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What can marketers learn from lockdown V1?

“Now is the winter of our discontent…”

The late Fifteenth century had many troubles, and Richard III’s reign certainly didn’t end in glory, but at least they didn’t have a global pandemic, eh?

But, as Shakespeare wrote the history plays to inform his contemporaries (and please/embellish the Tudor dynasty), so we can use the learnings of lockdown v1 (as we shall term the UK’s experience March-Jun this year) to inform plans for winter and lockdown v2 (some of the country are already there, after all…).

So, what are the broad lessons we can apply?

  • People are seeking positivity – they want relief from reality, not reinforcement of it. Brands who focussed on this outperformed, across sectors (in engagement)

  • Byron Sharp agrees – don’t lean into COVID-specific marketing

  • Relatability really really mattered – focus on things people were (are) actually doing: home cooking, exercise, zoom, WFH… It wasn’t the time for aspiration or daydreaming. Don’t show luxury goods in Paris, in black tie

  • Social media surged – and whilst engagement with content and escapism held up well, the big driver was P2P messaging and sharing. It replaced face to face contact. How do you reshape things to be sharable in private environments?

  • Experiences and attitudes are not binary: for every person who likes not commuting, there’s another who craves an office. For every person who gains weight, there’s another who’s exercising more. Just as in ‘normal times’ it’s absurd to assume consumers have monolithic experiences, and this was demonstrated in reactions to communications which treated them as such

  • If you want to make a big brand gesture, it’s got to be big. We struggled to identify anything which didn’t have a £1M+ value getting any meaningful recognition

  • Scenario plan: we had no map earlier in the year, and everyone was in reactive mode. Now we do – we don’t have to knee jerk shut down, switch things off, and engage tactically. So: what if the status quo maintains, what if we go to full lockdown, what if we return to supply issues, what if… There’s opportunity in preparing where others fail to prepare

  • We’ve struggled to find an example of a brand that continued marketing through the period who underperformed vs brands who switched off in the same category. Now this point risks looking incredibly self-serving – “turkeys don’t vote for Xmas” – but have you heard anyone say they regret communicating and maintaining their brand through that period?


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