Davey: Do we really want to get back to normal?

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Davey: Do we really want to get back to normal?

Andy Davey, Strategy Director at experiential agency Gettin Hectic, says the changes imposed by Covid-19 have given marketers an opportunity to reconsider ‘auto pilot behaviour’.


Yearning to get back to normal? For the first time in a generation, we’re all reconsidering our auto-pilot behaviour, which gives brands a massive opportunity. Everyone’s experience of this pandemic has probably been different. In Australia we seem to have been lucky and so far, avoided the crises playing out in many other countries.

Overall though, I’m not sure it’s panned out how many of us expected. Certainly, some people are yearning to ‘get back to normal’ but I’ve not found that to be true in most cases. Actually, it’s been more like ‘yes, it’ll be nice to see people again, but I’m in no hurry to get back to how it was before. Working from home, seeing more of the family, less travel time… all has a lot going for it’.

Interestingly, I’ve heard the same from a number of businesses too. If anything, they’ve seen an increase in productivity during the ‘work from home’ period and are implementing new work practices to balance the benefits of what was working before and what’s worked since lockdown. I suspect that these progressive, forward-thinking businesses, rather than the ones who return to the comfort of ‘what they’ve always done’ will come out of this situation with the upper hand.

Once-in-a-generation crises like Covid-19 often have this kind of effect on the status-quo. They force people to take stock of what’s working, to embrace the new and clean out the deadwood. I wonder if this will be the case with marketing.

I remember an ex-colleague talking about the ‘addictive behaviour’ that is so common in the marketing world. I think all marketers are guilty of this, agency as well as client-side; doing what they do simply because that’s what they’ve always done. It’s hard to break habits. Maybe the agency is structured in a way that makes certain solutions more convenient or profitable. Maybe your marketing plan looks very similar to last year’s because that’s how the company has always done things, and it’s never got anyone into trouble.

Covid-19 presents us all with an opportunity to use this period of re-opening to break this auto-pilot behaviour and to reassess whether our approach sets us apart from the competition.

Pretending nothing has changed is not going to give our customers or clients great confidence in our business model. Traditional approaches to marketing and media tend to follow what are known as the ‘information-processing’ models of decision-making. We all know the names of the different stages: Consideration, Active evaluation, Purchase, Post-purchase experience, Repeat. The issue with these models is that they were conceived in the 1960’s and 70’s. If you think a lot has changed in the last three months, imagine how different consumer behaviour was 50 years ago.

The thing that is almost completely missing from these models (and therefore from many marketing plans today) is the role that feelings play in consumer behaviour. There’s a big difference between the way you feel about something and what you know about it. In fact, there’s a huge amount of evidence to suggest that the way you feel about a brand plays the most significant role in whether you buy it or not.

All of which brings me to my main point: Experiential marketing. Arguably, it’s not a well understood discipline, but in simple terms it’s a form of marketing that specifically aims to change the way people feel about your brand… and that changes the way they behave towards it. We have found that many clients want a more emotional and personal connection with their customers but have been unsure how to bring that element into their marketing mix without disrupting what’s already in place. In this period of upheaval, where everyone, brands and consumers alike, are reconsidering their auto-pilot behaviour maybe now’s the time to rethink your marketing plans.

If you’d like to understand how you could use experiential marketing to target a more emotional and long-term connection with your customers, why not Gettin Touch.