Archive for April, 2020

The long and the short need adding to now: here’s the medium and the very long term of it.

Monday, April 27th, 2020

London-lockdown-coronavirus-600x336The long and the short needs some additions: the medium term and the very long.

The ad industry and marketing is familiar with the collective wisdom of the IPA best practice papers summed up by Binet and Field’s paper The Long and the Short of It where the importance of balancing short term tactics with long term strategy is emphasized.  (Initial findings recommended balancing 40% short term with 60% long term in terms of budget, although later findings are more nuanced by industry, recommending that some sectors, for instance retail, long term effort should take up 70% of spend.)

In 2020, in current circumstances, these rules of thumb are tested to the limit.  The necessity of short term measures may well over rule carefully laid plans.  Longer term branding activity, planned for months, will, in some cases, be replaced with brands communicating how they are doing their bit, with messages reflecting the current crisis or by CSR.  Short term activity may focus on ecommerce as discussed in this assessment of the current circumstances in Campaign last week.

One senior marketer has reflected that it is relatively easy to plan for the short term.  In this quarter, maybe next quarter, you do what you must.  Equally it is relatively simple to write strategies for the long term, for when things get back to some kind of normal, for next year.  The tricky issue is planning for the medium term.  For later in Q3 and Q4.  When the unknown unknowns are dominant factors and for which there is no precedent.  Despite what some opinion formers are saying this is not like a recession.  It is not like Sars.  It is unprecedented in our lifetimes.  So a focus on scenario planning for the rest of this year, is crucial.  The relative certainties that managers are accustomed to are impossible to count on.  But businesses that only focus on the short term can be expected to suffer more than those that can find the opportunity to think medium term.  Now is the time to ask questions that include what the balance of brand versus performance media spend should be;  the medium term outlook for the sector; whether the brand should respond directly to the pandemic and how this should look.

So as well as the long and the short of it, current planning should include the medium term.

There is also the very long term to consider.  Many businesses are focused understandably on surviving 2020 and the current unprecedented pressures.  At this time however there is another crucial consideration.  It isn’t just about the balance sheet for 2020.  It is about the shape of the business for the very long term, about preserving jobs, about caring for people, about putting people first.  Now is a testing time for leaders.  Now is the time not to lose sight of humanity for the sake of short term kpis.  Edelman and LinkedIn have just published a new guide to building consumer trust in uncertain times.  In this, Rob Norman comments:  “If we fight to only minimize investor losses, the consequential loss in other parts of the business and eventually to the underlying assets, will be catastrophic”.

This is an important opportunity for businesses and brands to build affinity and earn loyalty for the long term.  Empirical decision making has a flaw at a time like this.  There has never been a time like this before.  We are in the midst of a black swan event.  Brands should think medium term and longest term now and put people, their employees, their customers and the nation at the heart of their decision making.




Tuesday, April 14th, 2020

rmWe’re in survival mode.  And this affects each of us in different ways.  A recent assessment of how consumers are feeling includes this list: Anxiety; Isolation; Loneliness; Boredom; Thankfulness; Community spirit; Slow Living; Personal growth.  And, of course, it describes how we are all feeling too.

There’s been a faster transformation in how we work than anyone in charge of transformation would have imagined possible in normal times.  As the weeks go by we can expect more change, and more necessary adjustments.  Some of these will be professional.  Some personal.

This week on the MediaCom Connected Podcast we heard from Rupert McPetrie, ceo of our China office.  They shut the office on January 23rd for the Chinese New Year, and then could not re-open.  Now, eight weeks on, the restrictions are gradually relaxing: offices are re-opening as too are restaurants, bars and shops.  Rupert told us, live from the Shanghai office, that the first two weeks of the lockdown were about managing short term issues. During the closure the transformation in use of tech has been huge. At the same time as technology has become much more vital, contrastingly, so too the importance of human connections has become more clear.

Everyone who works in an office normally is adjusting now to the very new normal of running business and their lives literally at the same time.  Many working mums are familiar with this, its one of the shocks, in fact, of returning to work after maternity leave.  It is now something that everyone is experiencing who has children or a parent or even their partner at home.  Rupert said that there were three phases of the virus.  Anxiety, Analysis and Action.  We’re constantly going through the loop of these three phases with each new bit of news.  We are all coping with it differently.

Brian Cox was on Desert Island Discs this week.  (One of the ways that I cope with anxiety is listening to the shows on radio 4 that I have been hearing all my life).  The award winning actor talked about how important it is to stay in touch with yourself when you are in survivalist mode.  He tells young actors to keep a picture of themselves as a child with them as they work, as “really that’s who you are”.  I’d add to this, you’re all the ages you have ever been.  So sometimes you’re the frightened child who wants a parent to set everything straight, sometimes you’re the rebellious teenager who wants to break all the rules and sometimes, sometimes you’re the grown up professional, or the leader of your community at work or at home.  Be prepared to switch randomly from state to state during this current crisis.

One powerful woman has told me that she has found much more time for herself during the last few days.  She normally lives for work and is ruled by her head.  In recent times she’s found time to breathe, to connect with her whole self, and with her children.

Others have said the same, parents have noted that they have been able to have lunch with their young children every day, which normally only happens when they are on holiday.

Others are connecting with nature, grateful for the sunshine and sky visible out of their windows.

None of us expected this level of stress and worry.  Perhaps empathy has become easier for us, the divides of Brexit forgotten for the time being, as we are all much more in the same boat.  Our gratitude for those in the front line in the NHS demonstrably pulling the nation together in each week’s Clap for Carers.  (And let’s hope that this continues in the longterm).

We will all have different ways to find the serenity to survive these difficult circumstances.  As the famous prayer says: ““Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”.