Marketing in the Age of COVID-19

“Since March, I’ve been furloughed from my previous company, filed for unemployment, been recruited by a direct competitor of my previous employer (in the same industry), worked for that competitor for about 2 months, and then finally received a job offer with a company in the digital experiences space.” – Stephanie Coupland

 

It’s no question that COVID-19 has had some level of impact on all of us over the last 9 months. If you’re like Tippie Alum, Stephanie Coupland, you’ve experienced firsthand the direct impacts of COVID-19 in the workplace. Despite many challenges, the Tippie community is resilient. For companies and individuals, adjustments have been made, priorities reevaluated, and Zoom meeting fatigue is battled daily.

With all the change happening around us, life after graduation is sure to look slightly different than in past years. With that in mind, we sought out some answers from our Tippie family. They shared their insight on what marketing in the workplace looks like in the age of COVID-19.

 

Meet the brilliant Tippie alumni who volunteered to share their experiences and observations of the impacts COVID-19 has had on marketing.

Jillian Book: graduated in 2010, works as a Global Business Development Director for Publicis Media in the Advertising industry

Alexa Brown: graduated in 2017, works as a Marketing Analyst in the High Tech industry

Stephanie Coupland: graduated in 2017, until recently worked as a Marketing Specialist in the Trade Shows & Events industry,

Tom Lyons: graduated in 2017, works as an Account Manager in the Professional Sports Sales industry

Jill Kofron: graduated in 2018, works as a Sales Executive for Cottingham & Butler in the Insurance Brokerage industry

Matthew Koziol: graduated in 2016, works as a Category Manager for Anheuser Busch in the Beverage industry

Erin Foley: graduated in 2020, works as a Digital Marketing Specialist for J.W. Morton & Associates in the Advertising industry

 

In what ways has COVID-19 influenced marketing strategies within your company or across your industry? 

“This has been a very emotional, and disruptive time for a lot of people. The sports industry has had to deal with a lot of adversity, and had to create ways to still keep people interested in attending sporting events. Our marketing team had to come up with ways to keep our fan base engaged throughout the off season without coming off as tone deaf to the environment we’re all living in, which was not easy.” – Tom Lyons 

“When COVID-19 hit, the entire events world shut down completely. Our clients still needed ways to connect with a large number of customers at once, so events quickly shifted from live to virtual. Instead of focusing our marketing on how to create impactful live experiences, we now had to focus on how to do it virtually. With that came developing new content and marketing materials such as capabilities decks, blog posts, and informational webinars.” – Stephanie Coupland 

“We have had to shift many of our event strategies to online forums. We’ve created a whole webinar series to educate and inform our audience, rather than hosting in-person events, which had been a primary method of marketing to our community. This has forced our team to increase our agility and flexibility in terms of content creation.” – Alexa Brown

“Ad spend is forecasted to be down 20% from last year due to COVID’s economic impact. With nearly all major companies feeling uncertain about their business, it has driven our agency to behave differently. Our focus this year is on client relationships and our employees. Given the times of uncertainty, we are doing everything we can to weather the crisis together. Not only has this been a year marked by COVID, but also influenced by the Black Lives Matter movement. There is a renewed focus for both our clients and people on safety, mental health, and diversity and inclusion.” – Jillian Book

“Covid-19 has created a transparency apparent now more than ever. If a company was not being ethical, moral or even fair, folks know about it now. Marketing strategies have the ability to show the impact of who you are as a company, what you stand for, and especially bring light to who you are employing whether it be behind the zoom conference or even an email. People need people right now. Our company motto is “Better Every Day”, for us and for our clients. Through our marketing efforts, we’re able to communicate compliance updates, teach new strategies, and give voice to all the people who need it most during this time.” – Jill Kofron

“We’re starting to push a greater online presence to our clients during COVID-19. Rather than going to physical storefronts, customers are shopping online for the most part. Our tracking and reporting systems are becoming a lot more robust because of this, and we are able to show our clients how beneficial our digital work for them can be.” – Erin Foley

“CPG companies have been challenged to conduct business differently due to our interaction with consumers, shoppers, retailers, and wholesalers. I have listed the market reaction to COVID and our response below:

