If there’s one thing we’re experiencing no shortage of right now, it’s advice from marketing agencies, ad publishers, shopper data providers, and consulting groups on how CPGs should respond to the direct and indirect threats of COVID-19. From our perspective, some of the data and insights provided by these sources have been seemingly well supported and actionable, while other information has felt a bit “table stakes” or even worse, have erred on the side of sounding self-serving.
Our goal is to provide our clients and aligned audiences with actionable insights that they can use to navigate their marketing responses during this incredibly complex and fluid time.
If we cut through the noise and one-off tactics that are out there for a moment, one operational requirement for CPGs becomes clear—the need for a documented, comprehensive plan that’s both short- and long-term. A plan that not only accounts for operational and logistical levels of the business, but also covers the critical branding, communication, and distribution efforts required to mitigate risk, sustain sales, and provide forward-thinking market responses that will allow CPGs to hope for the best while being prepared for prolonged instability.
As a digital marketing agency, we channel-specific recommendations to our areas of expertise; however, we feel it’s important to note that the activities (or deferral of activities) at all functional levels of CPG organizations will have a dramatic impact on how brands will be discovered, interpreted, and consumed during this time. The velocity at which CPGs can effectively work with internal teams and partners is paramount to ensuring their plans are put into action and are actively measured during this time.
Prepare, adapt, and plan for the future
Given the fluidity of the current health climate and the impact this has on every decision, how can CPGs ensure the right actions and responses occur at the right time?
Based on our past experience assisting clients during times of transition, our current applications of planning and strategy during this pandemic for our clients, and the credible research and insights that have resonated with us, our recommendation comes back to one central concept: operational and marketing planning based on multiple, logical scenarios. For example, McKinsey & Company has suggested businesses view the future as “horizons,” each with their own setup plans and resulting actions.
By arming themselves to deal with the current realities of the pandemic in this way, CPGs and their partners can work to shorten their economic fallout as much as possible, while fully preparing themselves for the later stages of return to the marketplace, adaptation within previous operating systems, and the resulting shifts this inevitably will bring to the industry.
Horizon-based planning in action: a sample framework
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach for CPGs when it comes to responding to the effects of this pandemic. The actions a company takes can be as varied as the product lines within their portfolio. Creating an organizational framework for reacting to each new horizon will provide CPG operational leaders, brand managers, and marketers with much-needed context for prioritizing efforts for maximum impact.
Envisionit has leveraged the same horizons provided by the aforementioned McKinsey and Company article to map out key areas of consideration and frame them in the context of mindsets CPGs can operate with during this time. From there, branding and marketing activities can be determined based on the outcome the CPG is trying to achieve. Undoubtedly, a company’s commitment to its employees’ safety and internal communications are vitally important during this time. For the sake of this exercise, we’re looking at planning around outward, B2C messaging from a branding, promotional, and digital marketing standpoint.
A proactive response: the imperative of our time
As of today, it’s difficult to understand how quickly these horizons will occur, but we can evaluate what has happened to date, the scenarios we feel could likely happen in the future, and determine what our response should be across the spectrum of the organization.
As brand representatives and marketers, our behavior will not only influence our ability to effectively manage the current situation but how deeply we will feel its effects long after we emerge from this crisis.