This is a great Marketoonist depiction of the situation right now. Companies who have so far been oblivious or ambivalent about the need to adapt digitally are about to get bulldozed, quite literally, by Covid-19. It’s startlingly accurate.

It’s not entirely the fault of company leaders. Most CEOs and senior management will have wanted to make the leap earlier, but lack of knowledge, fear of risk, or a significant talent gap has made the transition difficult. Teams that are from a traditional media or marketing background have struggled to keep up with the pace of change.

The result is a bridged collective of employees and consultants. The latter brought in to help adapt and advance the digital strategy proportion of a business. Here’s the catch though. There isn’t just one segment that needs to run with a digital focus; every department, every function needs to hum like a well-oiled machine. Every team member needs to be on board.

For those in digital, there’s no doubt that technology has become the ultimate enabler in helping make our ambitions a reality. However, the status quo lasts only as long as we are prepared to put up with it. There’s no manual or self-help book that will help prepare you for the reality of working in a digital environment. If there is, then trust me, It’s already irrelevant. Even before this global pandemic hit, the landscape was shifting too fast to rely on best practices from days gone by.

Today, it’s all about being agile and possessing an ability to think on your feet when times are tough. Because make no mistake – it’s getting harder out there. Budgets are getting cut, businesses are pausing or obliterating investments to save money. If they are making any changes, then they are looking internally first.

It’s impossible to pin down a figure for overall job losses right now; it’s literally a moving target. According to Bloomberg, some 80 million jobs are currently at risk in the US, while the ILO (International Labour Organization) estimates that 30million jobs have already been lost in the first quarter alone. On Monday, the oil price fell off a cliff into negative numbers for the first time ever. It’s enough to make anyone panic.

There was a post recently on Linkedin by HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council that said “Obstacles & challenges are two words that don’t exist in the UAE’s dictionary. We believe in hope & opportunity…” That in itself shows the resolve and practicality that exists within the UAE’s leadership. It’s a lesson we should all apply to our own way of doing business.

Companies should be taking advantage of this massive pivot to online amidst self-isolation. A crisis has a way of bringing out the best and worst in us, but economically speaking, this is a fight for survival and by securing your company’s digital future, you’re already halfway there.

Here’s the 5 Basic Steps To Digital Transformation… 

  1. Actually Define Digital Transformation: Before you look at anything else, take the time to think what this means to you and your business. It’s more than just knowing the strengths and weaknesses of MS Teams, Zoom and Skype for your online meeting; this is about asking businesses to assess and rethink their offering with a digital-first mindset. Agility will be key. Resilience too, because everything has been accelerated with Covid-19’s impact, and there is little time to lag behind. To survive and thrive, companies should ask how they can serve and create value for the end consumer in a digital capacity.
  2. Follow Your Audience: Take your cue from them and go there. If that’s on social media, reevaluate your presence there. Is your content striking the right chord given the mood? How can you be of service? Can you be helpful? If so, how? Advertising has taken a kicking in the past for being mass market and irrelevant, but with the advancement of programmatic and so many data points at our disposal, hyper-personalization is not only possible, but expected at this point. E-commerce is going to boom even more as the world stays inside and shops online. There’s always an opportunity if you are smart and bold enough to look for it.
  3. Spend Wisely, Not Frugally: “’Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful”. This comes courtesy of Warren Buffett and does lend some perspective in these uncertain times. It’s tempting to cut back or stop spending altogether, but this is not a sustainable strategy for the long-term. Nothing lasts forever and when things return to some level of normality, this drought of communication with your consumers will not do you any favors. Something is better than nothing. Honesty is better than silence. Undertake a thorough review of your platforms and analyze which ones you should invest your time and money in to get your message across right now. There is no one-size-fits all approach, every brand and budget is different, so do what’s right for you, not your competitors.
  4. Get Creative: Now is the perfect time to let go of your inhibitions and actually implement an idea that’s always been ‘for a rainy day’. Create a quiz, introduce a gamification element, utilize Dynamic Creative Optimization in your advertising, personalize and tailor using new and innovative formats. The list is endless, but aim to make an impression. Some brands have been quick to adopt new messaging, like Nike with their “Play inside, play for the world” challenge, whilst Honda worked to promote the #StayHome directive with a new advert written, directed and edited entirely at home. Awareness of where your brand sits within the consumer consciousness is also key and something Apple understands well. Their ‘Creativity Goes Over’ campaign compiled a montage of people using its tech during lockdown. And for consistent humor combined with sheer practicality, IKEA have once again struck gold, turning its famous catalogue into a workbook for bored children. Ultimately, there are a lot of people receiving daily (if not hourly) communications and yours needs to stand out; think value, not volume.

Leverage What Works, But Monitor The Trends: This may sound like a contradiction but there are many elements that make up the modern marketer’s toolkit. According to data from App Annie, people on Android are spending 20% more time on apps in Q1 2020 compared to Q4 2019, with TikTok holding its spot at the top of the lockdown chart. The increased focus on video has also led Facebook and Instagram to upgrade their features to capitalize on user needs. My advice is don’t ignore the platforms that have been consistent in the past, but ensure your messaging is updated to reflect the times. Review new platforms that are gaining traction, but consider if they make sense for your brand and what you want to communicate. IGTV Live has seen a boost in recent weeks, but that doesn’t automatically justify your presence there. Monitor, adapt and experiment, but always remain authentic.

by Nader Bitar, Deputy GM MMPWW