55,000 dead and counting. Fear, heroics, incompetence and corruption – 2020 has had it all, but we keep going.
Economically speaking, COVID was about more than working from home or not being able to go to the pub. It shone a light on how organisations operate, who does what and why? what is essential and what is not? Pandemics, it seems, are a lot like wars, they enforce change and stimulate innovation.
Marketing departments spend money. So it was no surprise that when economic armageddon struck, the marketing department was one of the first places Finance went looking for savings. Conclusively proving ROI is tricky at the best of times, even in the age of digital marketing. But when sales have fallen off a cliff, and most promotional activity is prohibited, it becomes difficult to make the case for carrying on as if nothing had happened. Of course, some businesses have had a record year but most will want to forget 2020.
During the pandemic, online events became the norm. Using services like Zoom, B2B marketeers could deliver content to customers wherever they were. This approach proved useful, essential even, but it was not without its limitations. One meeting after another led to ‘Zoom fatigue’ and, unless the event was followed-up properly, it was hard to gauge the audience’s response and its subsequent value.
For years, some have yearned for a ‘digital’ only marketing mix. In 2020 they got it, but it remains to be seen if its effectiveness in the B2B sphere has been overestimated. Does ‘digital’ flatter to deceive? Is there ‘group think’ when it comes to digital marketing? What difference are all those real-time charts making?
Large conglomerates don’t put complex multi-billion contracts in a shopping cart and then click go-to-checkout. They meet with their partners, they discuss and evaluate. Some sales take years to close. SME B2B sales are also often facilitated through patient account management and the development of long term relationships. People buy people, not bots.
It all points to the eventual return to many traditional marketing activities, most notably physical events. Humans are social animals and COVID reminded people what really mattered in their life; family, friends and fun. ‘Marketing’ is all about human behaviour, and those who practice it would do well to remember what really matters to.
The United Kingdom voted to leave the largest free trade zone in the world. In simple terms, this means that from the 1st January 2021, trade between the U.K. and the European Union will be regulated in a different way; more paperwork, more cost, less trade. So from January, if you want to attend a business event in Barcelona you will need a visa to go with your new Blue passport.
Going forward, the U.K. will have no choice but seek to increase trade with places that other developed countries find expensive to deal with. So will, for example, the U.K. now pitch itself as the gateway to Africa and the Middle East and, if so, how would that impact your marketing operations?
Post-Brexit, the U.K. will also create a series of ‘Free Ports’. Each port is effectively a small tax haven where trade can be conducted under a different set of rules to the rest of the country – let’s say free ports have a certain reputation. But if free ports aren’t your thing, you might decide to move your business to a newly independent Scotland to enjoy E.U. membership and easy access to England.
To offset the predicted loss in GDP from leaving the E.U., the U.K. will have little choice but to offer tax incentives and reduced regulation to attract inward investment. As a result, London (and a certain section of society) would thrive, with some of that ‘tax avoidance’ wealth (and, dare we say ‘laundered money’) spilling out into the South East but not much further. Regional inequalities are likely to increase, especially as British made products (typically not produced in the South East) will seem expensive to overseas customers due to local import tariffs. Then, if billions flow into London to enjoy an expanded ‘no questions asked’ regime, that might force Sterling higher making British goods even less competitive. And what about geography? the further-away the customer is, the more it costs to ship the goods.
Brexit is likely to have an impact on every marketing job, every campaign and every event in some form or other. As a result, young marketeers may come to deeply resent having had their futures curtailed by an older generation unused to thinking critically. The story of Britain’s relationship with Europe is far from over.
In time, the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit may be seen as relatively minor challenges compared to the wider impact of climate change. Most scientists believe that climate change exists and as such will have a major economic and social impact; extreme weather events, mass migration, civil unrest and war.
Of course, none of this seems likely to some, especially if they live in a country with a temperate climate, which enjoys the benefits of economic migration and tends to fight its wars a long way away. Moreover, the effects of climate change can appear subtle or inconsistent. So for some, often older people, it’s more convenient to believe that there isn’t a problem than it is to accept that there is.
