.
2. Move from being product focused to market focused. Many times we’ve seen marketing strategies creating demand for products that are “nice to have”. However, in these times when the fear is high we need to innovate and create solutions that are compelling to the current situation in the market. It’s the time to move from “nice to have” to a “need to have” solutions. At Fave, to continue supporting the needs of merchants and customers we have launched Deals Delivery where customers can buy value deals with extra savings on their essentials such as pet food, groceries and meals, redeem it online and get it delivered.
3. Execute with speed. In any crisis agility is crucial. While planning is important, being able to adapt quickly is more critical. To remain relevant we must adapt, contextualize and execute fast.
The Right Message at the Right Time for the Right Audience
Christopher Koh, Head of Marketing at MyTOWN Shopping Centre
In times of crisis like this during the Covid-19 outbreak, major challenges that we face is stakeholder’s management and having continued brand presence with cost cutting exercises. Having multiple stakeholders from higher management, our tenants, our agencies, our employees, the community and our customers is that each have their own perception and expectations. We understand that our industry thrives off good relationships with our stakeholders and we’ve continued to nurture positive relationship with them. At the end of the day, it’s about aligning expectations, values and ensuring business continuity for all.
With a crisis like this, some businesses will need some time to recover as it may not bounce back as many expect it to. People’ point of view and how some of us look at life may change. We are creatures of habit; some time and effort will be required to ‘win back’ customers. Our priority will always be about the safety and wellbeing our customers. “A Fun and Safe Day Out” will be our key message after the Movement Control Order has been lifted; to continually promote social distancing and to ensure a smooth transition for commerce and community.
Essential Skills for Modern Marketers in the Digital Era
AiRene Tan, Director in Sales & Marketing, Commerce Finance, Healthcare & Tech of Robert Walters Malaysia
For my team, the logistics of working from home hasn’t been a massive challenge. We are one of the first few recruitment businesses to build a tech environment that enables remote working – and that has helped significantly throughout this period. What has been challenging is the fact we don’t get to see each other. The Robert Walters culture is people-oriented, dynamic and energetic and we miss being in such an environment. To overcome that, we’ve moved our team-bonding activities online, and added additional virtual townhalls and lunches to ensure everyone is connected.
In terms of hiring trends for marketers, industries that provide essential services such as food, healthcare and e-commerce have seen a stable demand for marketers. Digital marketing, e-commerce, social media, SEO, CRM and content marketing are some skill sets we’ve seen consistent demand for – particularly as consumers in Malaysia now spend more time online. However, in B2B and industrial, employers remain cautious in hiring over the last few weeks. Marketing professionals looking for jobs during this period will need to highlight their expertise in digital marketing, in addition to their ability to be flexible, creative and adaptable given the ever-changing situation.
Finding The Light in The Darkness
Rayfeal Anthony Lopez, Account Director in Linkedin Marketing Solutions
As consultative marketer now is not the time to panic and pull plugs on your marketing campaigns. Witnessing cutbacks from some brands, now is the time to stand by your team, customers and showcase true value.
Dust your marketing hat and consider this; if you are able to elevate and maintain your brand through unprecedented times, you are likely to find your brand as a trusted and reliable source to your audience.
This is a time to consider reshaping our narratives, we are all experiencing something so unique that makes us anxious, fearful, panic and grief. Developing narratives around this notion is the surest path at this time, be compassionate and show empathy.
Refrain from being an opportunistic brand, instead, lead in challenging times. Demonstrate clarity in uncertainty. An example of an output of that, at LinkedIn, we are offering free learning courses to members and created a dedicated resource page to help members navigate through the coronavirus by displaying job opportunities and helping them stay connected and inspired.
There are no playbooks to manage through these times, hence, I sympathize with those who are in doubt. Slowly but surely, the market will build itself back up and businesses will contribute to that. We will come out better prepared and with the mindset to accept and adapt to change quicker than ever.
Rethinking Customer Experience During COVID-19
Aaron Tang, Country Manager of Malaysia at Luno
Our biggest challenge has always been education and awareness on the topic of cryptocurrencies. People shouldn’t get involved in investments they don’t understand, and at this point most people still don’t understand cryptocurrencies. Especially during the COVID-19 crisis, people are switching their focus away from investing, towards being defensive and protecting their money. So it is a challenge in that sense, however I’d argue that it’s natural: and people should indeed be thinking about how to protect themselves right now. As a company, we will do everything we can to help support them in these times.
Even though we are restricted physically by the MCO, we’re continuing to roll out our education and awareness programmes in multiple ways. In recent weeks we’ve already run 3 live webinars for a variety of customer segments and have several more planned. We are also continuing to work on smart partnerships that help new people get involved with cryptocurrency investments in safe and easy ways.
In long run, we definitely want to get back into holding more face-to-face engagement sessions. While we’re primarily an online platform, nothing beats human connection — and we would love nothing more than to be able to meet our customers face to face again.
All in all, we’re seeing a shift in mindset towards digital/online things. For example, not many people have been part of webinars before, but in the past few weeks most people I know have started attending them. In that sense, we expect the market for digital assets and cryptocurrencies continue to grow as more and more people continue to get comfortable with newer disruptive technologies.
