#RoadTo2021: 7 marketing lessons from 2020 you should apply to 2021

Vishal Nicholas

dentsu India’s Vishal Nicholas pens down marketing lessons for A&M professionals as they embark on the journey called 2021.

What was so interesting about 2020 wasn’t that digital became a necessity finally but the ripple effects around it — the other changes starting to take place, other myths being built and busted as the year drew to a close. So here are some marketing lessons I picked up along the way in 2020 which may gain greater importance in 2021.

‘Digital’ is not a marketing strategy in 2021

A myth that got perpetuated in 2020 and is slowly beginning to unravel was the belief that digital is a magic wand and all marketers have to do is to wave it. Nothing could be further from the truth. “We’re investing heavily in digital marketing” is not a strategy as digital in 2021 is a world with many strategic options. Social media is just one aspect of digital. First-party data strategies to boost profitable growth, CX, e-commerce as a new avenue of awareness, D2C are equal parts of a digital strategy that we must make choices between as resources are finite. The choices that you make and the choices that you sacrifice within the gamut of options available in the digital universe will define your strategy. 

The shift from USP to MSP

With all the hype around data-driven advertising leading to personalized communications, few realise the subtle resultant effect on one of the iconic marketing concepts of the broadcast era – the USP. When you personalize communications to different segments, you aren’t focusing on the lowest common denominator anymore. You instead need MSPs or Multiple Selling Propositions that have the desired effect on each segment which may have very different need states. Take Amazon for example, to non-users, they may position the brand on variety (A to Z), to regular users, Amazon may stand for speed, to Prime members who get early access to products the brand may stand for exclusivity. Maybe it’s time to articulate your brand’s MSPs if you have started the personalisation journey.

Brand personality/tone of voice is the new brand positioning

While MSPs solve for one problem, they also create another – you don’t want the brand to start looking like it has a multiple personality disorder. So how do you get to stay true to the idea of MSPs and yet, have audiences feel similarly about your brand?

The answer lies in the brand’s personality or tone of voice. It unifies the brand across its different consumer segments and MSPs. Virgin is a great example of a brand that straddles different categories and even industries with different selling propositions and yet everyone feels the same way about Virgin thanks to its irreverent, cheeky tone of voice.

Also Read: Opinion: Storytelling + Technology – a winning combination for brands in 2021?

The Year of Availability

The pandemic brought back focus to distribution and availability like never before. Brands will have to hedge their bets as far as distribution modes are concerned even in 2021. Interesting new collaborations that don’t just give newer forms of access to the consumer but also work as newer ways to create buzz for brands in a symbiotic manner.

Time for the Piyush & Prasoons of digital advertising to emerge

With Internet usage in rural areas crossing urban cities in India, the time is ripe for digital advertising to develop a vernacular earthiness that characterized the shift many years ago in Indian advertising led by Piyush Pandey and Prasoon Joshi. 2020 already saw the OTT players heading that way in search of critical mass. Perhaps advertising history may repeat itself soon.

Content has to tango with Commerce

A one-off post that oozes creativity arguably does little for the brand unless you do it consistently like the original moment marketer, Amul, has been doing for years. With increasing pressure on toplines, bottom lines and even working capital cycles, there will be scrutiny on the efficacy of content, and rightly so. Content must lead to commerce, directly or indirectly and few are doing it better than live streaming shopping celebs like Viya in China, blurring the lines between entertainment and commerce. We are already starting to see this phenomenon take off in India as well.

Personalization of experiences over personalization of sales

Again the hype around data-driven marketing leads us to think only of how we can personalise communications to drive sales. Nothing wrong with that but when done repetitively it comes across as intrusive and irritating. Data can also be used to personalise experiences for the consumer and that leads to a valuable two-way exchange. For example, when you give Google Assistant access to your data, it reminds you of your upcoming flight along with traffic updates vs your bank reps hounding you to buy based on some information they have gleaned basis your transactions. The former is personalising of experiences, the latter personalisation of sales. Netflix’s recommendation engines are again another way data is used to improve customer experiences and marketers should also look at harvesting customer data for delight first and consequently lifetime value.

This piece has been authored by Vishal Nicholas, EVP and Head – Strategy, dentsu India.