DDB advertising agency executives from Singapore and China, countries that went through the COVID-19 pandemic before it reached this side of the world, said experience has taught them that businesses must start focusing on long-term solutions, not just what works today.
In a virtual presentation in coordination with DDB Latina Puerto Rico David Tang, CEO of DDB Singapore and Matthew Cheng, CEO of DDB China, shared best practices on how brands, customers and consumers have dealt with the pandemic and how they have been successful in their markets.
“About three or four months ago, Asia was going through the difficult situation of the pandemic that Latin America and the United States are now experiencing,” said Tang.
“Despite the confusion, we had to choose between having faith or being afraid, and it was this reflection that made us understand how brave, hopeful and concerned we really were for each other. That gave us strength to face the situation,” he said.
In their presentation, the executives provided a complete look at how the pandemic has impacted their economy, has generated changes in marketing and brand associations, encouraged government initiatives and strategies, and impacted in consumer sentiment, as well as the different opportunities it has presented for brands in their markets, said Edgardo M. Rivera, CEO of DDB Latina Puerto Rico.
Tang and Cheng agreed that the focus from now on must be on “long-term solutions, not just what works today. If this crisis has shown us anything, it is that business and digital transformation does not happen overnight.”
Companies that have best dealt with the current crisis are those that were already ahead of competitors in developing digital platforms, consumer experience and the logistics of how to get the products they need to the consumer as quickly and efficiently as possible, they said.
“During the crisis, we have seen many entrepreneurs and brands using innovative ways to solve problems, these helped as temporary workarounds to solve immediate problems,” the executives agreed.
“But now is the time to start working on business solutions that positively impact the long-term consumer experience and are resilient enough to sustain the impact of a future crisis, whether related to COVID-19 or another natural phenomenon,” they added.
Tang said collaboration between the private and public sectors is becoming more important than ever, particularly in small countries.
Singapore, a country roughly the same size as Puerto Rico, had a speedy recovery due in large part to an extensive coordination effort between the government and private sector, including sharing key health and tracking data, as well as observed consumption and behavioral data in the broader society, Tang said.
The executives said there are four major changes in consumer behavior that will impact their relationship with brands in the long term: Humility, humanism and hope for the future; accelerated digital transformation across all segments of the population; actions are more important than words; and, neutrality is impossible.
“All brands need to contribute to society. Before the pandemic, many marketers perceived ‘social awareness’ as the territory of more activist brands or as part of tactical public relations efforts to earn some ‘goodwill’ with the consumer,” the executives said.
“But today that equation is turned on its head: People expect brands the they consume to have a positive vision for the broader community and penalize brands that fail to demonstrate how they are helping the public,” they added.
Meanwhile, they identified four changes in the marketing of products that will likely remain relevant after the pandemic and for the foreseeable future: The importance of building long-term “brand love; smart and resilient technology; marketing to communities, families and groups; and partnerships between different companies.
“We’re convinced that the recommendations of Tang and Cheng, which we have implemented at DDB Latina Puerto Rico in close collaboration with them, will be a valuable education and content framework to aid brands as well as our country,” said Rivera.