We need to talk about post-COVID marketing. In many ways, it’s just like pre-COVID marketing, but completely different. Who knew that a global pandemic could be such a game-changer?
For many businesses, the waves of COVID-19 may as well have been tsunamis. They wiped out everything, leaving a post-COVID marketing landscape that bears little resemblance to what used to be. It’s kind of like one of those extreme makeover reality TV shows, but in reverse.
There’s a lot to take in, so rather than standing there with your mouth agape wondering what to do now, let’s start with some Big New Truths™ (BNT) to get a handle on post-COVID marketing.
BNT #1: Social Media is for Real
In the before-time, when lockdowns were still unimaginable, it was easy to scoff at social media. Sure, it’s great for targeting audiences that you didn’t know you could target with your marketing campaigns, but the idea of maintaining an actual presence for your brand probably seemed laughable.
Of course, in the post-COVID marketing world we’ve now discovered just how crucial it is for businesses to pretend they are people. The brave survivors of 2020 will never forget the businesses that were there for them when they were bored out of their minds and scrolling endlessly through their Facebook feeds.
For some businesses, it was the best way to engage their customers. For others, it was literally the only way. Success in the post-COVID marketing landscape is going to come to businesses that learned this lesson and prioritize social media engagement.
BNT #2: Not Everyone is Everyone
Professional marketers are well aware of the kind of “target sprawl” their clients are prone to. Businesses are inevitably growth-minded, so they are always looking to acquire new customers. To them, this means expanding their horizons by targeting larger and larger demographic segments.
However, this was a bad idea well before COVID, and in the post-COVID marketing landscape, it’s even worse.
As mentioned above in BNT#1, consumers like being treated like actual people rather than a crop that needs to be harvested. The more you understand who your customers are, the better you will be at engaging them. That means being specific with your targets, which means being honest with yourself.
Keep your scope narrow and allow your marketing to really connect with your customers. If you need to grow your audience, take on new, narrowly defined market segments one at a time. The goal is to not just gain customers, but to cultivate consumer loyalty.
Sure, you (and every business ever) want to include everyone on Earth among your customers. But trying to talk to everyone is also the best way to wind up talking to no one.
BNT #3: Global Localization
Localization is really all across the board in the landscape of post-COVID marketing. As described above in BNT 1 and 2, consumer engagement is really the key to winning at COVID. Social media channels create their own local “villages” of customers, and limiting your target audience helps do the same with those cohorts.
In an insane twist, it turns out that “localization” ALSO refers to your business’s geographic location. And that means the community around you.
And here’s the weird part: It doesn’t matter if you do most or all of your business online, you still need to engage locally. Why?
The reason is pretty straightforward, even if the reasoning itself is not. The local community is always your audience, even when they are not your target. Your employees are local. So are their friends and families. Your business helps sustain the local economy, and the local economy helps sustain your business.
During the height of the pandemic lockdowns, consumers worried not just about themselves, but also about their communities and local businesses. Many consumers went out of their way to try to support businesses that were struggling, and remain very “protective” of the things that make their community a community.
BNT #4: Demolishing Demographics
In the before-time, good, old-fashioned demographics reigned supreme as the number one way to understand market segmentation. But, as you know, pandemics have a way of changing people. Must be the threat of global annihilation that causes people to rethink what’s most important to them. Kind of like PTSD for the zeitgeist.
In any case, marketers are finding that demographic data is simply not as reliable a predictor of consumer behavior as it once was. Where you live, how much you earn, race, sex, and age are just not as important as how you feel about things. And those feelings tend to come in 5 different camps, at least as far as COVID is concerned.
You know what that means? That’s right. It’s time for a listicle INSIDE of a listicle! Wheeeeeeeeeee!
WHAT’S YOUR COHORT?
The EY Future Consumer Index, which has conducted multiple waves of consumer research across 20 different countries, recently identified the following consumer cohorts. The people you are looking for invariably fit into one of these groups.
- Affordability first: The largest cohort includes about 32% of consumers who are most concerned with living within their means and budget, and care less about brand and functionality. This is your discount market.
- Health first: The next largest cohort includes a quarter (25%) of consumers. This group is mostly concerned about their health, and that of their family. Health, fitness, safety, and security are their most important concerns when considering purchasing an item or service.
- Planet first: Somewhat surprisingly, the third largest cohort (16%) consists of individuals who consider environmental concerns the most significant factor influencing their purchases.
- Society first: The fourth largest cohort (15%) is the altruistic one. This group prizes honesty and transparency and makes decisions that support unity and working together for the common good.
- Experience first: Lastly, the smallest consumer cohort (12%) comprises those who want to get the most out of life. This group is the most open to trying new products, brands, and experiences.
BNT #5: The Future is Digital
Okay, so the last Big New Truth™ that we’re going to hurl at you is not new at all. Pundits have literally been predicting the inevitable digital future for decades now. Decades. So where do we get off packaging this as some sort of new reality?
Well, what COVID has done for digital is to give this BNT some POC, or “proof of concept.”
When the entire universe shut down and people were locked helplessly in their homes, stress-eating and washing their hands every 5 minutes, the only proof they had that society still existed was in their phones, tablets, and computers. It became their de-facto community. A place where they could chat with friends, meet new people, and explore their interests. The pandemic forced consumers to embrace digital dependency like never before. En masse.
As the world began to re-open for consumers, that digital dependency remained, and remains still. Probably indefinitely.
So, if you’re looking to connect with consumers, you need to be able to do so through websites, emails, PPC and display ads, and social media. Even if you’re operating a “handshake” entrepreneurial business. If you’re not serious about digital marketing then you’re not serious about marketing.
SO, TO SUM IT UP…
The world has quickly grown very small. And it’s not because so much of the population didn’t make it through the pandemic or some purple comic book villain snapped his magical fingers.
Rather, it’s because consumers have narrowed their focus to their most local communities. That includes the businesses that are nearest, the people they know best, and the little pocket universe they carry that connects them to the Internet.
Our world is still very global, but our place in it is much more close to home. In order to find success in the post-COVID marketing world, we have to up our close game. We need to connect with consumers on a more personal level. Marketers need to cultivate familiarity rather than awareness, and be guided by understanding instead of profiling. We must foster each and every consumer relationship, much like old-world craftsmen once did.
FWIW, the folks at DAMN GOOD are pretty adept at climbing inside consumers cars and pretending we are part of the family. You might want to hit us up for some of your post-COVID marketing needs. Just sayin’.