US companies now anticipate change as coronavirus challenges persist

Our latest Marketers’ Confidence Index shows that organizations are no longer simply reacting to the pandemic.
11 September 2020
Marketers Confidence Index Summer 2020 show anticipation
Arifa Sheikh second image

Partner, Consulting Division, North America

Joris Zwegers

Partner, Brand Consulting, North America

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In early April, the AMA and Kantar surveyed almost 600 marketers to understand how they and their organizations were responding to the coronavirus pandemic. We found that marketing organizations had overwhelmingly taken clear steps to protect their business and their people; budgets were reduced and activities cancelled or postponed. However, a lot of businesses were making defensive moves only. Now, three and a half months later, our new study provides insight on how marketers and their organizations have responded since.

Budget pressures

Marketing budgets are still greatly reduced as a result of the pandemic, and 29% of those organizations have made deeper cuts since the start of the crisis. As budgets remain squeezed, there is a greater imperative for marketers to demonstrate the return on the money that they are able to spend as well as getting creative in re-purposing existing assets.

Strategic initiatives and campaigns

In April, we found that many organizations had cancelled or postponed some initiatives. Although this is still the case, fewer organizations have paused or cancelled a new campaign now (32%) than in April (42%) and quite a few organizations have restarted some paused initiatives. Despite the enduring budgetary challenges, many organizations are finding creative ways to move important initiatives forward and are seeing the importance of continuing advertising to maintain brand awareness.

Planning for the future

Early on in the pandemic, a significant number of organizations were still focused on the immediate situation and had not yet found a way to begin planning for what to do when things return to normal. This has improved significantly in the past few months as 73% of organizations indicate they’ve started planning. A similar proportion (72%) indicate they’ve started planning for a potential second wave of high numbers of coronavirus cases later in the year. There are plenty of opinions around what the new normal will be, but it’s impossible to know for sure which of the changed customer behaviors will stick and which will revert back. Whatever the new reality, organizations and marketers will have to move from planning for change to planning and activating amid change.

What’s next?

As brands navigate this unprecedented change, re-starting demand becomes our collective challenge and opportunity. Organizations that can quickly activate against new priorities will reap huge rewards, while organizations that remain reactive might find themselves left behind in the new normal.

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