As COVID-19 continues to disrupt consumer’s lives, brand leaders are challenged now more than ever to deliver an experience that seamlessly integrates into a consumer’s routine.
As Pete Blackshaw, CEO Cintrifuse, former Head of Digital Marketing & Social Media, Nestle, shared in our recent Courageous Minds Only Chat on Brand Building in a Contactless Economy, the challenge for brands is to figure out how to seamlessly integrate the digital and physical worlds, enabling a true “no-touch” experience, not just a “friction-free” experience.
What will continue to set brands apart from one another is HOW brands integrate themselves with consumers in unique and differentiated ways, especially in vulnerable times like today.
“The advent of the virtual economy was happening before COVID, but it has just accelerated so much since. And I think, building a really methodical, strong roadmap as to how you’re going to integrate it into your business model is going to be critical. What I spent a lot of time thinking about is how do we build trust in contact? Trust has to be the foundation.
And so, you feel a lot of companies right now pulling back on their advertising and their marketing spend. And if you look backward at the SARS pandemic, or even in the early nineties with some of the oil prices, the companies that actually leaned in and advertised what was important to our customer at that point actually saw significant share growth.” – Asif Khalid, Director of New Platforms, Store Evolution Team, 7-Eleven
As BigCo leaders consider all of these emergent possibilities, what has to be true for corporate leaders to embrace and activate on these new approaches—new partnerships, embracing the digital-first brand and product leaders, changes to org models, changes to how they experiment, etc? How should they start to think about innovating your brand for the future?
Here are a few thought starters from our recent Courageous Minds Only Virtual Chat on Brand Building in the Contactless Economy with BigCo Leaders Asif Khalid, Director New Platforms, Store Evolution Team, 7-Eleven, Pete Blackshaw, CEO Cintrifuse, former Head of Digital Marketing & Social Media, Nestle, and Tiffany Samuels, Sr. Project Consultant, Menu & Packaging, Chick-fil-a.
“From a QSR perspective, I think the future frontier is really owning home. And I know that that seems counterintuitive because a restaurant is a brick and mortar establishment. People can go to it, go through the drive-through, sit in the dining room. But I think you’re going to see more and more focus on owning home because “home” is important to us. And so many of us are relegated to working from home now, spending more time at home. And I think that that’s only going to accelerate. So I think delivery for sure is one way that that’s going to come to life, facilitating that process for consumers to get their favorites from a restaurant delivered to their home. But I think it will also start to blur the lines between CPG and restaurants. Prime example: Chick-fil-A has started to sell its sauces in traditional retail. So I think you will start to see more and more of these restaurant brands appearing in a grocery or an eCommerce space as just a way to start to try to own the home, outside of the brick and mortar location.” – Tiffany Samuels, Sr. Project Consultant, Menu & Packaging, Chick-fil-a.
“I think delivery is absolutely the number one strategic initiative, not just at 7-Eleven, but anybody in the retail space. If you think about pre COVID numbers, 4% of the American workforce was working from home pre-COVID, 4% in a recent IBM study just came out about a month ago. That said, that showed about 79% of people want to work from home. And 59% of companies want people to work from home because of all the efficiencies and the flexibility that it allows. And so it’s pretty clear that trip counts were declining before COVID, but you can absolutely expect trip counts to decline significantly after COVID. And so if you, if you forecast 10 to 15% of the American workforce working from home, people going out less, and the innovation that’s going to enable people to stay home even more, you can hope and pray that customers come to your brick and mortar locations, or you can figure out the best way to get it to them. And so I think the medium and long term initiatives must be delivery even with the challenges around profitability, third party, and figuring out how to get it to customers fast.” – Asif Khalid, Director of New Platforms, Store Evolution Team, 7-Eleven
“I think advertising is really in for a rude disruption. I don’t believe that consumers are going to have nearly as much patience for interruptive advertising. We’re used to more intimate conversations—90% of our time online is intimate dialogue in Zoom. So suddenly that rude interruptive ad we saw that we may be tolerated before, it’s just not going to be as acceptable.
And I think advertisers are going to have to reinvent the way they market brands. I think you’re going to see a lot more brands sponsoring Netflix movies or Amazon prime in very creative ways versus your traditional form of advertising. I know we glorify performance marketing, and there’s a lot of benefits of that targeting, but I think we’re going to have to think really hard about where the consumer rejects the pitch.” – Pete Blackshaw, CEO Cintrifuse, former Head of Digital Marketing & Social Media, Nestle
“In terms of where I’ve had to show courage, it continues to happen, especially in this season that we find ourselves in. Lately, I was involved in a product launch, and coming from CPG, I’m used to the stage-gate process. A lot of rigor, a lot of data. We don’t take any decisions lightly. But the team that I was on and in charge of leading, we were literally tasked with launching something with breakneck speed; within a month; talk about having to break the system, break people from their typical rigor that they like to see, and just really be willing to take a risk and then think on the back end of all, the things that we can do from a contingency perspective, if, and when things don’t go our way. So that’s been very interesting just working on product launches in this environment on a much shorter window.” – Tiffany Samuels, Sr. Project Consultant, Menu & Packaging, Chick-fil-a.
“I really think convenience is being redefined. And it happens to be the industry I’m in, but in all honesty, how a brand and a retailer enables convenience and what that means that a consumer is going to be who wins and how you win. Convenience is going to be through different channels. Convenience is going to be for different times and convenience is going to be for different types of products, but how you do that, and how fast you do that is really what’s going to separate the winners from the losers. I also think it’s really important to have some, you have to be proprietary in some way. You can’t just offer what everyone else is offering. Right? What needs to be clear in your brand promise is how are you different and what is, what is different about what you’re offering.” – Asif Khalid, Director of New Platforms, Store Evolution Team, 7-Eleven
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