Marketing post-Covid: A land of opportunities
Editorial

Marketing post-Covid: A land of opportunities

Hear from two leading academics at Birkbeck, University of London about why now is the right time to embrace innovation and how the post-Covid economy may in fact be a ‘land of opportunities’ for marketers, as long as they can manage risk effectively.

As Covid-19 restrictions are slowly eased in the UK and we emerge into something resembling normality post-pandemic, many companies will be taking stock and planning their next moves carefully. During times of crisis, it is inevitable that we retreat into survival mode, sticking with what we know and shying away from anything we consider risky. But how can marketers encourage their businesses to take some more risks? And what lessons need to be learned from the past 18 months?

The last year has been an extraordinary period of change and upheaval. As of March 2021, 11.4 million jobs across 1.3 million different employers were furloughed in the UK. Lockdowns and stay-at-home orders have impacted every part of our lives, from how and where we work, to how we shop, socialise, and even access medical care. Even now, as restrictions begin to lift, life pre-Covid feels like a distant memory.

Many marketers will naturally be asking themselves, ‘What now?’ How do we navigate the new normal? And what lasting effects will the past 18 months have on future marketing strategies?

We spoke to some of the Birkbeck academics who lead the new MSc Marketing programme offered by University of London about why managing risk has never been a more important skill for marketers to develop.

Dr Manto Gotsi, senior lecturer in the Department of Management at Birkbeck:

“Risk is an important paradox. Typically, in good times businesses can be a bit more adventurous, exploratory and try new things. Instead of being complacent and just exploiting what they do well, business leaders are more willing to be proactive, innovating and exciting their customers. But when a crisis hits, the natural tendency is for companies to take a step back and focus on what they know they do well. They just want to preserve their bottom line, save jobs, retain customers and so forth. Actually, times of crisis are when you need innovation the most – it’s very hard to survive otherwise.

To put it simply, the businesses that will survive are the ones who don’t take their eyes off the innovation ball. Doing what you know you do best will not help you to excel, especially if restrictions prevent you from doing it. You need the risk and the innovation in order to thrive.”

Dr Olivier Sibai, lecturer in the School of Management:

“You need to ask, “Why would you become risk averse right now?” This is a land of opportunities and I’ve been amazed to see how companies have responded to the pandemic. Even sectors that were reluctant to digitalise, like Higher Education, have been forced to adapt the way they deliver services and at Birkbeck we will continue with blended learning even after Covid-19. Reframing a crisis as an opportunity is an important way of enhancing and changing your services.”

Innovation is essential

Indeed, risk should have been central to business activity in the last 18 months; there are few sectors who have continued a completely business-as-usual model during this time. From large and small retailers moving to e-commerce, to restaurants offering cook-at-home recipe boxes, most industries have had to adapt and overcome to ensure they survived lockdowns and Covid-safe restrictions. And those that didn’t paid a heavy price. Fast fashion retailer, Primark, had no online sales and predicts it lost around £1.6 billion due to the pandemic. Other high street shops, including Topshop and Debenhams, met their demise altogether.

Yet those that did innovate saw unexpected success. Whilst many foretold doom and gloom for ‘on-the-go’ food retailers, Pret-a-Manger has demonstrated a commitment to innovate in order to survive the shift to home-working culture, which is likely to last for many of us. As well as launching a £20 monthly coffee subscription they have partnered with supermarket giant, Tesco, and the Motor Fuel Company to open concessions in-store and at petrol stations across the UK.

However, while marketers may be keen to innovate, taking the board with you can often be the biggest challenge. So, what are the top tips our experts recommend?

“If a business is traditionally risk averse, or has become so during the pandemic, it’s a cultural issue and it needs to be addressed through persuasion,” says Dr Sibai. “Make your strategies agile so you can adapt them as needed and be ready to change tactics in response to data.”

Meanwhile, Dr Gotsi recommends using data to make your case. “All boards, whether of large multinationals or small family firms, are driven by numbers. It’s the marketing department’s role to constantly feedback with data and results. During times of crisis, you don’t have the luxury of time to observe trends – things change too quickly. Agile marketing departments are good at looking at what’s happening, reporting back and changing their strategies and services accordingly.

“You should be experimenting, doing quick trials and learning lessons rapidly,” Dr Sibai advises. “Long-term planning at a time when things are changing on a weekly basis isn’t always possible but quick testing will help give you the data you need to persuade your board.”

It seems that, contrary to standard business thinking, risk becomes more important in times of crisis, because business as usual has been disrupted so heavily. So, embracing risk means embedding it into your overall strategy, reporting back on the results, and testing if your innovation works. What the pandemic has made perfectly clear though, is that there is danger in standing still, because risk can be the ultimate reward.

 

The University of London offers a fully online MSc in Marketing, with academic direction from member institution, Birkbeck, University of London. The flexible programme gives marketers the opportunity to develop and hone their skills, working around their job and family commitments to advance their career.

To find out how you can sharpen your risk management skills, improve your strategic marketing and learn the very latest in digital and social media marketing, visit their website today.

This is a sponsored post from the University of London

Dr Manto Gotsi Programme Director University of London
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