This piece is all about the "P" word. You have been warned.
"Pivoting" is a palpable and prevalent protagonist in brand paradigms, purpose and communications, enough to possibly sound repetitive and preposterous to hear. But how do you pivot during a pandemic, we pondered?
With punctilious pragmatism and curiosity we reached out to CEO and founder of Ingenuity London, Chris Kemp, asking for a comment pertinent to these peculiar times. Enough with the preamble! Keep reading to learn more.
Pivoting in the face of the new world
Pivot. The P word. It's something which many businesses have had to do in order to adapt to the circumstances we've been faced with in recent times. Like all small businesses, the effect of COVID-19 has meant ways of working and business choices have had to evolve at speed, and Ingenuity is no exception. Whilst entrepreneurial voyages are rarely plain sailing – COVID-19 has been the biggest storm we’ve had to weather to date, and it’s still ongoing.
However, consider the bigger picture. Has the pandemic acted as a catalyst for changes in the business landscape – particularly the marketing industry – that have been talked about and even needed for some time? Whether it’s broader changes such as reducing unnecessary work travel or the flexibility to work from home or those that are more specific to individual business, we’ve adapted and evolved at speed and there’s no sign of stopping.
When faced with any difficult decisions – especially now where challenging business decisions are abundant – I would always suggest trusting your gut (as you're usually right!). That doesn’t make it easy though. There are always lots of moving parts to be taken into consideration before making any decision, so whilst they may look quick from the outside, many of them (particularly the most successful ones) will have been playing on business leaders’ minds for some time.
So, what exactly has changed, and where do we go from here?
Business models are having to adapt too. We've experienced this first-hand at Ingenuity. Our famous speed dating events refreshed with an entirely digital approach – launching at the end of March as Virtual Connect. I’d been contemplating it for some time, but COVID-19 gave us the final push to make it happen. It's been a success and is just one example of an idea we could have pursued pre-COVID.
Likewise, our agency selection service has shifted with ease to running pitches virtually. It's a different kettle of fish without a doubt, and of course all change comes with challenges. In a face-to-face environment you can read your counterparts’ body language better (and don't have the risk of freezing thanks to dodgy Wi-Fi), which means online you have to work on your internal chemistry being better than ever. Being able to bounce off one another over a Zoom call is no mean feat. And it's paramount you get this right. This might mean having more run-throughs beforehand and practising being 'candid' on a call. However, overall, it's shown us that going digital is nothing to be afraid of.
We have realised that going digital is nothing to be afraid of.
Over the past months, we’ve also been engaging our unrivalled brand network more than ever on both a personal and professional level through our bespoke virtual events, agency discovery and intermediary services. It’s led to new brand-centric solutions for our agency clients which will help them get ahead.
There have been obvious negative implications for the marketing, advertising and digital sectors. But, in many cases, these challenges have presented opportunities for agencies and consultancies to bring their wisdom to the brand community.
Initially, our brand network approached us to get help and support when dealing with the immediate impact of the pandemic. The most in-demand services were the likes of Crisis Comms + PR along with digital transformation to help deal with urgent shifts in the way brands need to communicate.
But as things settled down and the country became accustomed to lockdown, the homebound consumption of products in certain areas went through the roof. Ecommerce has seen an almighty shift and accounted for almost 35% of retail sales. In turn, digital marketing and social channel opportunities emerged and brands have been looking for expert partners to help make the most of this demand – particularly support with TikTok and Social Commerce.
D2C and subscription brands have seen almighty spikes in new customer demand and as the shops start to reopen, we are seeing signs of new challenges emerging. These are largely around driving retention and loyalty with their newfound customer-base.
The demand for virtual event platforms and finding new ways of selling and promoting new products without face-to-face is also an area where we have been supporting brands. The growth in webinars and virtual exhibitions looks set to continue in the long term as, beyond persisting rules around social distancing, this gives brands new ways to obtain data and reach new B2B audiences.
There is a balance to be achieved of course. Helping brands to find partners in areas that supports audience growth and retention comes with the very real consideration to not ‘take advantage’ of the situation. Consumers are sensitive to this matter and brands need to be too.
Having partners who understand this and have the right expertise to find new ways to engage with customers and solve current marketing challenges is key. Our Challenge Connect service – birthed in lockdown – has been really successful in doing just this. Connecting brand marketers and the best in the agency community to support each other and find new ways to utilise budgets in a turbulent market.
Despite an evolving and uncertain landscape and also being further apart than ever before, businesses are having to work even tighter. At Ingenuity, our seven teams are working more closely across disciplines. We’ve also found that we’re innovating together, adding value and delivering growth for our brand and agency clients, together.