  1. Consumers are forced to enjoy in isolation.
    • Our advertising has catered to safety, overcoming adversity and welcoming the return of major sports to name a few.
  2. Shoppers are highly discouraged to purchase at bars and restaurants.
    • On Premise (Bars and Restaurants)- we have installed “buy back” programs and prepared “welcome back” packages to assist bars and restaurants during the peak of the shut down.
    • Off Premise (Grocery, Mass, Convenience and Drug stores)- we have shifted most of our channel focus to “Off Premise” retailers since sales trends are massive this year.
  3. Retailers need to enforce social distance and support changes in shopper preferences.
    • We have updated signage to promote social distance and installed “virtual sampling” with video embedded QR codes and trial size packages.
  4. Wholesalers are ordering as much as possible to support the massive growth.
    • Our logistics team is hard at work completing orders and closing out inventory gaps.
  5. Lastly, Suppliers (like us) are trying desperately to acquire more supply (namely aluminum cans) to support the growth.
    • Our buyers are sourcing more inventory from countries that were impacted less and have a surplus of inventory.” – Matthew Koziol

 

What are some of the biggest adjustments you/your team have had to make this year in response to COVID-19? 

“As most people would say, way more Zoom meetings! Although I haven’t experienced the office before COVID-19, my team members have said the workspace was very collaborative, and they would often congregate to discuss thoughts and ideas throughout the day. Now, we use Zoom for all meetings involving more than 3 people. Most of us are still working in the office since we all have individual working spaces. We’ve found ways to continue being collaborative, but you don’t see activity in the office like before.” – Erin Foley

“Personally, I have had to be mindful and careful about writing copy that is in-line with the current environment. We provide solutions to the retail sector, who has obviously taken a massive hit this past year. I have had to shift my usual tone of talking about store shutdowns or dark stores and spinning it as advantages for retailers. For example. using dark stores as inventory warehouses as retailers slowly reopen their higher trafficked stores first. Moreover, on social, I was pretty free to write about anything before the pandemic. I have to go through a chain of approvals now, which forces me to really think about what I’m writing and who I am writing to. We/I have to routinely be cognizant of the tone we use for all mediums.” – Alexa Brown

“My organization had to quickly pivot and start developing messaging and examples that showed that we could be great at virtual events, too. The other big adjustment was that over 75% of our company was either let go or furloughed indefinitely, which definitely affected the structure and responsibilities of the remaining individuals. The people that are left have to pick up the pieces and take on new duties that were left behind.” – Stephanie Coupland

“Our job is to serve our clients, before COVID and during COVID, that objective has never changed. What has changed is the avenue in doing so. Largely pre-COVID, we had many internal meetings together huddled in a conference, jumping on an airplane to deliver a presentation or working side by side with clients to uncover and solve problems. While our duties haven’t changed, the way that we deliver those has. Now we face zoom issues, technical difficulties, and building a client relationship through a computer. While it may have brought challenges, it’s made each and every one of us better client consultants.” – Jill Kofron

“My team is charged with managing the relationship with a large grocery chain. As an additional service, we also manage their total beer category as Beer Category Captains. Since many of our annual processes revolve around large meetings, we have needed to adjust to virtual meetings. Additionally, COVID-19 has driven sales figures up significantly and caused out of stocks for some suppliers. Because of this, we have been asked to ‘control’ for COVID-19’s effects for future space and assortment plans.” – Matthew Koziol

“We were lucky enough to be one of the teams that figured out a way to allow a limited capacity this season. In order to do so, the management team developed top of the line & innovative safety measures where people could feel comfortable at a football game. We then went from selling a 65,000 capacity stadium, to only 13,000 fans for just 8 football games.” – Tom Lyons 

 

Have your primary job responsibilities, priorities, or expectations changed since before the start of COVID-19?  

