Social responsibility is part of marketing’s more strategic role after Covid

Social responsibility is part of marketing’s more strategic role after Covid

The pandemic has had a major impact on marketing over the last year, and it will continue to change over the longer term. New research among the members of City Livery company The Worshipful Company of Marketors reveals that 96 per cent believe the pandemic will influence the way their profession works in the medium or long term.

The great majority of these marketing experts and academics (70 per cent) believe changes will be driven by attitudinal shifts among consumers whose concerns about social responsibility and values have been heightened by the incomparable experience of living through the coronavirus outbreak. More than two-thirds (67 per cent) of Marketors believe the pandemic has demonstrated to businesses that thinking strategically about marketing is vital for their success.

Many within the profession would agree that the onslaught of Covid quickly elevated the role of marketing within the boardroom. Senior business leaders relied on marketers to understand drastically changed markets and to drive resilience and revenue-generation. The result was that marketing was one of the forces accelerating digitisation of the customer journey while also acting as the voice of the consumer.

The question is whether this will translate into greater influence beyond the immediate crisis and its aftermath. More than a third of the Marketors (37 per cent) believe the pandemic will trigger a major reorganisation of marketing within businesses. But will the C-suite continue to rely on marketers for successful navigation of what may still be uncharted waters? In many businesses, Covid-19 generated a leadership culture of rapid collaboration triggered by the need to bounce back with new capabilities. It is an opportunity that many in marketing feel they should seize, exerting more control over the broader growth and innovation agenda.

The strategic development of greater organisational resilience is also a necessity. Within the marketing function scenario planning in anticipation of further crises of whatever shape or form will be necessary, plotting new paths and new messaging to win over customers. Since no plan fits all situations, marketers need to build in flexibility. A substantial number of the Marketors (45 per cent) believe that part of this strategic reassessment will encourage brands to focus more on their core purpose.

The temptation may be for boardrooms to regard such areas of social responsibility as “non-core”. Failing to demonstrate continued commitment to resolving social inequality or sustainability could be a major strategic error, however. This year’s Edelman Trust Barometer, for example, backs the view that these are still significant concerns. This widely-respected survey reveals that while the pandemic has further eroded consumer trust in institutions, business has emerged better than NGOs and government. Some 86 per cent of respondents said they expected CEOs to lead on societal issues.

McKinsey, the global consultancy, has also advised that marketers need to communicate a strong sense of their brand’s purpose which could be “a cause that the brand stands up for, or an area where the brand aims to make a real difference”.  In a report last year, McKinsey took the view that the pandemic had given consumers a greater sense of their own power to hold organisations to account.

Trust and integrity will certainly be essential as marketing adapts to the major shifts in consumer behaviour – primarily the acceleration of online retail and service-provision. A report from