The 'new normal' is no longer new - so how should marketers adapt?

Sharon Hegarty
Sharon Hegarty

This year will create lasting change in how people live their lives, meaning marketers need to be rethinking both their platforms and messaging.

When I joined Samsung as marketing director earlier this year, the world was a very different place. As marketers, we pride ourselves on our ability to be agile when challenges come our way, understanding our customer’s needs as they change and adapting our approach accordingly.

The “new normal” is a term that has been often used to describe the seismic shift in the way we work and play that has taken place over the past six months. However, I don’t believe this is a temporary adjustment. There are aspects of our lives that have changed forever, and this must be reflected in the way we market brands, products and services, now and in the future.

How we launch products

One of the biggest changes is how to successfully launch a suite of products that enable work and play when our current norms around both have changed so much. Our first purely virtual "Unpacked" product launch for our Galaxy Note 20 series took place in August and was a big departure from our previous format. Throughout the show, we broadcast reactions from Samsung Members, our community of Galaxy advocates, as our virtual audience – keeping that vital connection with our customers.

In future, I believe launches will be a hybrid of virtual and physical elements – combining the reach and cost savings that digital events provide, with the human connection you can truly achieve only through in-person events.

How we work

On a broader level, working culture has undergone one of the biggest overhauls since the five-day working week was introduced in the 20th century. I’m sure many of us will now be familiar with presenting from our living rooms and hosting meetings from the kitchen table.

Having been in the business for only a month before lockdown started, I’ve been extremely proud of how our marketing team has worked together. Communicating virtually with our agencies, producing and approving work has certainly come with challenges, which I believe we have risen to. Over-communication has been fundamental to this – checking in on work status, but most importantly, how our people are doing. Putting people first has been my number-one priority and throughout this period, we’ve really grown as a team together and built trust during these times.

The change to our working environment also had an impact on our media strategy. Early on during Covid-19 we took an agile approach and shifted our media spend to find new ways to reach our customers at home, through investment in digital, social and TV. Examples included our takeover of the London Evening Standard, which is now delivered directly to people’s homes, and with placements on popular remote working platforms such as WeTransfer.

How we play

With fewer opportunities to socialise and spend leisure time outside the home, download figures for mobile games peaked during lockdown, hitting a weekly figure of 1.2 billion globally in March, according to App Annie. Mobile also remains the leading segment of the games industry and is projected to become 2.8 times larger than PC gaming, and 3.1 times larger than consoles in 2020. This is especially relevant to us because owners of our Galaxy Note smartphones are twice as likely to be mobile gamers.

As we move forward, platforms such as Twitch will become an essential part of the marketing mix to reach younger, Gen-Z audiences in an authentic way.

How we shop

Like many markets around the world, the UK has experienced a huge upturn in online sales, even as non-essential physical retail spaces open back up. We are already seeing rebalance as we and our retail partners reopen stores, but as people’s lifestyles change permanently, the shift to digital has been accelerated by Covid-19 and it is here to stay.

From a marketing perspective, this means that there is a clear need and opportunity to take a digital-first approach to marketing – something we have been focusing on enhancing for some time. We need to be where our customers are, be more relevant to their lifestyles and always put them at the heart of everything we do.

How we talk to our customers

In times of uncertainty, customers seek comfort in the familiar, and are less likely to take risks or switch brands.

Focusing on experience over product in the way we communicate our products and services is going to be vital for all marketers and for every brand as we move towards the “next normal”. At Samsung, our mantra is: "Do what you can’t." We believe our technology enables people to achieve amazing things, and the current pandemic has brought this to life – helping our customers find work-life balance and connect with loved ones.

This month, we launched not just a phone with the Galaxy Note 20 series, but a whole ecosystem with the Galaxy Watch 3, the Tab S7 and Buds Live – our new audio offering. While the specs are important, we positioned the product range as one that powered all elements of work and play in our customers' lives.

This approach is paying off, with record pre-orders in the UK & Ireland, as well as customer loyalty and brand preference for our smartphones at an all-time high.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been an incredibly challenging period in all of our lives. For brands, a "business as usual" approach is no longer an option and marketers must now be agile in reacting to how the world around us has changed. By listening and adapting, brands can create campaigns that speak authentically to customers and stand the test of time as we move into the “next normal”.

Sharon Hegarty is UK and Ireland marketing director at Samsung

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