“My job changed drastically. I went from being fairly busy on a regular basis and traveling about once a month to having not much to do because our workflow stopped. A big part of my job was content creation. I had previously created that content with information from new client projects and things we were seeing at live events. When COVID-19 hit, I had to redefine my content strategy. No longer did people care about recent live events or successful client case studies. They wanted to see relevant content to the pandemic and virtual events.” – Stephanie Coupland

“There’s obviously a greater focus on technology and working digitally. My role includes pitching for new client business globally, so ensuring the technology is set up properly is crucial. It’s forced us to think through every scenario, planning for the worst and hoping for the best. In addition, with everyone working from home, it’s created a greater focus on balance and understanding that we are all humans.” – Jillian Book

“My position has become more analytical with the surge in digital content. Clients appreciate constant communication of their results from online campaigns and how they can generate a positive ROI from those results. Especially in industries that have been deeply affected by COVID-19.” – Erin Foley

“My primary responsibilities center around serving clients and growing business. If you read any of the recent news, you will hear something related to the insurance industry every day. It’s nearly impossible for our clients to keep up with every change of legislation or compliance coming their way. Not only are we managing our customary and usual job, now we’ve added keeping up with the ever changing environment. However, that’s what makes our jobs important and what makes me fall in love with my job more every day.” – Jill Kofron

“It’s all about making sure my accounts are looped in on what all of these changes means for them, and guiding them to what’s best for them and their family. COVID did unravel a quick turn around on a lot of different things for us such as opting out of their season tickets, rolling their account over to 2021, and even picking seats in a limited capacity configuration. More or less, there was a lot to take care of in a short period of time.” – Tom Lyons 

“Our priorities have changed slightly but otherwise my job has been the same. Essentially, we have placed more focus on getting ample inventory to support the surge in sales.” – Matthew Koziol

“Not too much. If anything, we have been busier than ever as we constantly work to churn out content since the whole world is at home right now.” – Alexa Brown

 

Are there any marketing trends you’ve noticed starting to emerge recently, either related or unrelated to COVID-19? 

“Everyone has been impacted by COVID differently. Some have lost loved ones, some have lost their employment or even their healthcare. What I’ve noticed most is people marketing or relating to people individually, rather than as a whole. People are taking the time to care for one and another, to help solve problems, and mostly trying to take the time to understand the issue at hand, and relate to them one on one. ” – Jill Kofron

“For us, it’s all about engaging virtually right now. We must take advantage of the zoom type trends that make people feel safe, yet involved in what they care about. It’s not an easy task, but it’s been a main focus of ours for the fans that still don’t feel comfortable leaving their homes to show we care.” – Tom Lyons 

“The shift to digital, both in the events world and outside of it. I’ve also seen recently that webinars and virtual speaker sessions are being shortened greatly. We’ve been doing this now for 6 months and people don’t want to sit through hour long presentations on their computers. It’s now very important to be able to say what you need to say in about 20-30 minutes.” – Stephanie Coupland

“Live, online events were a big emergence during COVID. Everyone had to ditch in-person events and either participate in virtual events/booths or come up with enough content to produce webinars to attract our audiences.” – Alexa Brown

“Many areas of business that have always done traditional media and advertising are now seeing how beneficial advertising on social media can be. While we still do print media, Facebook, for example, is one of the top sites for advertising and should be utilized. Some businesses that have been around for a long time didn’t recognize the growth opportunities that could come from it. I think COVID-19 is pushing those types of businesses in a direction that they hadn’t thought of before.” – Erin Foley

“Since COVID hit the US earlier this year, consumer behaviors have changed significantly. There’s more time spent with media overall, but particularly with TV, OTT (streaming), mobile and gaming. With more time spent streaming content, but delayed production schedules, many publishers within the industry are hungry to acquire new content. In addition, the growth of e-commerce has surged, achieving a 3-year forecast for adoption in just 3-months. While people will return to brick and mortar stores post-COVID, the adoption rates of online ordering will never decrease to levels prior.” – Jillian Book

“Unrelated to COVID-19, Hard Seltzers continue to take market share from Beer, Wine and Spirits as a merger of qualities from each of those categories. It exploded in August of last year but has been steadily growing for several years now. Expect a craft beer type innovation to drive growth in Hard Seltzers. There will be many brands with little recognition with a few mainstays dominating the market. Due to COVID-19, we have seen a shift towards trusted brands, like Bud Light, Budweiser, Michelob Ultra, Miller Lite and Coors Light.” – Matthew Koziol

 

What areas or applications of marketing do you think will see the most change in the next couple of years? 

