Dentsu Aegis Network

Dentsu Aegis Network

In the first installment of the From Uncertainty to Opportunity: Communications Bootcamp webinar series, Chris Davies, Group Business Director and Mike Liall, Strategy Director at Dentsu Aegis Network, share the four dynamic steps brands need to take to thrive in a post Covid-19 world. Rather than ask ‘how will this end?’ businesses need to ask: ‘How do we continue?

Disruption isn’t a new concept; we have been talking about it for some time through the lens of the digital economy and the march of technology and innovation. COVID-19, however, is disruption on a different scale. Global and multi-faceted, it causes untold personal grief, strains on healthcare systems and shatters business and household finances.

The economic fall-out is unprecedented, with GDP falling by 2.6%, consumer spending decreasing 2.5%, investment falling by11.2% and unemployment forecast to rise by more than one million. (1)

It is also a catalyst for deep-rooted societal change. So-called low-skill workers are now our frontline heroes while community spirit eroded by the last recession has been reborn.

Living in the cloud, home working, home schooling has become an everyday part of our lives.

With all this in mind, the key questions we find ourselves asking are: How badly disrupted are we? What are the barriers to a return? Can we mitigate or solve them?

And: How will it end?

But, asking the question in that way makes it difficult to plan forward. Should the question be ‘How do we continue?’.

We are at the end of the beginning of this crisis. And the role for marketing and communications has never been greater in keeping the economy going and fighting for people’s livelihoods.

We believe a disruption mindset is about reframing the situation in a more progressive way. And while hard, maintaining the view of the impact on your business as a challenge to be solved will get you to a more equitable place.

To transition from uncertainty to opportunity, we need to take four steps to realign resources behind a structured plan:

  • Orientation.  Understanding the impact and long-term implications for your business
  • Reignition.  Building a plan for now to adapt to shifts in demand and define a meaningful way to engage with consumers as the crisis evolves.
  • Momentum. Building a plan for the next six to 12 months to prepare for growth when demand starts to return
  • Velocity. Building a plan for the future to thrive in the new normal.

To understand where we are going, we need to find the right orientation and starting place. That means building a dynamic understanding of the changing needs of consumers, both functional and emotional, and why and where they are spending their money.

Pivoting towards opportunity

Dynamic understanding is vital to help you orientate and pivot towards opportunity; effectively a continually updated view of the world to enable you to maximise what you can control, across brand and creative, experience and media, and performance.

For instance, while overall spending is down there are marked increases in online grocery shopping, bringing new audiences into ecommerce for the first time. And there are more subtle opportunities. Fashion demand has slumped – few of us dress up for Zoom – but there is demand for certain lines such as sportwear and loungewear.

The other factor to be aware of is consumer sentiment and adapting your tone and messaging as needs and emotions evolve throughout the crisis. We have passed the stages of denial and are moving from anxiety to a period of adjustment and re-evaluation.

Finding your North Star

So how do brands play a meaningful role in the different stages, how will your creative evolve, how will your experience evolve, how will you use your assets to their fullest to play a part?

Some are tempted to “go dark,” to hibernate marketing until the winter is over. However, stopping spend for one year, potentially takes five to recover. Those who define a meaningful public role in the crisis are more likely to stand out from the crowd in the long term.

For the Co-op, for instance, community is at their core and they use that as their North Star. They dropped their Easter Egg advertising campaign to support foodbank FareShare and now plan to raise £30million for that hardest hit by allowing members to donate unspent shopping rewards.

Actions speak louder than words.

After adapting to the peak of disruption, it is critical that you are prepared for when opportunities present themselves again, as market share is hugely at stake.

Pent-up consumer demand signals a potential bounce back for hard-hit categories. According to a survey undertaken by Dentsu Aegis Network regarding the purchases they were most looking forward to when the lockdown lifts, treating ourselves to a holiday topped the list at 53% with updating our wardrobe next at 31%. (2)

However, in the UK, only 10% of us they say they would return to normal routines in shopping, transport and leisure.

So, there will be both physical and emotional barriers to overcome.  The role of accelerating your digital experiences to mirror offline experiences will be key. And will building trust back with consumers to interact with you again.

Purchase decisions will also be impacted by recessionary life, with a race to the bottom on price and the stretching of markets from premium to economy, like we witnessed in the wake of the crash of 2008.

This will have a disproportionate negative impact on businesses which have been competing on price alone without a recognisable and purposeful brand position.

Creative and Share of Voice rule

In the battle for consumer attention, the two big things you can influence to ensure you do compete effectively are creative and high share of voice – both of which have been proven to drive growth in a recession.

Which leads us to the ultimate goal. To understand the needs of consumers in the new norm and ensure you are aligned with their changing relationship to the world.

The 2008 recession created the digitisation of society, longer working hours and less downtime which led to the rise of discounters and innovators such as Aldi, Ryanair, Netflix and uber.

Post COVID-19, we will witness change on a larger scale, with today’s remote working, isolation and cloud living leading to new habits, new values and behaviours.

The downturn, whatever its shape, will impact us for some time – and we need to be prepared to solve and reinvent for long- term periodic disruption.

COVID-19 is already a catalyst for change – the question is where the centre of gravity lies for that change.

If we have anything to learn from previous crises, and human nature, it is that from uncertainty we will always find opportunity.


(1) KPMG: UK economic outlook.

(2) Source: Dentsu Aegis Network consumer panel. 567 respondents were asked: which of the following are you looking to purchase after lockdown? Automotive (5%), children’s clothing (6%), workwear clothing (10%), loungewear (10%), fitness (12%), electricals (13%), health and wellbeing (17%), beauty (20%), entertainment (21%), gardening (27%), DIY/home improvements (28%), clothing/fashion (31%), holidays (53%).