Marketing in 2021; EPIC predictions

I was reading The Drum recently where Samuel Scott reflected on the three biggest media trends of 2020; increased TV viewing, a US decline in smartphone usage, and cinema advertising revenue down by over half on 2019. He said if there’s one thing this year should teach the marketing industry it’s that no one knows what will happen in 2021!

At the beginning of December, the Independent Print Industry Association (IPIA) hosted its EPIC event where it brought back speakers from its 2019 conference to update marketers on what worked, what didn’t and where effort should now be focussed.

I co-facilitated this insightful virtual event. Olga Munroe of the Retail Institute spoke on sensory marketing and haptic engagement and how using print and different effects in packaging can increase consumer satisfaction. She discussed all the senses and how, for example, 75% of our emotions are influenced by smell, suggesting that olfactory linked to memory can be positively ascribed to brands.

She talked about consumer purchase drivers, external triggers like packaging price and brand, and internal ones such as hedonism or utilitarian. She talked about achieving premiumisation, referencing how the seductive suction of lifting the lid on an iphone box was no accident, it was engineered to heighten sensory engagement. Catch her presentation on YouTube, it’s well worth watching.

Mark Davies talked about the print-based media division of Whistl and how he too had seen three trends from 2020; mixed up media, digital fatigue and life is local. When advertising revenue nosedived for out-of-home, transport and cinemas, home proved the winner as it became everyone’s office, restaurant and even school. He talked of the digital ennui as people sought out alternatives to being glued to their screens.

He referred to incredible JICMAIL research revealing unprecedented metrics like the length of time a doordrop item stayed in the home; 6.9 days. He said this was extraordinary especially when compared to the fleeting nature of digital marketing; Facebook users spend between 1.7 and 2.5 seconds on advertising in their newsfeed.

Cost, he argued, is a stick people use to beat the print industry. He said that while it is more expensive than digital, using the metrics he shared, print offered 200 times more content and around 350,000 times more opportunities to see. He concluded that Covid-19 had made life very local and that national firms needed a local strategy, adding that it played nicely into geographical-based channels like doordrop.

EPIC was also fortunate be offered tips by Rory Sutherland of the Ogilvy Group. He posed that many business problems are marketing problems in disguise and that it was dangerous to extrapolate business fortunes by past averages. He cautioned that in times of disruption, averages becomes less reliable guides as behaviour becomes more extreme in both directions; extravagance is amplified and cost-savings are more dramatic.

Looking forward, he wanted more novelty, claiming that using a less overused media not only excites but your capacity to dominate is greater. He wanted businesses to be more creative and experimental in these unstable and uncertain times arguing that the rate of exploiting what you know needs to shift to exploring more. He said retailers testing direct mail now would find it’s still a potent medium.

Sutherland was worried by the lack of creative experimentation, claiming media businesses and tech companies had connived to make optimisation all about targeting and not enough about creative. Discounts and sales have good click through but he urged marketers to be careful about what they optimised against as, with customers who only click on sales messages, you could be building databases of people who only buy on deals or discounts.

He also spoke of trust, citing recent research by Thinkbox that revealed that TV, followed by magazines and radio respectively were the most trusted to deliver on promise. He made the point that we react differently to promises made in public spaces like outdoor, they carry extra conviction than one-to-one private digital spaces where messages are interchangeable.

Sutherland concluded with a hunch for the long term that buyers who respond to print may have a higher lifetime value than those who respond online. He said we’re not measuring it and we need to.

There was a lot of great things to take away from EPIC, not least of which were powerful messages from keynote speaker, Peter Docker. He spoke of two emotions we’ve all experienced this year; love and fear. The prospect of losing your reputation, status, livelihood or business ceated real fear. And while many shy away from love in a business context, he suggested that when driven by love we’re driven by others not self.

As business leaders, he said we can use fear as a catalyst for courage driven by love for our people, what we bring to the world through our work and what we stand for. In doing so, we open up more possibilities, solutions, creativity and innovation from ourselves and our team. He said we should recognise fear as a warning and activator to find the courage to find a place of love.

Like many, I found Docker’s talk very emotional, it resonated with many of the feelings we have all experienced during the pandemic. I have seen resilience and courage within our industry and can relate to what Docker said. It’s like fighting through a storm, pushed down by currents. There’s temptation to retreat back to where we came from but we need to push forward, fight through the storm and through to the blue skies.