During the 20th century, many former local or regional businesses felt enabled to expand internationally due to the proliferation of, and a reduction in the cost of, air travel. Rapidly evolving technology also allowed organisations to operate in new markets with much greater ease. For a single marketing ‘department’ to be spread across borders and time zones became quite normal. Globalisation was the name of the game; guys we need to be everywhere! The trouble was, this approach failed to take into account the associated negative impact on the environment.
However, with the right mindset marketeers can make a difference. It is possible to off-set the carbon created when shipping goods around – you just need a logistics company who has a system to do it (we work with DHL Go Green). It is possible to source products and materials which are recycled or biodegradable. Events are great, but maybe they need to be more focused and local? In fact, once you – yes you, because let’s face it we all have to take some personal responsibility with this – commit to thinking differently, it’s quite surprising how much you can change within your organisation. So when it comes to the defining issue of the 21st century, don’t wait to be asked by one of the oldies, just get on and change things!
Humans are social animals – events will return!
In fact, post-COVID, physical events may become more frequent, albeit smaller and more localised, than before. People really do need to get out and socialise!
Large international gatherings – tens of thousands of people wandering around giant halls – face a more uncertain future. Sure, it’s nice to get away from the office for a few days but what about the impact of the flights on the environment and all that downtime! Maybe the ‘EXPO’ is now an old format?
A ‘tour’ of smaller, localised events – taking the message to where the customer is – may prove more effective for many businesses.
Customer-focused events may also become more popular. Instead of trying to pitch to a crowd, many of whom are not serious prospects, maybe it makes more sense to ‘set-up-shop’ for a day at the customer’s site. This is a great way to follow the old commercial maxim that – ‘it’s more cost-effective to win more business from your existing clients than it is to win business from new clients’.
And then there’s the virtual event. Sure, it allowed for a continuation of activity during lockdown but virtual events – essentially a video telephone call to a large group of people – are inherently homogeneous, one strangely seems to blend into another. The opposite effect, in fact, that events typically seek to achieve.
Vaccination programmes should mark the beginning of the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though there are likely to be false starts and setbacks, slowly the events industry will emerge from near extinction.
So today there is light at the end of the tunnel, but don’t expect to find ‘life before COVID’ when you reach it. Minds have been changed and traditional activities questioned. Pre-existing trends have been massively accelerated. The 9-5 Monday to Friday standard is on its way out. For many, life and work, home and going somewhere else to meet, will merge into one fluid process spanning four days not five.
2021 is likely to be a roller-coaster ride; Q1 and Q2 should see Brexit, Biden and some vaccination alone. Maybe Q3 and 4 will offer a little more certainty with 2022 feeling relatively settled.
It seems appropriate to live life in constant anticipation of change.
And yet, one constant remains, humans will be…well, human.
So you have the concept, in fact, you’ve already run similar campaigns in other territories. Now all you need is a partner who can replicate and execute your plan for the EMEA region.
You’re in the right place! and here are some examples of projects we’ve managed;
Client: All-flash data storage hardware manufacturer, summer end-user promotion
Fulfilment requirement: Design and source a retail quality beach towel and custom shape power bank. Package with a covering letter, translated into the appropriate local language, and deliver to individuals located throughout Europe. Each delivery to arrive within a set delivery window. Provide an on-line delivery report confirming ‘signed for’ date, manage any data issues, courier or customs queries and subsequent returns.
Notes: The beach towel was custom manufactured in Portugal. The power bank, which was designed to mimic the shape of the product the client sort to promote, was custom manufactured in Shenzen, China.
Client: Marketing automation app provider, agency partner promotion
Fulfilment requirement: Source and brand a teapot, teacup and tin of tea and package with a well-known brand packet of biscuits. Place into a mailing carton along with personalised literature. Mail to marketing agencies throughout Europe. Report and manage accordingly.
Notes: A U.S. company, with its principle marketing contact based in Johannesburg, we worked to pull together this project quickly. The product came from Poland, print and food sourced locally in the UK.
