CFO and CHRO SA host Marketers Community Conversation with Mike Stopforth

The digital guru discussed reinventing branding during the Covid-19 crisis with marketers.

CFO and CHRO South Africa’s partner marketers gathered online on Thursday morning for the second Marketer’s Community Conversation, where they discussed keeping their brands’ messaging current during the Covid-19 crisis.

The special guest headlining the event was Mike Stopforth, entrepreneur and digital guru, who presented “This is the new normal”, giving insights into the challenge that marketers face while representing brands in the time of a global pandemic, when businesses and individuals are really only talking about one thing.

He opened by acknowledging that in the Community Conversation, there were different people and different organisations, all of whom were having different experiences of a once-in-a-lifetime event, and finding it challenging in different ways.

“However, regardless of how you feel from a scientific or sociopolitical standpoint, all of us are going through this moment simultaneously, which gives us the opportunity to stop and ask interesting questions. The question I am really interested in is how will you be different after this time, when you’ve been separated from your normal routine. I am having to think about how to create value. What part of what I am doing on a daily basis will need reassessing? Most people and most businesses are on a similar journey.”

He said that one of the opportunities that has arisen from the crisis is for brands to be able to narrow the gap between what they promise and what they deliver, through digital content. He explained that content is like cake. “Like cake, content needs ingredients, and like cake, it’s important to put those content ingredients in the right order. Brands make a significant investment in digital platforms like Instagram or Twitter because they believe that they should be there, but that’s a bad place to start – starting on the platform and then working back. It almost always results in brands succeeding and then not knowing how to measure their success.”

He explained that a good marketing cake starts with thinking of the right content type, target audience, business objectives, creative look and feel, the limitations of the platform and the context you are posting content into. The four things that you can reasonably achieve in terms of digital engagement online are reach, engagement, sentiment and conversion.

Before the attending marketers were split into groups to discuss how this applies to their own businesses during the Covid-19 crisis, Mike offered some words of optimism: “We’re a uniquely resilient species as South Africans. We’re going to be OK.”

There was a great deal of enthusiastic conversation between the marketers in their breakaway sessions as they shared the challenges they are facing in keeping their own brands relevant, and in continuing to find a unique voice that is also relevant and empathetic during a global crisis.

The groups also discussed the way that the world of work is changing altogether. Karen Nicholls, Workday’s regional marketing manager said:

“We’re seeing a big sentiment that we shouldn’t go back to what was normal before. There are definite changes that we need to make in our lives, in our communities. We need to think about how we are going to do that. In the first month, everyone was feeling positive and energised. It forced us to go on a new path, maybe more quickly than we were otherwise going to, but more and more now we see people breaking out into groups again. So we need to work out how we can get back there, and harness that activity to work together and make a difference.” 

Aside from the different approaches that they shared, the marketers found it valuable and inspirational to speak to others grappling with the same concerns.

Alet Opperman, sales and marketing manager at TreasuryONE, said that the sharing experience would keep her coming back for more, even when the pandemic is over: 

“Just like our brands are doing, we need to keep ourselves relevant. I would want something like this to continue. I’d make time in my diary to attend something like this, to hear from everyone and write a few points down. I’m getting energy from other marketers, to get my head up again and think of other ideas.”