Chris Campeau Senior Writer



The Art of the Marketing Shift

Human beings are inherently nimble, whether we know it or not. Every day, each of us makes a number of adjustments to how we go about our lives: a road closes for construction, so we take another route; a product goes out of stock, so we try an alternative; a friend needs support, so we cancel our plans.

For the most part, we’re experts at shifting gears, sometimes subconsciously, so why does it feel so taxing in the business world?

Not to sound like a broken record, but we know what organizations are capable of in the face of change. COVID-19, as an obvious example, put a fire under businesses everywhere. The flexible found a way to survive. Others, unfortunately (and for a number of reasons), didn’t. It was a rude awakening.

Still, even hardened by the anomaly of a global pandemic, it can feel difficult at times to adapt to new circumstances. Let’s look at what brands need to consider to master the art of the shift.

Expect the unexpected

Change is constant. It’s relentless. It’s intimidating.

Consider the technologies we use daily – the apps, platforms, and systems under constant refinement to make our lives easier. Every update offers a faster, smarter, and generally better user experience, but with so much evolution, it can be hard to keep up with the latest and greatest, especially when it comes to new products or services.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a great example. From enterprise data systems to Photoshop plugins to the large language models expediting content creation, AI applications are suddenly abundant; in fact, the global AI market, currently valued at $100 billion USD, is expected to grow twentyfold by 2030.

The business potential for these applications is huge, but there’s a steep learning curve around AI and data literacy. And with the technologies evolving at a breakneck pace, we’ve only just scratched the surface of the machinal revolution. Who knows what’s next?

All this to say, we need to get comfortable with change, as difficult as it may be, and define strategies to change with it – because, as we all know, technology isn’t the only culprit capable of throwing a curveball. There are many reasons why your organization might need to restrategize:

  • the market changes, and your messaging no longer resonates;
  • your team’s productivity software isn’t producing a good return;  
  • a crisis occurs, and you need to communicate with stakeholders.

Whatever the case, as a marketer or brand manager, you’re likely to experience some degree of surprise almost every day. Being at peace with this reality can help you better manage uncertainty, which can make you that much better at pivoting.

Assess the urgency

If you want to be good at being adaptive, you need to be systematic. Start by asking yourself: how urgent is the issue?

Say you just launched a Facebook campaign only to learn that your target market is spending more time on TikTok. In this case, you’d want to course correct quickly to avoid hemorrhaging your media spend.

Now, imagine you drafted a new content strategy. You’re planning on doing video content, but new research shows that podcasts also resonate with your audience. You have an opportunity to pivot and diversify your media, but you also have time to think it through since you haven’t gone to market yet.

The bottom line is that when it comes to shifting directions, start by gauging the urgency around the decision. Do you need to act today, or do you have time to be more methodical? Is this healthy stress or stress stress?

Be decisive

When faced with a circumstance beyond your organization’s control, even a prediction, it never pays to be passive. It’s too easy to fall into a state of inertia and go about your business as usual, expecting the same results. You need to act quickly and decisively based on the knowledge at hand.

If you notice something trending, whether it’s a market change or otherwise, consider its potential impact on your business and set a deliberate plan of action. 

This was recently the case for our client Minto Communities Ottawa. As the housing market heated up during the pandemic, the company noticed a shift in buyer behaviour: whereas location used to be a primary decision driver, consumers were now considering buying a home anywhere in the city. Knowing the market wasn’t likely to cool anytime soon, we worked with Minto to quickly evolve its messaging and go-to-market approach.

By emphasizing the brand promise then funneling users to discover the locations where they could live that promise, we helped Minto make a calculated move during a tough time for business. It was a subtle but intentional switch.

Collaborate to recalibrate

When you need to be nimble as a marketer, nothing’s more valuable than collaboration.

Tourism marketing, for example, has always required an element of collaboration to adapt to new market conditions and traveler expectations. This was definitely the case during COVID-19, but even post-pandemic we’re still seeing strong, continued collaboration among destination marketing organizations (DMOs), industry partners, and local communities.

This is especially true of Tourism Kingston, a DMO that knows travelers aren’t just motivated by a destination’s attractions; they want to experience the culture of a place. So, part of a strong destination development strategy is to celebrate a destination’s people, involve them in your marketing, and, ultimately, galvanize pride in a place, which creates a strong economic ripple.

In this respect, Tourism Kingston offers a case study in shifting your mindset. How can your brand be more human? How can you pivot your marketing to create a more emotional response? How can you tell stories that connect with people?

Here’s an example of that mindset shift in action: a recent video for Tourism Kingston, an authentic collaboration with poet Armand Garnet Ruffo and videographers Untold Storytelling, all from Kingston.

In conclusion

Change stops for no one, and while not every situation requires a shift of COVID proportions, being comfortable pivoting will always be pivotal to your success. Learning to assess the urgency, be intentional with your decision-making, and lean on collaboration can help you get the best results.

Struggling with a circumstance that impacts your brand? Try running a group brainstorm or thinking inside the box. Better yet, contact Alphabet®. With more than 20 years’ experience helping destinations, associations, and non-profit organizations push through change, we can help your organization do the same – and even get ahead of it.

Get in touch to learn more.