Being agile and expecting the unexpected has taken on new meaning in 2021, which is why the first Future of Media online discussion for 2021 focused on the topic of ‘Predicting the unpredictable’.

After a year like 2020, it’s difficult to confidently predict anything. Yet it’s crucial for the industry to stay ahead of the game and gain new insights to prepare, however possible, for the future.

Thanks to our digital conference series partners, Vodacom, EziAds, Primedia Outdoor, The MediaShop, TILT, The Financial Mail Redzone and The Media Online, the Future of Media series is on track to provide insights to the industry.

Helping guide the conversation was Siya Sangweni. He got straight into it by asking, Lorraine Landon, Sub-Saharan Africa Specialist Lead at Google, how 2020 has changed consumer demands and how she thinks brands should prepare for 2021. Landon spoke from a Google analytics perspective saying that since people have been stuck at home, she’s seen a lot of change in inspiration, a lot more consideration when purchasing goods and interestingly enough extensive concentration on the delivery mode, with key words like promo code and buying local popping up frequently. “In 2021 brands should focus on the demand to be dynamic and consumers are especially looking at brands to respond before they do.”

Adding to this, Justine Cullinan, GM Brand and Strategy at Nando’s said, “in order to try and predict what to do this year, you can’t be married to your plans, you need to be agile. Once you make peace with that, you will start having fun with your plan adaptions and see more opportunities arise. Just remember that progress is far better than perfection.”

Directing the conversation to the media owner representative, Eben Gewers, Head of Advertising Sales and Trade Marketing at Arena Holdings, Siya was interested to know his thoughts on agility in the workplace. “Last year we were forced to take our five year plan and condense it into one. The key is to be adaptable and accepting the fact that mistakes are inevitable. As long as you don’t have a rigid mindset and have community based thinking at the forefront of your plans, you will make things work. I firmly believe that companies will be far better off after this whole thing blows over because of a shift in mindset” Gewers said.

So what are the standouts of the next normal that marketers should concentrate on to earn long-term brand equity and to ensure that agility and adaptability are more than fashionable buzzwords?

Cullinan weighed in by saying that she likes to think of brand equity as a reservoir: “in order for the stream to keep flowing, the reservoir needs to be full or keep being topped up. It’s important to invest in this continually, to remind the consumer why they are buying from you.” She continues by explaining that in her opinion, the equity investment is about the why. Why customers want to buy from us and what they can obtain from us. She urged brands to build their ethical muscles rather than their technical processes and went on to say that hearing and listening are different. “Hearing is collecting data, listening is understanding what to do with that data. So brands really need to focus on what people want and interpret their needs to build products or services around what will fulfill brand purpose.”

Natalie Katz, Senior Strategic Planner at VMLY&R deals with multiple agencies, brands and marketing requests daily and gave a few suggestions on what tools and tactics can make change faster, simpler and more positive. She started addressing useful tactics by saying that, “Tapping into social listening is really important to keep your finger on the pulse. Knowing what your audience is going through and giving them what they want will make your outcomes relevant and authentic. From a tools perspective, it would really depend on the way in which you are working.” For her, inter agency working is very important but so is remembering to stay in your lane. Analytics and monitoring is also important as well as the integration of your findings into actions. “Lastly, without proper internal team communication, your entire plan or campaign will most likely fall flat so scrum scrum scrum!”

2021 seems more about questions than answers. The opportunity lies in collaborating, learning and forging a view of fast-paced changes in an increasingly fragmented media and economic landscape both locally and globally. Just as Katz explained inter agency workings as a good tool for change; Gewers also went on to say that “everything has changed for all organisations; from brands, to agencies to media owners. Look within your own organization to see who has the skills to deliver what needs to be done. Thereafter, look externally to see who you can lean on. This may involve letting go of ego and working together for the greater good of the overall campaign.”

As Sangweni asked the panelists for their final closing statements a few pearls of wisdom were reiterated;

  • “Whether you’re in the front line or back end of an organisation, Covid-19 has most certainly forced ALL industries to reset and refocus.” Siya Sangweni
  • “We need to be aware that 2020 was a crisis and that we are currently going through the natural depression of going through a crisis. Understanding your consumers is important, but having the courage to reset is also important.” Justine Cullinan, GM Brand and Strategy, Nando’s
  • “Communication and meaningfulness is rooted in the need for authenticity. Just remember to ask yourself, ‘what is really meaningful for a brand to leverage as opposed to what is popular?’” Lorraine Landon, Sub-Saharan Africa Specialist Lead, Google
  • “Focus on the insights consumers are giving you, tapping into meaningful conversations is a good investment and the best social currency comes from creating meaningful and sharable content.” Natalie Katz, Senior Strategic Planner, VMYL&R
  • “There is a huge desire to go back to the way things used to be but as businesses we have to accept that business has changed and look at the opportunities that speak to where we are at the moment.” Eben Gewers, Head of Advertising Sales and Trade Marketing, Arena Holdings

To watch the full discussion, click here.

The next online event, ‘Alternative digital revenue models for the SA media industry’, will be taking place on 17 March 2021 at 10h00. For more information, or to register, click here. 

The big take-out: In order to try and predict what to do this year, brands cannot be married to their plans; they need to be agile.