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Brand Marketing and the New Norm of Consumer Behavior

Jun 29, 2020

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We joined Qualcomm and Realtor.com for discussion on how consumer behavior has shifted in the pandemic, and how brands are innovating and testing new playbooks to market to this new customer in ways that are better aligned with their key careabouts and values. Watch the webinar and read highlights below. 

Overall, the panel stated that in order to thrive even as consumer behavior shifts, brands must:

  • Pause. Be thoughtful, mindful, and understand where you are headed and what outcomes you want instead of rushing into communication. 
  • Have a very nuanced understanding of their customers and their context — what do they need right now and what will shape their needs in the future.
  • Be aware of all the forces that are at play — from influence to misinformation and disinformation that spreads online and makes its way into the mainstream.
  • Communicate with the goal of providing clarity, in ways that are consistent with your brand values.
  • Take time out of your marketing. Bring experience back into your marketing. 

How have customer expectations changed since COVID-19 and the global health crisis?

Many brands have pivoted to cater to customers spending more time online. “We’ve evolved our product to allow for virtual tours, open houses… and to give consumers as many options as possible when they are looking for a new home,” said Andrew Strickman, SVP, Head of BRand and Chief Creative Officer at Realtor.com. Not only that but messaging has shifted too. Strickman said their brand was known for humor and wit in the way it told its story. “We shifted our marketing away from ourselves and toward recognizing the shared experience we were all going through.”

More time online, of course, means there is a need for better connectivity. “We’re seeing work and home life blend together and that’s driven a lot of interesting behavioral changes in people — some anxiety in some circumstances — but the need for connectivity is pervasive.” said Don McGuire, Vice President, Global Product Marketing for Qualcomm. Brands require connectivity to deploy digital solutions quickly in order to meet the needs of consumers in the new normal.

Meeting new demands requires new intelligence and agility to respond with authenticity. Yonder CEO Jonathan Morgan said, “Yonder customers were producing cultural intelligence reports twice per year… they’re now huddling around those kinds of insights weekly to understand what has already taken hold and what’s emerging within the subcultures that matter to their brand.”

How has the way brands connect with customers changed in light of this shift from serving customers online vs. in person?

Strickman highlighted the need for more brand humanity. “As the world was changing around us and people were being told to stay at home, our marketing needed to pivot toward a greater human understanding of the role that home plays in our lives — it’s become our gym, school, office.” Realtor.com published a manifesto about what home means. As the pandemic continued, people have come back to their site to reflect and for resources.

Qualcomm is leaning into their domain expertise by helping customers unpack how things like school, business, and medicine are shifting, and connect those shifts to solutions related to connectivity. “So, if the way people are interacting with doctors is moving toward telemedicine, we’re sharing how technology help optimize that experience.” McGuire said.

At the same time, brands should make sure the landscapes they’re entering aren’t minefields. For Qualcomm, for example, brand messages about improved connectivity thanks to 5G could be — and have been — co-opted by conspiracy theory factions that are claiming COVID-19 is caused by 5G, resulting in towers being taken down all over the globe.

How are marketing departments pivoting to meet (or simply keep up with) changing demands, wants, and expectations?

Realtor.com has shifted how they roll out marketing. “Instead of plotting things out on a timeline, we’re  plotting them out on an experience-line,” Strickman said. When you can’t see six months ahead, you have to be prepared with the next step in our messaging evolution, but also stay prepared to take two steps back. Doing this, Strickman said, requires “knowing what consumers are thinking, what they’re asking for, how they’re talking about real estate and home even when they are not talking to us” 

Qualcomm has reinvented product launches, which are typically done at big events with partners, influencers, stages, screens, talking heads… If business must go on, how do you deliver new products to the marketplace?

Many brands have experimented with virtual reality, streaming video, and other virtual environments. But, instead of working through the mainstream, a new way of thinking about product launches might involve identifying the hyperactive, enthusiastic factions online that will find your new product exciting, who — given their power and influence — could generate excitement for it on your behalf.

What would you say are the biggest risks at the moment and how can marketers protect their brand with the right insights?

With the increase in the utilization of social channels nearly doubling in the current environment, there is a desire to get in front of new audiences. Brands should understand that everything is polarized. People who share your values are huge advocates, but others strongly disagree with them — and sometimes that comes from unexpected places.

Know what you stand for, understand the dynamics of the internet, and know that you can inadvertently provoke factions by not having the cultural intelligence to do the subculture diplomacy that is required to navigate the world online.

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