“As we say in our industry: pivoting to customer. Creating experiences that are so personalized to consumers instead of broad marketing tactics. This includes honing in on specialized offers, emphasizing subscriptions, offering all channels for purchasing and pickup (BOPIS, BOPUC, etc.). Customers have so many choices these days. It’s important to pivot to them to maintain and gain their business.” – Alexa Brown

“Multicultural marketing will be a greater focus with companies committing to an investment to grow strategy with minority owned and operated publishers and content creators. Many businesses are acknowledging that their best efforts have not gone far enough and are committed to better serving all communities.” – Jillian Book

“I think development of online platforms, such as online learning, will continue to increase even after the pandemic is over. Many institutions, whether it be in the workplace or in schools, are realizing that their work doesn’t have to be done primarily in person. With that being said, I think marketing for emerging platforms that can foster online learning and remote work is going to be a lot more prevalent.” – Erin Foley

“I think in the years to come people are going to be digitally overwhelmed. I can’t say with certainty what the best marketing effort will be. What I can say is those that can develop something creative, that reaches people in a new way of contact, will be the way to create new interactions and grow any business. As I mentioned before people need people. We have to find a way to be responsible with regard to our health, yet have the human interaction we desire.” – Jill Kofron

“For us, we generally offer a lot of face to face events to build relationships with clients or prospects. I don’t see much of that happening going forward with it being such a liability. Cashless POS systems, push notifications on cell phones through different apps consumers may have downloaded seems to be the way of the future.” – Tom Lyons 

 

What are the most important skills or traits for a new grad to succeed in the changing Marketing environment? 

“The circumstances have changed but the job of a marketer have not. Find out what your customers are looking for and do what you can do to help them. As I mentioned above, their priorities may change but the way you help them does not need to!” – Matthew Koziol

“This goes for a changing marketing environment or not, but it’s work ethic. Especially when first coming out of college, you should strive to stand out.  

  • Expect the unexpected. Again, this wasn’t in the cards for most of us. Businesses who succeed coming out of this saw it as an opportunity to innovate and improve their current business to be flexible and able to generate revenue. Preparation + Opportunity = Success.  
  • Be innovative. Think of ways that can better your organization given the environment we’re in. Leaders truly appreciate and respect someone young and willing to speak their minds in order to better their organization.  
  • Be next up. In a time like this, managers look for people they can depend on in their teams to be their second voice. Being that person is important to career advancement. This has generated a lot of turnover in companies, which means positions open up for you. Make sure you’re the first person they think of when wondering who can fill the spot.” – Tom Lyons 

“I think new grads should keep an open mind about entering the workforce during this time and be adaptable. My advice is to network, be persistent, and find other ways to add value to yourself during this time. Whether that’s earning online certifications, finding temporary work in customer service, or something else—use this time to make yourself even more marketable than you already are. And hang in there because this won’t last forever!” – Stephanie Coupland

“I’ve been lucky enough to coach a lot of great people. Those that always impress me most have a deep curiosity and need to continuously learn. It’s table stakes to do a job well and to completion, but those who dive deeper and continue to be students usually rise to the top.” – Jillian Book

“You have to be flexible. If you set your mind on one outcome or strategy, there’s a good chance you’ll get burned. Employers are looking for employees they can trust, that are going to do what they say they will do. Most importantly, you have to be positive. The only thing that’s known right now is there is a lot of unknown about the future. If you can come into a new job with a fresh mindset, willingness to work hard, and be dedicated with an open mindset, you will far out succeed your peers.” – Jill Kofron

“Constant communication with clients is key. When businesses are sourcing out their marketing efforts to a third party, they don’t want to be completely uninvolved. They want to know how your work is benefitting them. Daily, weekly, or monthly detailed reporting will get you respect and trust from your clients and allow you to continue building a long-term relationship with them. This is especially important in the agency world, where most new business comes from word of mouth.” – Erin Foley

“It depends what sector of marketing you want to go into. Something I wish I would have had experience with before joining the field was having hands on experience with marketing tools. SEMrush for SEO, Adobe Illustrator and After Effects for content creation, and others. Instead of just showing you have a good understanding of the job requirements, showing you know how to successfully use the necessary tools will put you far ahead of others.” – Alexa Brown

McKenzie Fuller

Fuller, McKenzie - Graduate Research Assistant

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