Client: Cloud data management company, end-user demand generation
Fulfilment requirement: Replicate and execute a U.S. demand generation campaign throughout Europe, the Middle East and South America. Create a fully customised mailing box, insert a printed card and an empty sunglasses case to create a small mailing pack. Mail to individuals located throughout Europe. Report and manage accordingly.
Notes: The central message of the campaign was ‘give us a sales meeting, and we’ll send you a pair of Ray-Bans to go into this empty case’. We then fulfilled the Ray-Bans directly to individuals who had subsequently agreed to a meeting. The client is U.S. based, with the project being jointly managed by their offices in Amsterdam and Palo Alto.
In addition to these examples, we’ve created ‘new starter’ kits for a rapidly expanding U.S. software company. For a major British based legal firm, we produced and delivered ‘launch gift packs’ to every member of staff, across 18 locations worldwide, to celebrate a corporate re-brand.
If you would like to discuss a potential requirement, please get in touch. firstname.lastname@example.org
Of course, many worked from home during the lockdown, and some will stay working there, but over time most will return to the place they left months beforehand.
Some appear to be relaxed in a world without a vaccine, but many are less so. Never before have people taken so much interest in personal hygiene in the workplace and, with the possibility of a second wave of infections, what they can do to protect themselves.
We have created a range of ‘new normal’ products, all of which can be branded, to help your organization remind and protect staff and visitors alike. Furthermore, why not send this type of item to your home-workforce or customers. If you don’t have the resources to manage fulfilment, to lots of people, we can help with that too.
You can view our new normal products here https://rosslyn.co.uk/g/new-normal-safety-products/
Face to face meetings will return, it’s just a case of when.
In the meantime, Zoom and other video conferencing systems have become part of everyday life for millions. Previously the preserve of large, or advanced organisations – now your waving grandmother, bedecked in her Sex Pistols baseball cap, appears as if by magic. Zoom is here to stay and that changes a lot.
If you enjoyed business travel you probably ought to consult your doctor. At the best of times, it was bearable, most of the time it was just – well – a bit crap.
Getting on aeroplanes and going to faraway places used to be associated with success – ‘oh, they’re sending him to Japan, they must think highly of him’. Nope! he’s just the loser who couldn’t think of a good enough excuse to get out of it or, someone who has personal reasons for being away from home a lot.
The downtown is criminal. Security is a theatrical token gesture, with the whole purpose of the 2-hour pre-flight nightmare being to get you to spend money. Duty-free isn’t as cheap as Amazon. There’s something referred to as ‘food’ on the flight but often no wi-fi.
Nowadays, flights arrive on time. Essentially this is because the airlines have extended the published flight time so they appear punctual. How many times have you heard the pilot say ‘oh we’ve made very good time, ladies and gentleman, due to a tailwind’.
And just as you arrive home, knackered, on a Friday night into a rainy Heathrow you are treated to a delay – because there is nowhere to park the plane – of a length of time approximately equal to the time it took to fly there in the first place.
And what price this jet-set luxury? Well, a business-class ticket, to anywhere further than a train can take you, would buy you a small family hatchback. Alternatively, you could fly cattle-class, joining the hen-party from Wigan and the kid who’s attempting to conduct spinal surgery with his knees. All this and you’re helping to screw the planet as well, yeh!
Until the experience improves, massively, or flight times and omissions are slashed by new technology, business travel is doomed.
So-called ‘meetups’, Zoom forums where teams and audiences interact from the comfort of their own space, will undoubtedly become more popular.
Yes, the people involved will eventually meet up in person but when it comes to regular communication this how they are going to do it. But Zoom meetups do suffer from one negative factor; after a while, they seem to merge into one long homogeneous ‘thing’ you did today.
Being able to follow-up a product launch or training event, soon after its taken place on Zoom, is key. That’s how your brand, or message, is going to cut through. It’s all about redefining the word ‘event’. The principles are the same, the delivery – metaphorically and literally speaking – is different. You have to send your swag and that’s actually a more targetted approach, winning more mindshare, and getting more attention. A tangible follow-up to a meetup is, arguably, more effective than what went before.
We can help you source the product and send it directly to your audience members (via a carbon-offset courier of course) – whether that be to their home or place of work.
