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INsight #187

Life in the new COVID-19 economy is opening our eyes to determine whether marketing teams are caretakers or risk-takers. The outcome will determine the fate of many iconic and early-stage brands.


There are two camps in many marketing teams. Caretakers protect the business-as-usual (BAU) status quo. Risk-takers push the brands into new, often uncharted, markets, believing this is the best way to grow the business. Last week, I suggested that marketing teams had to seriously begin “scenario planning.” New marketing frameworks need to be developed to understand a squishy new market landscape.

Jeanette McMurtry wrote the following in a recent Target Marketing article: Resilience and reinvention are the two “essentials” brands need to practice now. She suggests both marketers and consumers are feeling the effects of the pandemic and marketing has to rise above the challenges that have comprised our collective marketing immune system.

INsight #1: Our marketing immune system has been formed over the last seven decades and has created many caretakers. It has only been in the last few years that marketing teams realized the importance of being agile and pivoting. It made the caretakers nervous, but they realized the advances in technology drove those changes. The market was not changing; technology was changing, and this could be managed in a broad context of BAU.

Caretakers generally outnumber risk-takers in most marketing teams, and the idea of BAU is protected. Key takeaway: Everything has changed. A new marketing world is forming around every brand and the portrait that is forming is not very clear. Consumers’ values are changing out of necessity, and these new values are likely to linger longer than the rules associated with social distancing and wearing masks.

Caretakers worry about the changing marketplace and don’t realize that it’s not about change. It’s about adapting to the new emerging realities. Most caretakers are in denial and it’s the responsibility of leadership to change their perspective – unless, of course, the leadership team are caretakers. Caretakers are also fixed in their comfort zones and feel comfortable and protected there.

INsight #2: Caretakers fear mistakes. In the new COVID-19 driven economy, marketing is going to make mistakes. So is every other department, even with the best calculated decisions. Caretakers prefer sitting around and waiting. That’s not the solution. Key takeaway: What we do today will shape what we do later.

Risk-takers have their flaws, too. However, they are always looking to the future and asking ‘what if’, not ‘what’s next.’ Risk-takers will ask many questions, searching for the right scenario. In this new market, they probably won’t find it very soon because too many variables are in motion. This is why scenario planning is so critical. If there is a choice between a caretaker and a risk-taker to lead the team, now is the time to choose the risk-taker.

INsight #3: Temper the risk-takers. Some may want to reinvent the brand and maybe the entire company. That may not be a practical strategy. Find strategies that are agile and able to pivot to fill market vacuums that will evolve. This begins by staying focused on changing customer behavior pattern shifts and reacting to them before your competition does.

Reinventing is a hallmark of risk-takers. It’s about looking for opportunities in your market, while finding new markets. It’s not just about creating new products, but first reinventing current ones to match the new needs of consumers. It’s about building a new marketing plan that is relevant, present, and valuable to your customers.

Bottom line, use your entire team reinvent your resilience. Create a culture that will embrace the caretakers and their point-of-view. They have some good ideas, too. Giving them the opportunity to be heard may bring your new market dynamics into clearer focus. Key takeaway: Do it now. The clock is ticking.

The EndGame: New thinking. New vision. New energy.©

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