With lockdown continuing to ease in the UK it might seem that the worst of the pandemic is over, at least for now. Certainly things for the advertising industry are nowhere near as bad as they were at the peak of the crisis as the economy opens back up and consumers get used to a new reality of social distancing.
However, with the UK now officially in recession and the number of job cuts growing by the day, things are still looking very bad out there for many companies. And that of course trickles down to marketing departments.
Our latest survey of 500 UK-based marketers found that almost half (44%) are planning to reduce their marketing budget commitments in the second half of the year compared to the first six months. Just 14.2% plan to increase them, meaning a net balance of 28% are cutting spend.
And revealing the extent of the wonky recovery, 31.2% plan to cut the number of campaigns launched in the second half, while 31% plan to increase them.
The peak of the health crisis might be over (barring any second wave) but the economic and business crisis is only just beginning. Marketers are faced with a reality of having to brutally prioritise and do more with less as budgets and teams are cut.
Kimberly-Clark shows commitment to marketing
Huggies is ramping up its investment in marketing as it kicks off a new strategy aimed at broadening its appeal. The brand has broken down parents into training and pre-changing stages, allowing it appeal to a wider-age range (starting from nine months) and resulting in the launch of a new product line.
The baby market is a tricky one, as parents inevitably leave, but ensuring quality and trust in products is vital which is why owner Kimberly-Clark isn’t backing down on investment.
Kimberly-Clark has done well during Covid-19, with its products (including baby-wipes and toilet roll) in high demand. It’s products are premium and in the face of a recession Kimberly Clark’s UK marketing director is adamant that it won’t be compromising on price but instead focusing on marketing to communicate value.
This is a smart move from Huggies as entering into a price war only ends up with premium brands losing. Instead communicating quality will stand it in good stead and ensure that the trust it has earned during coronavirus will continue.
Audio content helps smart brands expand their customer base
Our listening habits may have changed over the past few months, but our cravings for audio content, podcasts in particular, shows no signs of abating. Pre-pandemic, an Ofcom report found that one in eight of us were now downloading at least one podcast a week. And regular podcast users listen to at least seven every week.
With the format in the US increasingly becoming a Netflix-style platform for limited-episode documentary series (Netflix itself loves a podcast, with a number of branded pod series currently in circulation), companies have been quick to see the value in long-form audio.
Podcasts are a great way to extend reach, to engage with a wider audience, bringing in potential new custom and deepening relationships with existing consumers. They humanise a brand, invite listeners in on a conversation and introduce them to the personality and purpose of a company.
They’re also a lot quicker to turn around than television and other traditional campaigns, allowing a brand to be more reactive and relevant, but in a more considered way than the snappy pace of social.
Vodafone launched its recent ‘Business Unusual’ podcast series, enlisting TV personality Claudia Winkleman as host. That wouldn’t have been cheap, but companies don’t need to blow the budget on big-name involvement. Better instead to focus on what you want to say and how you want to say it. Easy on the branding and look to hit that sweet spot between informative and entertaining.
Marketers crave more remote training
The way that marketers are working is different but not necessarily less productive. Results from an exclusive survey from Marketing Week and its sister title Econsultancy of 500 marketers found the majority (64%) have been as productive, if not more so, working from home.
However, 59% acknowledged that remote working inevitably encroaches on work/life balance, despite the rise in productivity, with 61% admitting they work more hours when working from home.
This is an important figure to note for leaders; as the ‘new normal’ continues bosses need to ensure that team members are also taking care of their mental health and striking the right balance.
Another area of interest is the lack of training for marketers despite a clear desire for it. Some 51% note they haven’t received extra resources on best practice while 75% think it is critical or important to rapidly train the workforce to be effective at working remotely.
The majority are not keen to return to the office highlighting that as lockdown eases managers will need to consider how to adapt to new demands from employees.
Sheila Mitchell leaves Public Health England after 13 years in the top marketing job
Public Health England’s marketing boss for the past 13 years, Sheila Mitchell, is set to step down.
Government marketing might not seem as sexy as some areas and prone to the whims of the latest inhabitent of Number 10, but she has been responsible for some very important work. Notable among the campaigns she has led is Change 4 Life, which aimed to tackle childhood obesity, as well as helping the country give up smoking and tackle mental health.
And of course, she had led PHE’s marketing through a global pandemic and the launch of its new adult health brand, ‘Better Health’.
After more than a decade with the organisation hers will be tough shoes to fill but her replacement, current deputy director of marketing at PHE Alexia Clifford, has been working under her for six years so will most likely follow in her vision.
Mitchell is moving on to be a consultant but there is no doubt she has put her stamp both on government marketing and the health of the UK.