I attended the Zoom and got the T-Shirt!
AntiBug® is a surface treatment, based on Silver nanotechnology, which has been clinically proven to kill 99.99% of harmful bacteria within a 24 hour period. What’s more, AntiBug® products can withstand repeated cleaning cycles whilst maintaining antibacterial effectiveness. The controlled release of the active ingredient provides maximum long term activity. AntiBug® protection is available on a range of our bestselling promotional products.
The AntiBug® treatment has been successfully tested against over 50 common organisms such as;
Frequently Asked Questions
Silver is a metallic element, atomic number 47 and chemical symbol Ag. Silver nanotechnology is a proven antimicrobial against a wide range of organisms.
How does it work?
Antimicrobials are added to a product at the time of manufacture. These silver ions then concentrate on the surface of the product and are available to act against any contaminating bacteria. The silver ions bind with the bacteria and damage their cells in a number of ways, disrupting their normal function, stopping them from reproducing and causing them to die.
Is it safe?
Yes – silver technology has low toxicity and is used in a wide range of applications such as implantable devices and skin creams. The antimicrobials are also microns in size, many thousands of times bigger than nanoparticles.
How long does it last?
The AntiBug® treatment will last for the normal life of the product under correct use.
Does it replace cleaning?
The additive is complementary to cleaning practices. The technology continues to work 24 hours a day in between the normal cleaning schedules thus reducing the growth of the microbes preventing them from reaching potentially dangerous levels.
Is the look and feel of the product affected by the AntiBug® treatment?
There will be no change to the characteristics of the product other than achieving antimicrobial efficacy.
Can bacteria become resistant to silver ion technology? Due to the several modes of action silver utilises, it is highly unlikely bacteria will become resistant to the AntiBug® coating.
Does it leach?
No, silver ions do not leach but remain active on the surface of the product.
Then my whole world went zoom. Welcome to the new normal. A place where you have a choice; move forward or look back.
Trade shows, meet-ups, roadshows – you name it, none of that stuff is happening for a while. Right now (May 2020) would you want to share a confined space with lots of other people from other countries? Exactly.
So video conferencing has become the only safe solution for, not only large organisations but friends and families too.
For some, none of this is new. There has long been an army of freelancers and ‘tech’ savvy types mixing work from home with, work from the office, work from StarBucks. For once in my lifetime I was finally free.
Necessity is the mother of invention. It’s a sad fact that wars and pandemics are very often the only events that generate real societal, technological and economic change. Once you’ve found a better, or cheaper, way of doing something, you are unlikely to go back.
The boss of Barclays bank has speculated that the concept of having a large headquarters building may become a thing of the past. Airlines will probably have to cut routes and increase prices. Most retailers simply won’t exist within the next few months. Bang, just one touch and all the church bells rang.
And who will pick up the tab for the eye-watering cost of managing, or dare we say mismanaging, a pandemic? What taxes will need to increase and what effect will those increases have? Will the young be left to ‘carry the can’ as usual or will, for example, ‘inheritance’ taxes rise? After World II, British inheritance tax rose to 80%. Then my whole wide world went zoom.
Here are some questions for you?
- How do you retain mindshare, and brand awareness, when people are not physically visiting a central point of contact?
- Can digital marketing deliver everything? What about SPAM filters, ad blockers, and a general weariness with being followed around the internet by lawnmowers simply because your Google assistant heard you say lawnmower!
- How do you promote brand loyalty, and a sense of community or teamwork, when everyone is remotely located?
- What does it feel like when the nice man brings a box to your door full of useful free stuff?
- Do people have all the stuff they need to work from home?
So here’s the pitch. Gifting, rewarding, promoting – these things are now more important than ever? Disagree? Then just invert that premise – how does that sound? Leveraging goodwill creates a competitive advantage – and boy are we all gonna need some competitive advantage!
Zoom – or whatever you do – then, ask us to send a follow-up to the attendees. We could put a pack of stuff together with a covering letter or card. We could source items which are really useful for people working remotely. Or you could just send a teddy bear for the kids or a bowl for the dog!
