May 28, 2020

There must be a pony in here somewhere!

In our last issue, we wrote about panicked marketers.

In this one, we consider those who have taken a deep breath, analyzed the landscape, and made the most of the last couple of months by rethinking every aspect of how they serve customers. Not all of them are saving jobs, but some are planting the seeds of reinvention that may create jobs for years to come.

If that’s not you, it’s not too late. The pandemic is bringing about a paradigm shift and with it a host of opportunities. Sure, you may be thinking, but what if you’re an airline? Or a ride-sharing company? Or a restaurant?

The glib answer to that question is The Pony Joke, in which an optimistic six-year-old faced with a mountain of horse manure exclaims with unequivocal delight, “There must be a pony in here somewhere!”

Glib or not, digging through the manure pile to find a glimmer of opportunity will contribute to getting the economy back on track. Uber may not move as many people, but it may move a lot more food if its acquisition of GrubHub takes place. Airlines are filling cabins with cargo. Restaurants—some of them at least—are turning to take-out.

Below, some inspiration for “calm marketing.”

This is a Test. This is Only a Test.

Surely there is no better example of calm marketing than experimenting when your hair is on fire.

Why experiment? Because we are in the midst of a massive paradigm shift for a host of industries. The path forward isn’t clear, and managing risk is critical. Experimentation allows companies to test new initiatives without commitment and learn fast; if an experiment generates positive results, marketers can (calmly) move it to the next stage.

Who’s experimenting? Companies with imploding value chains are front and center as are businesses dependent on humans for sales. A few examples:
- Homes now practically sell themselves as real estate agents experiment with online tours and sanitized lockboxes to market properties for sale.
- Levi’s, facing a direct-to-consumer future, experiments with TikTok.
- East Fork, a direct-to-consumer ceramics brand, experiments with selling seconds online and ends up changing its entire business model.

The Swift Swivel

Pivots are so…2019. The 2020 approach: rapid-fire repositioning that would make a swivel-happy WWII tail-gunner proud. Companies are adding multiple new models in parallel at breathtaking speeds.

Case in point: restaurant reservations platforms like OpenTable, Resy, and Tock, which have faced volume declines in excess of 90%. Among their new strategies:
- TAKE-OUT. Resy At Home, Tock To Go, and OpenTable all flexed their platforms to encompass meals for pick-up.
- OLD TECH, NEW VERTICAL. Tock is extending the reservations model to retailers, so customers can book shopping slots and retailers can manage in-store customer volumes. OpenTable did the same with grocers, complete with auto-waitlist functionality.
- DEPTH OF INFORMATION. Reservations platforms have added links to restaurant fundraisers and directory information about restaurants offering delivery and takeout.
- COMMUNICATIONS. In addition to receiving updates and recommendations about takeout and delivery options, users can now subscribe to alerts about reopening dates.
Other examples:
- Amazon, of course, with its "dark" Whole Foods stores and operational transformation.
- All sorts of things are happening in the high-fashion world: shows are consolidating, seasons are aligning to weather, Chinese luxury consumers are more important than before, and (of course) direct-to-consumer is hot, hot, hot.

Break the Rules

Behavior patterns are changing at a head-spinning rate as consumers and businesses move past shock into practicality. To keep pace—OK, to survive—companies are calmly breaking old rules. The pandemic, The Economist writes, “is spurring innovation, as firms come up with new ways to keep making products despite disrupted supply chains, or, as demand collapses amid self-isolation, create new ones.”

Examples:
Getting Fit: Free fitness subscriptions from Nike, Peloton, and Fitbit—not a bad way to build a pipeline of paying customers.
Dinner Kit: High-end restaurant Ardyn's white-glove dinner delivery service, delivered by rabbits.
Salty Bit: Frito-Lay's direct-to-consumer play at snacks.com—after eons of singular focus on grocery and convenience store aisles.

We could go on. And on. Instead, we are going to go start calmly identifying opportunities for rule-breaking and experimentation. Join us!

Having a marketing crisis?

Spark biz-therapy is here. Contact us at hello@sparkno9.com for a free consult.
We will rally the online whiteboard and help you find a path forward.

Latest Posts

Let'S CHAT

message-icon

Looking to grow? Drop your email in this little box and we’ll be in touch soon!

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form