Emerging opportunities amid Covid-19 Disruptions
Justin Chen, Performance Marketing Manager at SearchGuru
As there’s a bit of wry humour going around now saying that COVID-19 is driving digital transformation faster than any other previous initiatives — which is true across our clients so far. For example, what seemed to be impossible to achieve over an online conference is now doable.
Indeed, with the MCO in place, it is essential for business to consider the out-of-the-box solutions to keep businesses afloat. As an agency, we often specialise in specific areas rather than a holistic business strategy which doesn’t necessarily meet what businesses need the most at the moment.
While we’re realigning our team’s mindset as an agency, we also saw many new business models and innovations throughout the MCO/COVID-19 period. We took this opportunity to compile over 100 case studies across different industries on how they’re responding to the current crisis and shared it internally for better strategic thinking. Some of our case studies cover topics such as the F&B industry turning to home-cook or self-made recipes highlighting to-buy ingredients, drive-through essential goods services, virtual product showrooms and more.
Inevitably, MCO & COVID-19 have made it an emotional time for all. It is no better time than this for businesses to show empathy and share their support or kind thoughts through various ways/channels. So to speak, more than just providing platform solutions, we are dedicated and actively helping to solve problems. As the future remained uncertain, we must remain resilient and continue focus on the recover and grow.
The Solution Has To Be Agile With The Current Situation
Mohd Hisham, Head of Marketing at Boat Noodle
As a unique small chain restaurant, our biggest challenge is that our existing products are not designed beyond than dine-in experience. With MCO in place, we’re not able to be on the market except for selected items for takeaway & food delivery.
We work closely with our operation team to continue running the business via food delivery partners. We’ve managed to open selected outlets within certain KM radius to have optimum coverage of a residential area.
Also, we are utilizing locality marketing within digital space and come out with specific promotion catered just for MCO period to ease the drop in sales. We are offering vouchers with a concept of ‘BUY NOW, DINE LATER’ with our e-commerce partners to continue to engage with our existing customers as well as sustain their top of mind during the MCO period.
After MCO, it’s definitely a different ball game for all brands especially when it comes to F&B. However, with my previous experience during the 2014 airline crisis, not all post-crisis BCP Plan is about recovery. It’s very much of a new acquisition in every aspect.
There were a lot of changes in the way consumers interact and behave. It’s not just about bringing back our customers, it’s a clean slate in getting a new one. It’s the time where you’ve to relook back on your offering and customer experience.
Embracing the new normal after the Covid-19 shutdown
Jui Hong Teoh, Managing Director at BRANDTHINK
In just the last 4 weeks pouring over data and insights both from our clients and general consumer behaviour, one thing is clear: things will not go back to where it once was
As a company, we have been consulting various clients on how to address this crisis and some key questions are top of mind right now. Namely, should we continue to advertise, where do we drive our customers to, how do we improve our e-commerce efforts and what to do if the MCO continues for longer than anticipated.
What we believe is that the sudden shift in behaviour spurred by the MCO will likely continue after the MCO, a new normal if you will. Some initiatives that we think that any business should consider now would include:
- Adapting business models to include online interactions beyond transactions. Think in terms of customer consultations via video conferencing, or online delivery of services such as medical, health, fitness without being physically present.
- Enhancing e-commerce models beyond online marketplace, or transactional websites. Consider how store staff would eventually be part of serving customers online, completing transactions especially high-value ones through a combination of tools including the telephone or messaging.
- Back-end operations would have to be reconfigured beyond logistics and may have to include some form of customer experience. Such as personalised greeting cards, or gift-wrapping services, something online florists might be well prepared for but not necessary for other categories.
- Focus on effectiveness. This is key, because the answer to the question whether we should cut back on advertising isn’t the right question at all. The real question is what ineffective methods must we cut, and where do we focus the investment into that will see real business results, whether that results may be sales, or assisting in helping any brand reduce the barrier to sales.
COVID-19 Is Not the Major Killer for Business Chain
Nick Tan, Director at Data Cohorts
As I am in a business that sells CXM & IT services/solutions to our customers, we like many businesses were caught off guard by the swiftness of MCO execution.
In my opinion, the major challenges faced in this MCO would be businesses that have always prioritise face-to-face engagement and minimal focus on the importance of IT connectivity infra, online platform and/or social apps. A quick example is how CXM or WhatsApp business can be a great tool to continuously support their operation during MCO.
Post-MCO, I forecast a momentarily interest spike in CXM, IT infra as well as internal discussion of online strategy importance and relevance once the dust settles down. I, however, also personally doubt many businesses will change their operation drastically.
How a business evolve from this crisis depends on where they are in a chain of business and industry, they play in. The killer of the business chain was not COVID-19, but rather the consequence in containing COVID-19 ie. MCO.
For companies that already executed online or have online strategy on hand, they will execute their plans accordingly but admittedly at a much-delayed timeline. This is due to urgent need to recuperate business losses caused by MCO.
The views expressed are those of the respective author and do not necessarily reflect those of Oppotus. #staysafe