It’s imperative that your on-line events are followed-up properly. All at once there was no turnin’ back. Oh zoom, you chased the day away.
There is much debate as to what shape the recovery will take. Will it be a ‘V’, a ‘U” or a ‘W’? Some foresee an ‘L’. Either way, certain products and services remain essential; food, health, power, finance, communications et al.
Markets will change. Some businesses will disappear, leaving their market share and talent to others. Some will reorganise and refocus. There will be new opportunities, trends and attitudes.
Many will look back at this period and see that its ‘chaos’ created positive change in their lives. Yes, it was painful at the time, but that’s when ‘I moved to X’ or ‘decided to change Y’. Maybe it took a pandemic to make you realise just how good your life was and to appreciate what really matters to you!
Marketers have to assume that much will be different. ‘Physical’ events such as trade shows look set for a slow recovery. Virtual events, webinars and online meet-ups are here to stay. The ‘home desktop’ certainly presents a new promotional opportunity.
Will people seek a little light in their lives? Is this the time to really promote ‘goodwill’, to be generous and caring? You may not be able to hand a client a gift personally, but you can still send one to their home.
What your business or brand ‘says’ and ‘does’ during this period may have implications for years to come. Do you slash prices or emphasise quality and service? Remember Marks & Spencers’ ‘Dinner for 2 for £10’ during the Financial Crash – a straight forward discount cleverly packaged. How creative could you get?
There is much evidence, from previous recessions, to support the notion that those who suddenly and drastically cut their marketing expenditure hand a long-term advantage to those who don’t. Not all companies are about to dial their marketing activities down. Some will push harder than ever, sensing a chance to leapfrog the opposition. Remember, the damage will be very expensive to undo.
No two recessions are the same. The COVID recession could be deep but short-lived. This time next year your business could be busier than ever but struggling without its most experienced staff. You could be marketing a new product or service. Your main competitor may have disappeared, legislation or consumer attitudes may have forced your sector to change course. You may have a whole new brand identity or a new owner. Who would have thought?
Trust and reliability are evergreens. In a world where supply chains are reorganising, credit is being withdrawn and prices are yo-yo-ing wildly, being able to rely on a brand or partner is crucial. Stay close to your customers, make sure they have all the information they need when and where they need it.
However tricky the situation got, your brand, your company was always there to serve. A light in the storm.
During the past 25 years, I have spent 80-90% of my professional life working from home. Here are some tips which you may find useful;
- Get dressed, and go to work!
- Work a typical business day, for example, 9 to 5 with a break for lunch. Retain some structure and routine.
- Have a space ready-set for work. Some are fortunate enough to have a home office or study, but many don’t. You need somewhere you can concentrate, without distraction.
- You are not on holiday, but others will think that you are! Young children, in particular, won’t get what’s going on and that’s not their fault. But, you need to figure out a ‘settlement’ with everyone else in the household including the dog! You get peace and quiet, they get extended playtime later in the day or an evening walk. Use your considerable diplomatic skills to explain, very gently, that you are at work.
- Don’t eat too much! A nice email arrives, so off you trot to the kitchen to reward yourself with a chocolate biscuit. Someone makes a silly request so you calm yourself with the 6th coffee of the morning. Working from home can create some bad habits, guard against them otherwise your health will suffer.
- Have proper breaks, go outside or somewhere away from your screen. You need a mental break, eating lunch clicking through emails is not a break. Try something new between work sessions; a new book, a new playlist, a new recipe.
- Make sure you talk to a human at least once during the business day. Skype. Facetime. Zoom.
- Beware of addiction to ‘Breaking News’ and a blizzard of ‘notifications’. That stuff will kill your Deep Work.
- Allow yourself some ‘creative time’ – just a part of the day when you can try new work-related stuff, or to simply type out some notes about an idea you have. Too many people exist in a reactive loop, just ticking through a never-ending list of things that need doing. Working at home is now allowing you to avoid a percentage of the meetings you’d usually be sucked into, so use that spare capacity to be productive. How could you streamline what you do? What are our competitors up to right now? What can our team do differently? How do we improve X or Y?
