It is early afternoon midweek. Two years ago, many of us would either have been in a meeting room, behind our desks, in a car travelling to see a client or onsite dealing with a problem.
In the Spring of 2022, chances are, if you have not succumbed to the ‘great resignation’ and making artisanal cheese in the Karoo, you are on a Teams meeting and dealing effectively online with your job priorities.
And if you are wearing slippers and shorts, it is not for me to judge. Although I do know a guy in a small dorpie who is making sheepskin slippers. And doing very well.
De Wet Bisschoff, director of operations and sales at Accenture in Africa
The pandemic has not only changed the way we work, but also our relationship with commerce and technology and how we interact with brands. An Accenture survey of over 25,000 consumers across 22 countries, found 50% of customers say the pandemic has caused them to rethink their personal purpose and re-evaluate what is important to them in life. We call them the ‘re-imagined consumers’.
Operating at the nexus of business and technology and with an acute appreciation of the speed at which change is happening, I wonder if brands have understood this new consumer and how to reach them. Are they re-imagining their own principles, protocols, and practices to meet the new needs of their clients?
Our study also revealed that apart from parity needs like price and quality, consumers are also looking for ease and convenience, service and personal care, trust and reputation, product origin, and health and safety. And I would contend all of this has to be delivered under a broad tech-always-on banner.
Part of the problem though, your competitor is traversing the same data-abundant landscape driving multiple streams of constant choice. The clutter has become harder to navigate, but brands that are re-calibrating their approach are getting things right.
My best advice is to constantly innovate, and that means a greater adoption and appreciation of technology. Here is an example that resonates powerfully with me: Not too long ago, if you wanted to market tomato sauce you would use traditional media channels like radio, television, and print. Nothing wrong with that approach and they still have a place in retail sales.
But today you have no choice but to go way beyond the tried and tested. The well-known Heinz brand has used text-to-image machine learning programs to demonstrate market dominance. In a clever marketing campaign, a machine, rather than a person, was given the job of drawing tomato sauce, and it was able at first instance to draw almost correct iterations of the Heinz brand.
The marketing team used DALL·E 2 – a new AI system that can create images and art from a text description. That is a perfect example of how a brand prioritised innovation and creativity using technology.
My call to marketers is to become what we call Thrivers. Further research we have done shows that a small group of marketers (17%) are thriving despite global challenges by zeroing in on their customers’ evolving motivations and what is needed to serve them in smarter, better ways. Those better ways I believe also have a technology and immediacy at the very centre.
Jeannine Falcone, global marketing services lead, Accenture Song says: “In-the-moment relevancy is critical for today’s brands.”
Thrivers operate under critical guiding principles including listening and understanding the new customer, going beyond the marketing department, and embracing cross-department collaboration.
In scything through the clutter, these Thrivers have outwitted complexity by leaning into process automation and industrialising operations.
All this, of course, requires a new mindset on both sides of the marketing divide with curiosity being the bridge that will bring tech-heads and marketing heads closer. Both teams need to become more inquisitive about possibilities.
Marketers have no choice but to update their skills to champion relevant digital campaigns and work more collaboratively with data specialists, web developers and social media professionals. And my guys on the tech side of the building need to understand the formidable power of creativity and embrace the intangible magic of blue-sky thinking.