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Consumer behaviours have dramatically changed over the past few months – and brands and marketers are scrambling to respond. Simon Long, creative director at IMA, believes that agencies need to creative strategies that can change as fast as trends do.

Someone much smarter than me once said there are decades where nothing happens and there are weeks where decades happen’ – this feels like such a time.

In the past few months, COVID-19 has ground the world to a halt. But accelerated marketing, taking it down roads that have not been ventured before. Whilst there’s a
need to tread carefully, we need to break new ground. Looking ahead. Forming a vision of the future. Informed by the changes we’re seeing.

People won’t behave as they did before. Brands shouldn’t either. They need to think andact differently. Evolving to meet the shifts in consumer behaviour, buying and content consumption habits. This presents a unique opportunity. To rethink the way we work. To truly reflect the realities of today’s marketing landscape.

IMA are evolving by embracing changes as new opportunities emerge. COVID-19 has revolutionised the digital landscape. From provider’s reliability to consumer’s ability to consume and connect, there has been a significant rise across digital communication and social apps during the pandemic. The surge in social extends to content consumption. With real world gatherings on hold, social platforms have become key for maintaining connections. If content is king today, it’s emperor tomorrow.

This short-term explosion in e-comms should form the framework for long-term strategies for brands looking to grow their reach and connect with more digitally savvy consumers.

This also impacts the retail landscape. Old ways won’t open new doors. Consumer behaviour is changing in-line with the uptake of digital technologies. Add the larger environmental factors at play and new ways of browsing and buying are emerging.

Covid-19 hasn’t impacted IMA, just accelerated where we were going. Embracing underlying industry trends. Adopting digital solutions. The key is keeping pace

with these changes to future-proof the brands we collaborate with.

This refocus extends from our clients to our creative approach. Moving with the times, meeting shifts in consumer behaviour, buying and content consumption habits got us thinking…big changes are needed. But not necessarily big ideas.

Covid-19 could see off the big idea. There isn’t just one big moment anymore. A new era needs a new idea. One that adapts to meet consumers where they are and how to actually affect them.

Think longer, not bigger

‘Long ideas’ start to shape marketing post Covid-19. Seeing the world as consumers do, they don’t just last. They live. Designed to successfully balance short-term demands with long-term strategies. Deployed to outmanoeuvre and outlast competitors. Delivering longer-term brand behaviours and campaigns with great success.

Viewed this way, thinking longer offers an approach that works across three-time horizons: the now - what can be done to have immediate impact? The near - what needs to be done in the interim to prepare and plan? The next - what needs to affect longer term impact?

Adopting agile long termism allows us to stay ahead by looking ahead. Acting as a crystal ball and compass. Forecasting brand futures, then helping them successfully navigate it.

Covid-19 is also changing consumer behaviour – and therefore marketing has to adapt. Wherever consumer behaviour has shifted, media spend has adjusted in response. It makes little sense for marketers to spend on media that have no audience.

It’s why we’ve turned the tide during the last 6 months. Building new customers journeys that focus on the path to purpose, not just purchase.

During the pandemic, companies with a sense of purpose outperformed those that didn’t by 42%. It’s more important than ever to engage with consumers in their context. It’s why we’re focusing on campaigns that focus on people at a more personal level. Using data and insights to really understand their needs and add value. Changing behaviour with intention and meaning. Creating impact at every touchpoint.

The new normal has transformed the purchase pathways. Social purpose is leading the way. Actions not just words start to forge a clear path forward for savvier brands.

The moral of the story? Disruption is an opportunity. Tough times don’t last, smart agencies do. Built around creativity and flexibility. Embracing change with an agile mindset. Thinking longer for a brighter future. Today, tomorrow and beyond.

The agency of the future is here. The question is; are you ready?

Simon Long, creative director, IMA