- Enjoy not having to commute! Relax and become more positive. Remember, previous generations couldn’t do this. Lots of people have jobs which mean they can’t do this. Technology is giving you more time in your own space.
Working from home can be the perfect solution for some, but a real test for others. You, of course, will develop your own approach based around your particular set of circumstances. I’m one of those people who needs a core routine. I rarely, if ever, work at night but I tend to have music playing most of the day and stop to play my guitar at regular intervals. We are all different.
2020, our 25th anniversary, hasn’t exactly gone to plan!
Having weathered a number of storms during the past quarter of a century, including the financial crash and the shock of 9/11, we thought we’d seen it all. Obviously not. Without question, the scale and speed of the current economic collapse, which has befallen many businesses, are frankly difficult to comprehend. But for most life goes on, and we like everyone else will find a way through.
It’s inevitable that during 25 years of trading, some of our choices were good and some not so good. Some ideas worked, some did not. All businesses have problems from time to time. You probably won’t find that in your ‘how to run a business’ textbook, but as anyone who has actually done it will tell you, it is true. You try stuff and learn.
One of the things we’ve undoubtedly got right is our obsession with keeping our costs low. We never went in for old-school status symbols. Another is strict adherence to a very simple rule – we don’t do anything for nothing. We are a business, we are here to make money. You buy it for one and sell it for two. Maybe that’s why we’ve outlasted Lehman Brothers, Woolworths, Thomas Cook, Carillion and Flybe.
We’ve also been very enthusiastic about the use of technology. As a micro-business, technology provides us with an opportunity to punch well above our weight. We can do more, faster and for less than many of our larger competitors. In theory, our entire business could be run from an iWatch – although the little screen would drive me crazy!
So it seems the trick is to be super-lean and adaptable. If you’re not, something like COVID-19 is going to expose your weaknesses very quickly.
The climate change emergency will outlast COVID-19. Together, they will reshape supply chains, and geopolitics more broadly, forever. Our industry, like many, has been addicted to low-cost products imported from countries many thousands of miles away. That is going to change.
We are preparing to make ‘country of origin’ much more visible to our clients. In fact, not only do we plan to tell you where the product is from originally, but also where its been in terms of central warehousing and branding. You may be surprised just how many miles the average product clocks up! Logistics companies, who cannot show that they offset the carbon they create, face an uncertain future. Some cities will soon ban diesel vehicles altogether. The rules of the game are changing.
Product pricing is likely to become more fluid than we have all been used. Budgeting during a period of inflation, created by shifting supply chains, will be new to many. Looking for somewhere to invest your fortune, try a highly automated local manufacturing business! The new products we add to our range, from here on in, will reflect a move towards ‘localisation’.
Like many companies, we subscribe to a growing number of digital services, for example, cloud-based CRM. Over the past few years, the number of services we pay to use has risen, as have the prices we pay to use them which is mainly due to the weakening £Pound. Some are essential, but we’ve identified a few which could be replaced by expanding the back-end of our own web site. This means a short term investment in development to achieve a long term saving. This will also allow us to create a better experience for our customers with some really useful new services available behind a client login. There’s some cool stuff coming for our loyal customers!
It seems that during the COVID-19 emergency, we are not allowed to mention the ‘B’ word – Brexit. But, just to remind you that the U.K. is due to leave the European Union, with or without a trade deal, in just a few months time. So, if our Government is to be believed, British business must survive COVID-19 and then immediately adapt to being removed from the largest trading block in the world. Let’s hope all the free-trade deals we’ve been promised are ready to go in time!
And finally, you will notice that we haven’t been trying to sell you hand sanitiser and face masks – we’re currently getting between 10-20 emails a day! Many overseas suppliers are supplementing their income by offering products they don’t usually supply. Do they have the correct product certification or accreditation? How do you know the paperwork is genuine? Do they even understand what they are selling? A word of warning, a proportion of what’s being offered is probably not what it purports to be. Be careful what you buy and who you buy it from.
See you on the other side!
Jonathan Lee, Managing Director