Yes, we all know we’re in unprecedented times. It’s a cliché and a truism that’s being thrown about like the discarded plastic gloves littering the streets around where I live. And this, I would argue, is one of the challenges being faced by strategists (or planners, whichever term you prefer) at the moment.
I’ve already written about what makes a great strategist, but in essence it is our job to understand what is happening in people’s lives so we can make sure that any message or experience they’re receiving isn’t only not annoying, but actively useful or entertaining. Currently this is incredibly hard, for several reasons.
Suddenly, the usual indicators that help us segment and understand our audiences don’t carry the same weight, meaning we can’t use data as a crutch.
As hinted at above, it’s very easy to generalise and describe the situation in clichés when it is anything but that. Everybody’s going through something completely different depending on their socio-economic situation, their living circumstances, if they know anyone who has become critically ill or died…the list goes on. Suddenly, the usual indicators that help us segment and understand our audiences don’t carry the same weight, meaning we can’t use data as a crutch. Whilst there is plenty of bleak data around death rates and economic collapse, there’s far less (reliable) data around people’s attitudes and behaviour, and almost all that we have is self-reported. Some companies like GWI were quick to add Covid-related questions to their database, which is undoubtedly useful, but focuses mostly on the macro.
This is particularly evident as we start planning future projects, as we’re trying to anticipate a future we’ve never experienced. Many clients are easing off marketing during lockdown, but planning to return as strongly as possible afterwards. Usually not a huge amount changes year to year: I can predict based on previous years with a good amount of accuracy how single women between 28 and 34 earning under £30k will behave in the UK this summer based on a combination of data aggregated from the same demographic over previous years layered with up to date cultural and primary research. Not this year. We’ve never been through this before, so how on earth are we supposed to know?
Well, the truth is, we can’t, but there are some things we can do as strategists to hone our strategic thinking.
We can tap into our empathy as we never have before. We can’t conduct much primary research (we can do a bit over the phone but most people will struggle to articulate their experiences), so we need to imagine at length and in depth what others are going through.
We need to challenge all of our assumptions and think about all the iterations of scenarios that people might be going through. It’s more art than science, without a doubt, but it’s an art that clients need and will appreciate.
We must challenge our idea of any kind of linear consumer journey. This was something that was drilled into me at Grey NY, but it’s even more important to understand now. People will not follow the same path as we come out of lockdown, we will not always be moving forwards. This is a highly nuanced, complex situation and we need to push the bounds of our thinking in order to adequately do our jobs as strategists.
If your company is wondering how on earth to behave in a post (or more accurately mid) covid era, email us at email@example.com or give us a call on 07832 692 412 to take the first step towards working it out. We can run workshops to start planning your company’s path ahead remotely or in person once it’s safe.