Marketing in a Time of Pandemic
Years ago, the great economist John Maynard Keynes made a prescient observation. “The inevitable never happens,” he said, “the unexpected always does.” That wisdom still applies. The inevitably expanding prosperity of 2020, as seen from the vantage point of 2019, never happened. Instead, unexpected chaos resulting from the Great Pandemic of 2020 took place, and it changed everything.
Take the case of marketing executives. Planning forward is fundamental to their work. So when the outlook abruptly changes, future projections can collapse and traditional tools fail. Having the agility to change and to implement responses on the fly becomes essential.
On October 21, with the outlook clouded by a combination of Coronavirus, a vitriolic election campaign, a surge in cybercrime, and a shortage of security talent, three cybersecurity company Marketing executives participated in a wide-ranging webinar hosted by Samantha Singh, Executive Vice President, Partner, Lumina Communications. Moderated by Teri Robinson, Executive Editor, SC Magazine, the panel included Jennifer Geisler, Chief Marketing Officer at Vectra AI; Michelle McLean, VP Marketing at Salt Security; and Judy Sunblade, VP Marketing, WhiteHat Security.
Of all the unexpected developments that took place this past year, Covid-19 was clearly the most disruptive, affecting business, institutions, and consumers in a variety of ways. But what about the cybersecurity industry and its marketing executives? For one thing, it meant that such dependable workhorse tools as extravagant national conferences were no longer available. It also meant that the environments in which prospective customers received their information tended to be ones surrounded by children, pets, and spouses – none of whom had much patience for traditional presentations. At the same time, it pushed the volume of product information delivered online to the point of saturation – a combination of too much noise and too little personalization.
By the same token, the panelists reported, those were the very changes that led to an overdue reassessment of the marketing process. At the same time, because money and effort were saved by canceling events, the opportunity to try new approaches – and to revive some classic ones – suddenly became practical. Shorter messages, sharper focus, expanded partnerships, better listening, finer calibration, greater emphasis on content, increased use of social media, and prioritized spending, all became elements of these alternative approaches. As one panelist put it: “Try and fail is better than fail to try.”
Those same developments also resulted in adjustments that could lead to permanent changes for the better, affecting the ways professionals operate – how they work as teams, how they stay in synch, how they communicate priorities – ways that can enhance the ability to work in a constantly changing environment.
But how does all that affect what 2021 is going to look like? And how should you prepare for it? Jennifer Geisler may have put it best. “We can’t predict,” she said. “We always thought we could. We put together plans assuming things would be normal. But we were naïve thinking that things couldn’t change. You should commit according to what you know today and remain extremely agile. If you are entering into any commitments longer than six months, make sure they have flexibility.
“But don’t wait to do marketing,” she continued. “We don’t know what’s going to happen, but marketing can do amazing things on behalf of your company. Go with what you know, but keep extremely agile, be prepared for change, and ready to spin on a dime.
“We have to control our own destiny,” she concluded. “That’s what this whole episode has shown us. It’s hard to feel as though you can do that. But things are not going to normalize anytime soon, so you have to chart your own path and make decisions and do it in a way where you control the outcome. If you’re waiting on something else or somebody else to make those decisions for you, it’s not going to happen.”