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Marketers Need to Tell the Difference between Fear and Foolishness



Accenture Interactive’s president for Europe, Max Morielli, outlines how firms can make the right investments to establish growth throughout a turbulent period

Marketers Need to Tell the Difference between Fear and Foolishness

A wise man once said that the only thing to fear is fear itself. Clearly, he’d never had a big marketing investment go badly. 

Fear is not always irrational. At a time of crisis, self-preservation is a powerful instinct, and there’s a logic to it. Making the wrong decision on spend, or a bad investment in an agency or in-house tech is a dangerous prospect, especially when the future is so uncertain. 

But the fear of bad investments shouldn’t stop us from making the right ones. The reality for businesses across the world today is a bleak one, as we stare down the face of what may prove to be a steep recession. Consequently, we’re doubling down on cost optimization. In such an environment, it’s imperative that decision-makers have the confidence and insight to know the difference between a dangerous risk and a path back to growth. For marketers, our role is to lay out that information, and make the positive case for investment.

Losing Our Edge?

And the clock is ticking. In Europe, our research shows that just 16% of businesses had invested in their post-Covid business strategy by the summer. Compare that to APAC, where a quarter of all businesses have done the same. As for North America, 34% have set their plans for a post-pandemic world into motion. If this doesn’t start to change soon, don’t be surprised to see European businesses continue the story of this century so far - one in which we slowly slip behind our American and Asian competition. 

But it needn’t be so, and marketers can help reverse this trend. Whilst nothing is certain day-to-day, there are some areas which appear ripe for sensible and sustained investment for the coming decade’s most successful businesses. Broadly speaking, the consumers that businesses will be marketing to post-pandemic will have changed their behaviour and attitude both towards brands’ digital offerings (including what is widely understood to be a ‘basic’ digital presence), and will also have become more conscientious about a company’s social and environmental impacts. In ten years’, the most successful businesses in the world will be reaping the rewards of the investments they make today. 

Leading The Purpose Revolution

The world has changed a lot in twenty years, and there’s a fair chance the European consumer of 2000 would not recognise themselves in 2020. Whilst news and opinion right now is directed at Covid-19, consumers on our continent are paying an enormous amount of attention to the climate crisis. In France, Italy, and Spain, more than 70% of consumers say that in the long term the climate catastrophe is just as serious as the pandemic. Investments in ‘purpose’ can set alarm bells ringing in businesses, as they often involve large-scale reorganisation. The upshot for marketers, however, is that those businesses will benefit long-term if they meet the evolving needs of their customers. 

Therefore, future-focused marketers have an opportunity to recommend investments for their businesses in sustainable initiatives. The key to success in the near- to mid-term future lies in understanding ‘purpose’. Specifically, that it is the result of turning empathy into action. Almost half (47%) of European consumers will make more environmentally friendly, sustainable and ethical purchases post-pandemic. And marketers looking to make this case internally may well find themselves pushing at an open door. Nearly two-thirds (62%) of European business leaders in a group of consumer-related industries see opportunities to build on buying habits that are driven by social and environmental criteria.

The rewards for brands who connect those purpose-driven actions to their communications are considerable. Marketers can’t afford to ignore them.

Accelerate The Digital Transformation

In a familiar pattern, Europe’s investment in digitally transformative tech has lagged behind competitors in North America and APAC. It’s a clear and obvious weak spot that’s putting us at a disadvantage to our competitors – and as a result, marketers looking to catch their businesses up with their competition can look to the digital transformation as a fruitful opportunity for investment.

For example, is your company’s digital platform fit for purpose post-lockdown? During the pandemic, many commerce platforms throttled access to communications and services precisely when customers needed them most. This was foolish. Customers have constantly shifting expectations and have gotten used to tech doing the hard work for them, of having 24 hour access to support and information. Businesses who don’t match up to their competitors are swiftly falling behind and the decision not to implement these systems could be catastrophic.

A solution to this issue is bespoke messaging platforms, as they can enable more manageable conversations with customers whilst also embracing the potential of your online marketplace to showcase products and services that reflect the familiarity of the (much-missed) offline experience. Whilst it might seem like a big cost in a time where budgets are tight, it would be foolish to continue to head into the future with an outdated digital platform which will end up costing more in time and resources when time and resources are not abundant. 

On a similar note, marketers can soften the shift from physical to virtual by investing in proactive and personal communication methods. Campaign and communication orchestration tools should avoid overwhelming customers with messages from organisational silos. Cloud-based commerce platforms and next-gen customer contact, campaign and personalisation tools can take advantage of well-charted transformation journeys to ease consumers comfortably into a new era.

It’s no coincidence that the companies which have fared best during the months under lockdown have been those with the greatest digital fluency. There’s every reason to believe that the successful marketers of the next decade will operate from the same playbook.

Rewrite The Future

Through smart choices in transformative marketing technology investment, European marketers do still have options for leading their businesses through the next few years. Getting budgets approved has rarely been as difficult as it is today but it's crucial that fear doesn’t blind us to the wise investments that exist amidst the foolish. CEOs recognise the need for digital transformation and purpose, so putting forward ideas in these areas will prove beneficial for marketers, and our businesses. 

Europe is inherently competitive, and both the potential and path to growth are clear. With confidence we can compete with Asia and the US. It would be foolish for us not to prove it.

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Accenture Song, Wed, 30 Sep 2020 10:49:31 GMT