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While the uncertainty of COVID-19’s global economic impact continues, brands are adapting. We’ve looked back on the first few months of global marketing during this period to inform the next steps for your brand.

Countries in Europe, Asia and North America are gradually putting their lockdown exit strategies into practice. National leaders are quick to stress the need for an orderly, gradual approach, to avoid undoing the advances of the past few weeks.

Many businesses are in a similar position. At the start of the crisis, multinational brands rightly focused on keeping their heads above water, with 84% putting flexible working plans in place. Now, they’re beginning to prepare for the future. 96% of brands are putting cost controls in place, while assessing the potential for a rebound in demand and making tentative plans for future growth.

During this transitional period, effective communication with customers and employees remains key. Here’s a look at the key global trends to help inform the next step in your brand’s global marketing.

1. CHANNEL DIVERSIFICATION

Amazon’s sales have surged in the last few months. With revenues of $10,000 per second, its biggest challenge has been keeping up with demand. Even its ad business looks fairly safe – despite a global downturn in ad volume – due to its strong link with product searches. If ever there were a time to optimize your brand for Amazon, it’s now.

However, don’t put all your eggs in the Amazon basket. 62% of multinational companies are planning to diversify into new sales channels – or have already done so. The brand’s decision to prioritize essential products has created challenges for companies in non-essential sectors, and made diversification necessary.

Google’s been hard at work to make its e-commerce offering more attractive too. In an attempt to regain market share lost to Amazon, they’ve opened up Google Shopping to free organic listings. It’s a major step for the search engine, and worth building into your international SEO strategy.

Email has also been performing strongly. Open rates have increased by as much as 40% in April. This gives your brand an opportunity to increase awareness, and potentially revenue. That said, email fatigue is beginning to set in. In a survey across five regions, 47% of consumers felt they were receiving too many emails. Avoid accidental brand damage by keeping communication sensitive, sensible, relevant – and free from clichés.

2. SOCIAL MEDIA

Internationally, speculation is rife about the long-term impact of COVID-19 on China’s all-digital retail value chain. The SARS epidemic in 2003 played a driving role in China’s e-commerce development. In 2020, social media is in the spotlight – and it may be time to review which platforms to invest in.

In the past few months, smaller challengers like the Little Red Book (LRB) have seen significant growth. LRB is a comparatively small Chinese social media platform with 100 million users, but they’re growing and innovating fast.

They’ve capitalized on the lockdown boom in livestreaming and added new features such as a mini-program to further encourage social commerce. A similar feature has existed on WeChat for the last two years, and generated over 800 billion transactions in 2019. As more users sign up to LRB, it’s worth considering whether you should add it into your Chinese social strategy.

In other markets, TikTok has been on the rise for over a year now, thanks to its popularity with Gen Z users. This trend has been accelerated by the global lockdown. In February, it was the most popular non-gaming app across the world, and has reached almost two billion downloads.

If your brand is targeting a younger demographic and you’re not already on TikTok, now could be the time to try. Especially as it’s possible on a limited budget. Gymshark managed to reach 45 million views, without creating any of their own content. Instead, they relied on fitness influencers to create content on their behalf.

3. CONTENT STRATEGY

Expanding to new channels can protect sales and open up new opportunities. But this won’t happen effectively without audience research and a good content strategy.

Some brands (like Procter & Gamble) are spending to maintain brand awareness. Others have stopped advertising for now (like Coca-Cola). It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, though.

Highlighting charity donations or voluntary work is a good way to stay in the public eye, without the expense of costly marketing campaigns. It’s an approach many brands have taken. From breathing aids, to goggles, to social-care robots, businesses are showing they’re a force for good.

Other common content themes include:

  • Health announcements. For example, Netflix launched a campaign with spoilers to popular shows in public spaces (#stayathome).
  • Some companies, like Pret, offered front-line workers discounts and offers.
  • A focus on the home. From IKEA’s “Stay home” advert to Apple’s focus on creativity, it’s all about celebrating the joys of home and what people do there.

However, aligning too closely with common themes can make it hard to stand out. One YouTuber captured the public mood by cutting together several brands’ ads into one video to highlight how similar they are. Meanwhile, worldwide interest in topics like “how to work from home” is diminishing.

We may live in unprecedented times, but understanding your audience and creating relevant content is still the best way to generate engagement and revenue.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Global marketing is under the spotlight during the coronavirus period. Few other seasons in recent years have attracted this level of memorability. This makes it both an opportunity to engage – and a risky proposition. Audience research, creativity and finely tuned messaging will be crucial in the next stage of your brand’s global marketing.

If you have any questions, or need support adapting your international marketing campaigns, we’re here to help.