COVID-19 has been a monumental learning experience and has rewritten the definition of what it means for a brand to be adaptable. It is apparent now, with certainty, the speed at which things can change. Not only this but, as humans, we are able to withstand high levels of uncertainty and remain functional while doing so.

Never has it been clearer that it is not the strongest brand that survives, but rather the one most adaptable to change. By reengineering business to meet a new and unique need, you will be able to live your brand purpose, albeit from a distance at this moment in time.

As marketers, it is our jobs to leave a brand better than it was when we found it by making meaningful and practical contributions to society.

Here's how to do just that: 

1. Find the right people

As soon as lockdown was implemented, marketers faced with the challenge of putting entirely new routines in place. The face-to-face interactions brands took for granted in their daily work lives were replaced with new tools and systems to communicate with each other virtually.

Over the last few months, teams have begun to interact and come together in ways no one would have expected. This proves that adaptability starts with your people.

You need people who are able to deal with change efficiently and effectively. As a manager, this requires actively looking for traits like resilience, openness and an internal belief that one truly can change the future.

While traits such as hard work and dedication should never be overlooked, it is those inherent traits that will ensure that your organisation is forward-looking and agile in an ever-changing environment.

One of the most effective ways to deal with big change is to have a very clear picture of the future; know why your brand or business exists, and be very aware of your inherent strengths. That is when you will be able to face change head on and get through difficult times a lot quicker. When your people are aligned with your purpose, you can deal with big change fast and effectively.

2. Accept that change is inevitable and that it happens quickly

As brands clamor for relevancy in the conversation of the day, the ability to be agile enough to shift with this conversation can put you on the front foot. While planning big campaigns six to 18 months in the future remains critical, the importance of being part of conversations that are happening in real time are becoming more and more important.

A brand's ability to be adaptable was truly tested with COVID-19. The market required businesses to respond much quicker than imagined. Creative work that usually took months of planning had to be out in a matter of days, and big campaigns cancelled or postponed

This has been a valid learning event for marketers, as they had to prove to themselves that they were capable of doing this. If anything, this has taught brands that they are capable of completing large creative projects quicker than ever before. This will also allow brands to be more vigilant and aware of the way in which they spend their marketing budget, knowing that there are alternatives solutions to almost every problem.

3. Realise that data is the foundation of adaptability

It wouldn’t be possible for brands to have been as effective as they were if they didn’t have the right data at their disposal. With strong capabilities and access to the right analytical tools, brands are now able to empathise with what their consumers are going through.

This gives them the ability to identify opportunities to be of service to consumers in a way that adds value to their lives and builds equity for brands. For example, at South African Breweries, the team got involved with the production of hand sanitizer and PPE and also setting up a WhatsApp line to fight gender-based violence. They also set up platforms for crowdfunding to support bars and provided food relief to taverns — this was certainly not the time for traditional beer advertising.

Good quality data enables brands to see exactly what conversations are happening both online and in traditional media, which allows marketers to quickly shape campaigns and communications to respond to market changes.

Data also enables brands to obtain a clear idea of how it will be able to communicate during the pandemic, be it messages of safety, encouragement, social distancing or just to satisfy the need for good entertainment. From there, marketers are able to craft a role for brands to support consumers as everyone adjusts to the 'new normal'.

4. Tap into the new world

There is often a lot of undue criticism laid on large companies. In a time of crisis, one of the big benefits of being part of a large multinational organisation is having countless experts around the globe sharing knowledge and best practice on a daily basis. 

Even if you are not a part of a multinational organisation, that doesn’t mean that you can’t look to other markets to learn from their experiences. Brands have more information at their disposal than ever before, and not only that, they have the unique ability to reach out to any brand in the world and form a relationship in order to better themselves going forward. 

Into an uncertain future

Learning and adapting will continue to be critical weapons in each and every brand's fight against this pandemic, but also in how they navigate disruption and change in the future. When marketers are clear on why their brands exist and what role they have to play in people’s lives, they realise why adapting and learning becomes an essential part of building brands that truly play meaningful roles in society.

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