The Future of Work is Holistic, Virtual, and Remote

April 22, 2020

By Joanna Valente

Visual Generation/Shutterstock.com

Technology and AI have massively changed the workforce, both marketing and otherwise, over recent years. With the current pandemic changing how people live in both their personal and professional lives, these changes are more apparent — and, if anything, our use of technology can be used to help mitigate losses and allow new workflows to be efficient.

In a time where people are forced to stay home, marketers need to adapt to these changes, from how they work to how they create campaigns, products, and engage with consumers. Consumers have different priorities now, focused largely on needs rather than wants; this dramatically changes purchases, retail, and cultural interests, but this doesn’t mean marketers can’t meet these needs — and technology can help do just that.

Monique Brosseau, president of GroupM Quebec, recently told the ANA, " Technology will force us to build deeper connections with clients. Yes, we all have data and intelligence and a wealth of information, but that actually helps us become deep and true strategic partners with our clients. It allows us to have more conversations around brands and consumers.”

Richard Benyon, CEO and co-founder of Decideware, also said how technology “should never replace communication. It should provide important insights, but not get in the way of the irreplaceable magic that happens when teams collaborate and innovate."

With new changes and challenges comes a new way to train, retain, and hire employees. In the current crisis, finding new ways to innovate roles and workplace structures isn’t just a nice thought, but a necessary one.

Tom Vines, a former global HR leader at IBM, stated that "employees want to be developed. They want to define their relevance in the marketplace." In a recent study conducted by Clutch, 93 percent of employees believe their companies should help them develop new skills.

As a result of COVID-19, the marketing industry will continue changing in four significant ways; while these changes were already in place before coronavirus, they will become more and more commonplace.

 

The Rise of Virtual, Experiential Events and Meetings

With technology like video meetings and calls, thanks to platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Google Hangout, connecting with people personally and professionally has never been easier — and it’s not a new technology either. Many companies already have teams that work remotely, all over the world, but now it’s a way for all companies to stay afloat during a crisis — and beyond.

Videoconferencing application is replacing the usual team meetings and coffee breaks, and it could be for better, as it allows teams to become more flexible and have a more integrated work/life balance. According to Vox, Microsoft’s Teams saw a “500 percent increase in meetings, calls, and conference usage in China since the end of January.” Microsoft Teams usage was “up 20 percent in the first week of March compared to the first week of February.”

CNBC also reported that “daily downloads of the Zoom app have increased 30 times year-over-year and the app has been the top free app for iPhones in the United States since March 18, according to Bernstein Research and Apptopia. Zoom said daily users spiked to 200 million in March, up from 10 million in December.”

It's not just about businesses staying connected, and harnessing talent that may be spread throughout different regions, but creating a culture of authenticity. Writer and editor at CNET Mark Serrels wrote that “I've learned more about my colleagues in the last two weeks than I have in the last two years of working in an office setting, and I love it.… I hope that when the dust has settled and things go back to a relative state of normality, we can take this spirit of authenticity and apply it to more traditional workplace settings.”

It’s not just companies either, but a way to rev entertainment as well. Travel companies like TripAdvisor and Airbnb have created virtual options to harness consumer engagement. TripAdvisor’s tour company Viator created over 100 virtual tours and experiences as part of its #RoamFromHome campaign, including sightseeing tours and cooking classes. Airbnb followed suit with its Online Experiences.

However, consumer experiences and events hasn’t dried up either — they’re just happening at home. Mattel, for instance, is pushing its virtual resources. The company launched Mattel Playroom, a shop with activities, tips, and content from its brands such as American Girl and Barbie, which is updated weekly. Activities include YouTube playlists, downloaded coloring books, and game apps.

 

Virtual Influencers Are on the Rise, Both Real and Created

The sudden rise of virtual influencers isn’t actually sudden, but brands may be more reliant on influencer marketing than ever. While using digitally created and animated people as influencers might seem absurd, major companies such as Dior and Samsung have already used them.

This doesn’t mean harnessing the power of celebrities, creative, and public figures will cease, but with brands being forced to find new methods of engagement, this might become even easier, as created influencers can remain both innovative and potentially more cost effective. The overall influencer marketing industry is projected to be worth up to $15 billion by 2022.

Celebrity influence has already experienced a tremendous impact during coronavirus: Lady Gaga, along with the group Global Citizen, has already raised $35 million for the World Health Organization through a concert, One World: Together at Home. Through this, she helped celebrate health care workers.

The concert, which featured Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney, was live-streamed in the U.S. and screened on BBC in the U.K on April 18th. These funds are being used for protective equipment for health workers and support efforts to develop drugs and vaccines — as well as create an experience people can enjoy across the globe, thus connecting people together.

Meanwhile, Dolly Parton is hosting live-streamed readings to children through her Imagination Library charity on Facebook. This started on April 2nd and will continue for the next 10 weeks. These videos help inspire children and families while also developing awareness for both Dolly as a performer, as well as reading itself.

 

Corporate Social Responsibility Is More Important Than Ever

The way companies and brands respond to COVID-19 is not only important when it comes to brand reputation and awareness, but for being able to prioritize societal needs, and thus, consumer needs and interests. Brands that meet the needs of consumers, in any time, are the most successful, and now is not any different.

As such, many companies are broadening their production and product lines for the greater good, if not revamping them entirely. For example, Patagonia has operated Patagonia Provisions since 2012, which sells packaged food products like buffalo jerky. However, to meet the needs of many, it is expanding its grocery options. Similarly, Panera is also offering grocery items for pickup or delivery alongside regular Panera menu items.

However, the apparel industry, which was hit especially hard as a nonessential industry, has revamped its product line. Many fashion companies are now manufacturing face masks, hospital gowns, and other necessary supplies to bridge supply gaps. For some companies, this can be a way to survive the crisis, but is also a way to help people in a time of need.

House of Siriano, run by designer Christian Siriano, received a tremendous amount of press for turning his fashion house into a mask factory; Siriano asked Cuomo’s office for permission to reopen an “essential” business. According to The New Yorker, he “gathered the team under one roof (six feet apart, of course), where they could form an assembly line. In the first week, they produced almost two thousand masks.”

Many other brands have followed suit: Burberry will manufacture hospital gowns and masks for the NHS, as well as provide funding to the University of Oxford's vaccine research and other food charities. Chanel is doing the same with face masks, as are Zara and Gap.

The fashion industry is a case study for many companies right now: Adapt and thrive — or don’t, and fade into obscurity due to irrelevance.

See what you may have missed from previous weeks:

How is your brand adapting to the pandemic? Share in the comments.


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