Marketing Changes Wrought by Pandemic Feel Permanent Already

July 23, 2020

By Matthew Schwartz

Three senior marketing executives chime in on three ways that the coronavirus pandemic will change certain aspects of marketing communications. From left to right: Gretchen Eischen, VP of global marketing at SAP Procurement Solutions; David Brown, executive chairman at Manifest; and Matt Kohan, VP of marketing culture and capabilities at Anheuser-Busch. ANA

The coronavirus pandemic is having a massive impact on how marketers operate, ranging from developing ad creative that reflects the new climate to shifting more and more budget to virtual programming and conferencing. As the virus lingers, it seems few marketing practices will be immune from a pivot in both tactical and strategic thinking.

The known unknown is how the pandemic and subsequent fallout will influence society at large, and it would be folly to try and predict how the virus may or may not alter consumer behavior for the long-term.

People are spending considerably more time at home due to the virus and buying more stuff online. But those examples just skim the surface for a situation that feels like it’s going to spur permanent and perhaps fundamental changes socially, economically, and culturally.

With that in mind, Marketing Maestros reached out to a few senior marketing executives to get a better sense of how the pandemic will affect certain aspects of marketing for the long-term and what brand managers can do to respond to the changes proactively.

Matt Kohan, VP of marketing culture and capabilities at Anheuser-Busch, shares three ways that advertising creative may change post COVID-19.

People first: If brands are only relying on advertising, they will never be relevant. So we must open new doors for communicating with them to drive meaningful engagement.

Ability to listen: Marketers must be obsessed with understanding people — all people — like never before and using multiple sources and methods to gain insights.

Relevance through action: Creative must drive relevance through the brand’s actions. That could be in the form of helping people in need, like Budweiser’s partnership with the American Red Cross to execute blood drive donation centers across the U.S., or delivering value in people’s everyday lives, with something like Michelob Ultra’s livestream workouts or Bud Light’s virtual concert series.

Gretchen Eischen, VP of global marketing at SAP Procurement Solutions, shares three ways that online analytics and marketing ROI may change post COVID-19.

Behavioral metrics from events: Lockdown’s digital reality has taught us that all those “best practices” we’ve read about truly are critically important, and harder to get than many marketers are prepared for. Understanding what’s resonating in your digital content, which digital roads your prospects are taking, and where they are dead-ending, is essential to optimizing the experience.

Evolving metrics: In a time of operational urgency, focus must shift to the business as a whole. In our organization, this means a greater focus on marketing’s influence on pipeline to progress and accelerate deals, and shared pipeline targets with sales, instead of a sole focus on marketing contribution. This is leading to closer collaboration and partnership with sales, and greater creativity and listening across the business.

Digital events and ROI: One thing yet to be seen is the impact of anticipated event revenue as a P&L line item for marketing budgets. With the shift from physical to digital, registration dollars brought in to offset costs of physical events have vaporized, but costs for digital content production have mounted. Consumers now have an expectation to get content for free, so what they will be willing to pay for a physical experience in the future remains to be seen.

David Brown, executive chairman at Manifest, shares three ways that content marketing may change post COVID-19.

Tighter connection to consumers: As customer journeys are now all changing, and more brand connections are becoming digital and intangible, content is playing an increasingly important role to guide customers through that journey from inspiration through engagement to product purchase and beyond. Content can make brand connections matter.

More meaningful content: The content value proposition will become part of our daily vernacular. What can your brand uniquely deliver that your audience will truly value. That answer leads to content that matters. Content that is highly relevant and individualized to each prospect and customer.

Boosting learning and development: There’s a new opportunity for content marketers to move into the learning and development arena. If you agree that the only truly competitive advantage for a business is the ability to share knowledge faster than your competitors, then learning and development in an increasingly virtual setting become more important and difficult. The skills that underpin content teams are well placed to fuel learning and developments teams to ensure that knowledge transfer.

How do these changes jibe with your marketing department and/or agency? We’d love to hear from you. Reply in the comments or send an email to

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