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

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.



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