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Consumer Advertising After COVID

With a sudden and prolonged increase in people being at home, there has been a significant change in lifestyle, and that means advertising strategies must adjust in response.

In this article, the Ideal Media team is sharing observed trends and tips for consumer marketing strategies and the partnerships you should forge going forward.

Since the lockdown, there has been a lot of talk about shifts in consumer behaviour. Such as how consumers are likely going to want greater flexibility in their lifestyles and high-speed internet access, or how technology advancements are enabling consumers to do more in and from their homes such as work, take part in exercise or educational classes.

Wherever consumer behaviour has shifted, advertising spend must adjust in response. It makes little sense for advertisers to spend on media that have no audience. Considering that this pandemic is likely to continue throughout the summer and transition to long-term spending cuts in the marketing industry, a "wait and see" approach simply will not work, the services you offer to reach out to and communicate with consumers will need to change.

Which raises a key question: Where should you put your marketing effort and budget and where should you postpone, or approach differently, in the immediate future?

To answer this, we've pulled together a list of how lockdown has impacted various marketing categories and our recommendations to consider for approaching each one.

Direct Mail Marketing is Holding Firm

The Facts: With a large percentage of the population currently self-isolating at home, the impact of direct mail is predicted to be greater than ever. According to Decision Marketing, direct mail marketing is the form of offline marketing that has suffered the least in light of the pandemic.

When you think about direct mail marketing, as in postcards, flyers, and catalogues delivered directly to a prospect's mailbox at their home, it feels obvious that it would demonstrate such fortitude in facing a pandemic that is forcing consumers to spend so much more time at home than before.

Additionally, you may have known that long before the lockdown, studies have shown that direct mail has a stronger emotional impact over digital marketing resulting in a stronger recall.

Our Tips: These factors make direct mail one of the most attractive marketing channels for any company that has the budget and capabilities to execute a direct marketing campaign well.

Companies that want to take advantage of direct mail marketing will need to make this offline marketing channel work alongside your online marketing channels.

That means they will have to run their direct marketing like an online channel, in a software-enabled and performance-driven manner with segmented and targeted marketing efforts.

Email Marketing has seen a major boost in performance

The Facts: Lockdowns have had a significant impact on consumer email behaviour and online purchase experience. According to Campaign Monitor, more people were opening email during lockdown than ever before. Omnisend also reported a 31% lift in year-over-year open rates during the "Post-COVID" period and a 22% lift in year-over-year conversion rates during the "Post-COVID" period.

The psychology behind higher opening rates is simple, audiences are clearly interested in what businesses had to say- they wanted to know how they were responding to the crisis, and simply put email is where many consumers go to hear from brands.

It could be argued that lockdown has accelerated the growth of a long growing trend, specifically- that consumers want brands to communicate with them, not just advertise to them.

Our Tips: If you aren't already doing so, you should put more focus on your email marketing campaigns. Take advantage of improving your partnerships with Email Service Providers (ESP). Storing email addresses in a safe and intelligent way is key. Focus on helping clients build email lists and send emails.

Paid Search & Mobile Display ads saw significant surges

The Facts: Forbes observed that while under lockdown, internet hits surged by 50% to 70%.

More people searching the internet isn't necessarily surprising, but what is surprising is that lockdown appears to have made the consumer shift in share from desktop towards mobile searches accelerate at a quicker pace than before the pandemic.

Our Tips: Take advantage of the surge in internet hits by investing serious effort in either offering (or creating partnerships with companies that offer) search engine marketing (SEM, which can include SEO), pay-per-click (PPC), search engine advertising, sponsored listings and to consider specific advertising programmes and ad types, such as Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords), Google Product Listing Ads, Google Shopping Ads, and Bing Ads.

Social Media Marketing is growing

The Facts: It's well known that consumers are spending more time on social media due to lockdown. That means platforms saw a major uptick in consumer time spent and the increased amount of time people spent online created opportunities for brands to increase their reach or engagement.

It was reported by Social Bakers that the top 50 biggest brands on Instagram saw significant growth in their audience size. Additionally, they observed an overall decrease in ad spending and an increased reliance on (unpaid) organic content. The brands that did spend on campaigns saw an increased performance.

Our Tips: The key to success on social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn has little in common with offline marketing channels. Rather than focusing solely on paying for reach and views, your social media efforts should prioritise growing a community of engaged consumers that are brand advocates and potential sales leads.

To quickly and meaningfully grow your audience, you should be seeking to work with content marketing strategy experts that specialise in both free (organic) and paid advertising opportunities.

TV Advertising has seen a downturn

The Facts: Surprisingly, despite the fact that people are spending more time at home, main media, which is TV recorded its strongest downward revision since 2009 (Decision Marketing).

This surprising trend makes more sense when you consider the fact that cord-cutting (ie. people dropping their cable and satellite TV subscriptions) has accelerated due to the lockdown (Barron's).

A high cord-cutting rate could be partly attributed to factors like high unemployment pushing consumers to competition from free or low-cost subscription streaming video platforms alongside a pause in the creation of fresh Hollywood and sports content for tv.

Our Tips: Many streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney Plus are ad-free, so if you are planning on video advertising for your business, consider working with content marketing specialists on designing strategies for paid and organic content such as YouTube.

Print Ads will go into hiatus

The Facts: With no more consumers buying glossy magazines at the airport or train station, no more commuters reading the paper on the tube, and zero prospects picking up your brochure at the next tradeshow or conference. With all this in mind, it should come as no surprise that print advertising spending has plunged amid the coronavirus lockdown.

Our Tips: If you are considering print ads, prioritise spending on print magazines and newspapers that are distributed to their audience through direct mail.

The Pro of going with a print magazine for direct mail marketing is that you can enjoy the advantages of direct mail while avoiding the logistics, the Con is that you are one step removed from your customer which detracts from your cross-channel marketing strategy.

Outdoor Advertising should be approached with caution (and purpose)

The Facts: Outdoor advertisements present your business to passing pedestrians and drivers in high-traffic areas such as alongside busy roads. With the Lockdown's empty streets, it's needless to say that coronavirus has dealt a severe blow to outdoor advertising groups.

Not only have the crowds dissipated, but there have also been a few noted consumer backlashes against outdoor space advertisements for businesses when they come across as tone-deaf (The Drum).

Our Tips: If you are inclined to do outdoor advertising, it should focus on being tonally appropriate.

The Conclusion: Trade in mass marketing strategies for targeted and content strategies

With tighter budgets and thinner crowds, you want to shy away from marketing strategies that focus on simply reaching out to as many people as possible and instead prioritise efforts on those that reach specifically defined and profiled audiences.

Naturally, the online environment is favourable for “direct response” campaigns, but you can also find offline marketing channels that are suitable for targeted marketing strategies such as direct mail.

This means that you if you focus on holistic, cross-channel marketing strategies that capture users at every part of the journey, you are in good shape going forward.


Michael Rennison has been in the Direct Marketing Industry for over 30 years and has specialised in the use of data for targeting campaigns and adding value to clients marketing services. He has worked exclusively in the agency market supporting agencies with their data needs and being part of their team for pitches – Michael does not work with the end clients as he does not believe in the conflict of interest.

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