Thought Leadership Series May 28 Recap

June 7, 2020

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, local and international brands alike have been facing unprecedented challenges in adapting to the “new normal”. Many brands have been pivoting their marketing and messaging strategy to not only stay relevant but in some cases, to stay in business.

On May 28th, we were joined by Steve Mossop- President of Insights West, Georgia Dahle-Director of Marketing Communications at TELUS, Trina Notman- VP Sales and Marketing at Hotel Zed and Accent Inns, Victoria Gray- Head of Strategic Services at Wasserman + Partners, and Kirtarath Dhillon- Manager of Digital Marketing and Analytics at Indochino, to speak on their brands and how they switched their “marketing gears” to continuously evolve and meet the needs of customers during this time. In this blog, we will provide bite sized insights from each marketing leader’s presentation.

Steve Mossop, President of Insights West

Steve spoke on marketing research surrounding the impact of COVID-19 on consumer’s lives and brand reputation alike. Highlighting Insights West’s proprietary Brand Reputation Insights Tool, they have created a list of brand approval ratings of BC companies during the pandemic. The 3 brands on the top of the list are the BC Ministry of Health, the BC Centre for Disease Control, and the Government of BC based on their appropriate brand responses that resonated with consumers. 

The types of brand responses that resonated most with consumers included: 

  • Efforts to pay employees despite store closures
  • Free shipping and discounts on online orders during store closures
  • Brands and CEOs donating money for PPE for frontline workers
  • In-store physical distancing/ sanitation/ safety guidelines
  • Regular email updates

Furthermore, Steve spoke on the top 10 insights for brands and marketers in this current climate. Here are a few examples:

  • Fear is still driving consumer decisions, even with restrictions lifting
  • Hyper-localization of consumer preferences in supporting brands 
  • Despite charitable giving being down, charitable sentiment is high

Geogia Dahle- Director of Marketing Communications at TELUS 

Georgia spoke to how TELUS rapidly pivoted their messaging during the unfolding of the pandemic. It was critical for them to reflect the culture and values of TELUS whilst being sensitive of the times. Their biggest priority was to make sure they had the right tone of message in the market, and actually removed several marketing messages because they felt it wasn’t the right time for them to be seen. 

The marketing team created the #StayConnected campaign by recognizing the importance of connectivity to Canadians in this time, especially with being a telecommunications brand. To highlight their values of authenticity and helpfulness, TELUS harnessed user generated content to create an emotion-provoking advertisement seen here. This advertisement highlights the new normal and reminds us to stay strong through it all, as we are in this together. 

Trina Notman- VP of Marketing and Communication for Accent Inns and Hotel Zed

Not only is Trina the VP of Marketing and Communication for Accent Inns and Hotel Zed, she is also the President of the BCAMA! Trina spoke about Accent Inns and Hotel Zed’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its decimation to the tourism market. Instead of responding with fear, leadership decided to respond with love and humility. Early in the pandemic, they received a call from an emotional nurse supervisor who was heartbroken to see nurses sleeping in their cars to not risk giving their families the virus. 

Within 24 hours, the team at Accent Inns dropped their rates the lowest possible amount to keep operational and offered it to every frontline worker they could reach. Responding with love created over 30 media stories and built brand sentiment without the marketing team having to spend a dime. Furthermore, residents of BC had the hotel’s phone ringing off the hook offering to donate their money to pay for a frontline worker’s stay. Accent Inns partnered with United Way to facilitate the donations and also continued to volunteer labour to their long-time charity partner, Variety BC. 

Kitarath Dhillon- Manager of Digital Marketing and Analytics at Indochino

Kitarath spoke on how the bespoke tailored menswear brand, Indochino, has navigated the pandemic after spending years developing in-person showroom experiences. Indochino was originally a strictly ecommerce brand at its inception, and Kitarath showed us that they have went all-in on returning to their ecommerce roots amidst COVID-19. Indochino has learned a lot in terms of customer feedback from the operation of over 50 in-person showrooms, and has taken that data and integrated it with its ecommerce shopping experience to create a seamless omnichannel journey for consumers. They are also tweaking communications based on media consumption habits- there is now more desktop browsing than ever due to consumers working from home, making it easy to pop open their laptop at any time. 

Victoria Gray- Head of Strategic Services at Wasserman + Partners

Wasserman + Partners, a member of Worldwide Partners (a global network of marketing agencies), brings a global perspective on consumer and market trends surrounding personal health and safety. Victoria mentioned that 3 factors contribute to the importance of personal health and safety to your brand:

  1. Your target audience’s personal level of concern or risk
  2. What they can do themselves to mitigate those risks and concerns
  3. What you can do as a brand to mitigate those risks and concerns

Ipsos shows that businesses not taking safety measures at their in-person locations will be negatively impacted, whereas companies taking these measures are reaping benefits of increased sales. There are marketing opportunities to showcase your increased measures, such as branding/partnering your “clean routine” like Hilton has done with their Hilton CleanStay with Lysol Protection program. There are also marketing opportunities surrounding quarantine and the importance of our homes/personal spaces, such as creating a product extension like Hawaiian Tropic’s Beachside Inside Candle, bringing their iconic sunscreen scent indoors. Pivoting your marketing efforts while infusing out-of-the-box thinking will help set your brand apart in the COVID-19 business climate. 

I hope you enjoyed this recap from BC marketing leaders and took away some lessons to apply to your brand. Make sure to check out our next two-day flagship event, (re)Vision Virtual Conference, to learn more about marketing during a pandemic and beyond. The virtual conference will be filled with inspiring keynotes, networking, and impactful workshops designed to challenge your thinking and evolve your marketing landscape. More details and registration can be found here. Stay safe and stay inspired! 

Written by Amber Hoffart