Prepare Your Marketing Operations for the Next Big Shake-up

November 18, 2020

The 2020 global pandemic has been a wakeup call for all. Big, sometimes ugly things happen. Should this monster crisis take a turn for the worse – or a new one arrive at the world’s doorstep – one persistent question faces your brand. Is it resilient enough to adapt and thrive?

That’s an intriguing question. And one that is still challenging a lot of marketing leaders.

Brands nimble enough to react quickly will come out of this crisis better prepared and positioned for the next. Those still figuring it out must realize what history has taught — the unexpected should be expected.

Sh%# happens. Consumers are impacted in big ways. Brands will be too.

Marketing Ops in Crisis Mode

Even before 2020, some marketing teams were aware that in an omnichannel world they were losing to the exponential need for marketing content and brand-right assets to feed the machine. Lack of scalable content creation processes were becoming a limiting factor for success. It’s even a bigger problem since the pandemic.

When things went horribly wrong in early 2020, marketers with their heads down didn’t see the storm ahead. They were lost in the daily minutia and were unprepared to streamline and adapt their marketing operations. The bottleneck for creating brand-right, crisis-right content assets, as simple as product photography or SKU descriptions, found its tipping point.

And the challenge extended beyond the need for more content:

  • Supply chains were thrown into chaos, making it difficult to advertise with confidence and quickly respond to consumer needs.
  • Consumers immediately shifted to ecommerce and curbside pickup. Building linked inventory systems to meet their needs was essential to surviving physical closures.
  • Product samples were delayed overseas, without a commitment to meet critical deadlines.
  • Accessibility to existing marketing assets was needed now more than ever. The challenge — understand what is available and where to find it.
  • Assets needed to be reworked to be more appropriate to the times AND to new channels (i.e. ecommerce and digital vs. in-store and print).
  • Marketing budgets and teams had to adjust on the fly, with reduced staff due to furloughs or added complexity of working remotely with internal or agency partners.
  • Ramp-up time was critical — decision-makers were ready to pivot to plan B options ASAP.

We found that the brands and retailers resilient and nimble enough to act swiftly, adapt their internal processes, and creatively leverage partners were the ones that thrived. These brands found flexible partners like Quad, with broad production and creative capabilities and a global footprint, to manage product samples, create catalog assets, shoot new photography or CGI existing photography, edit and create video, and do so at scale through a world-wide network.

For example, one U.S. client had product samples stuck overseas. They could not capture the required ecommerce and promotional photography. Quad was able to quickly move their samples to our Hong Kong studio and remotely deliver finished assets to their U.S. offices ahead of the creative schedule.

Those adjustments made these brands stronger and better prepared for the next version of whatever crisis is to come.

What Your Brand Can Learn from the Good and the Bad

The current chaos has proven that it is vitally important to be structured for volatility and this
comes down to your people, processes, and partnerships.

  • Create one version of the truth. Decentralized marketing tools, multiple data creators or sources, and siloed planning processes make it challenging to ensure that all team members have timely strategic direction, accurate planning information, and the right content to quickly pivot as needed.
  • Streamline processes and design for flexibility. Cut out anything that’s nonessential from your workflows, look for ways to eliminate loopbacks, and increase automation. Yes, it takes a commitment to audit the current state and then build a future state with an understanding of what can be leveraged. But reshaping processes in this way better positions your team to handle future volatility and overcome unforeseen challenges.
  • Scale photo and content production. A team that can handle all aspects of marketing asset and content creation with global reach is invaluable. Partners who have flexibility and expanded global creative resources will eliminate the management of production challenges and let you focus on supporting your brand’s core capabilities.

Another shake-up is inevitable. Taking steps now to structure your marketing operations for variability will help your brand prepare to thrive during uncertain times ahead.