Marketers put campaigns on ice as Covid-19 crisis bites
The coronavirus outbreak is undoubtedly taking a serious toll on marketers. The atmosphere of uncertainty and fear is forcing businesses across the marketing spectrum to press pause on a significant amount of spending.
The vast majority of marketers (86%) are now delaying or reviewing marketing campaigns, up from 55% just three weeks ago. Of the 849 UK brand marketers answering the second round of an exclusive survey conducted by Marketing Week and its sister title Econsultancy, 49% say they are delaying campaigns, with 38% reviewing them. Just 14% say campaigns are going ahead as planned.
The issues go further than just delaying campaigns. Some 90% of marketers say their budget commitments have been delayed or are under review, up from 60% three weeks ago. Plus, 85% of marketers say they have paused new hires, compared to 41% three weeks prior.
At the root of the problem is that fact that 69% of marketers have experienced a fall in demand for their brand’s products and services, up 30% in three weeks alone.
Amid plummeting demand, 62% of marketers have been forced to change their marketing strategy, for example by introducing new discounting, messaging and partnerships. This number has shot up from just 18% three weeks ago.
It makes sense that, standing on the precipice of recession and with the nation still in lockdown, marketers are putting the blocks on spending. However, those brands that are looking long-term know that staying relevant and connected to consumers during this crisis will stand them in good stead once the pandemic eventually abates.
Birds Eye refuses to ‘go dark’ with launch of new campaign
As the latest Marketing Week stats suggest, brands are coming under increasing pressure to delay campaigns, pause new product development and freeze budgets as the Covid-19 lockdown continues.
Operating in this context, several brands are going in a different direction and finding ways to continue advertising in the midst of the crisis. They are developing creative remotely and working hard to adopt the right tone to fit the mood of the nation.
One such brand is Birds Eye. Describing her company as a “brand of reassurance”, UK and Ireland marketing director Sarah Koppens explains that Birds Eye feels a responsibility to stay on air and show solidarity to consumers during the coronavirus pandemic.
She says that Birds Eye did not want to “go dark”, because at times of uncertainty consumers want consistent messages from brands they trust. Likewise, running with “business as usual” creative felt insensitive and would not reflect our lives under lockdown.
The result is the ‘What’s for Tea?’ campaign, which hit TV screens on 7 April and features snapshots of the lives of consumers living in lockdown. Turned around in just 18 days, the advert was created and approved by Birds Eye marketers across Europe working completely remotely.
The team reviewed a couple of scripts, getting together via video conferencing to share ideas from England, France, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. Not having the luxury of time and face-to-face meetings meant that the Birds Eye marketers had to be pragmatic and stay focused on the core idea.
With other companies like Giffgaff, Virgin Media and Barclays all going live with messages of support for customers, the belief is that staying part of the national conversation during the crisis will help brands weather the storm.
Consumer confidence drops to 10-year low
As the coronavirus pandemic worsens and a recession looms consumer confidence has hit a low not seen since the 2008 financial crash.
GfK’s consumer confidence index dropped by 25 points to -34 between the first two weeks and last two weeks of March. That marks the biggest fall since records began in January 1974.
GfK usually only runs the index once a month but is now putting out a ‘flash’ index to determine the impact that coronavirus is having. With such a fast-changing situation it will invaluable to track how consumer’s are feeling.
In its last regular index used data from before the UK went into lockdown the results were dramatic.
The dropped 29 points to -56. Even the score for the general economic situation over the past 12 months sunk, by 17 points to -40.
People’s feelings about their personal financial situation over the next 12 months – which GfK’s client strategy director Joe Staton believes is the “most telling number” – declined by 20 points to -17.
The latest figures are unsurprising as self employed people lose out on income and many are being furloughed. However, this doesn’t mean they are not concerning the results were prior to lock down.
Eve Sleep’s CMO Cheryl Calverley promoted to CEO
Amid the bad news about furloughs, pay cuts and redundancies, some good news. Eve Sleep’s CMO Cheryl Calverley has been promoted to CEO of the sleep wellness company, a little more than 15 months since she joined.
Pre-coronavirus crisis, Eve Sleep had had a good year, becoming profitable on an operating basis on the first time. It is now looking to long-term profitability and believes Calverley, with her background in building consumer brands, is the best person to drive that.
No doubt Calverley will call on her 15 years’ experience at brands including Unilever and The AA. But make no mistake this is a difficult time to be the CEO of any business, let alone a new CEO.
Her first job will be navigating the very choppy waters of the next few months as the UK and other countries try to get through the pandemic. This will be less about profitability than survival and ensuring the health of Eve’s staff, as well as its brand.
Virgin Media pivots marketing to promote British spirit
Virgin Media is another brand putting out new advertising despite the coronavirus crisis. It had a campaign planned for this month, but had to cancel the shoot last minute due to concerns over getting a big group of people together in the midst of a pandemic (this was before the UK went into lockdown).
That left the brand and its agency Adam&eveDDB needing a new strategy with very little time to pull it together. Nevertheless, CMO Cilesta Van Doorn says it was one of the easier campaigns to put together, with a simple brief to reflect Virgin Media’s purpose of building meaningful connections and supporting the public.
The result is an uplifting campaign showing how people are getting through the lockdown and supporting each other, and in particular healthcare workers.
It’s very different to what we have come to expect from Virgin Media and has no mention of its services, packages or broadband speeds. But this is a brand play that Virgin Media, which has launched a number of initiatives to help customers, staff and NHS workers, felt it had earned the right to put out.