The “P” Word

Rethinking the Four Ps of Marketing During the Covid-19 Pandemic

By Jeffrey Miller, SVP Digital, Entercom

October 21, 2020
Back to Marketing Insights

Life as we know it came to a screeching halt in March. As businesses of all sizes were forced to rethink how they operate, some moved quickly to reinvent and some stood at a standstill to wait it out. All asked the same question: what do we do now?

While so little is known about how the pandemic will continue to play out, the businesses that have thrived in previous times of crisis and turbulence have at least one thing in common: they maintained ad spend. A recent Forbes article points to nearly a century worth of studies of ad spend in uncertain times, including during the Great Recession of 2008, which show that advertisers that maintained or even grew their ad spend increased sales during and after the recession.

In May, Nielsen stated, “…going silent on consumers is always a risky gambit for marketers, even for brands with hard budget decisions to make. … Brands that go totally dark for the rest of 2020 could be facing revenue declines of up to 11% in 2021,” while marketers who maintain are better positioned for recovery.

Some of the benefits companies that at least maintain the status quo can take advantage of include decreased noise in the marketplace that allow their messages to break through, lower advertising costs driven down by slowed demand, and greater share of voice.

In order to stay afloat now to potentially thrive when this is all behind us—because we WILL get through this together!—it’s time to re-define the traditional “four Ps” of marketing as a road map for what business owners ought to do right now.

FIRST, I’M SWAPPING “PLACE” FOR “PEOPLE”:  Think about the people your business serves and what they need now. What products and services are most useful and in sync with those needs, and can your product or service be positioned to fill a gap or provide a solution? For example, an alcohol addiction center that works with Entercom turned its attention to mental health services as the effects of quarantine became evident. Entercom activated a two-pronged campaign which included pay-per click ads that incur cost only when clicked. Along with search engine optimization that increased the ranking on search engines for relevant keywords.  The client increased the number of individuals finding their services, and metrics have improved every month.

In this “p,” it’s also imperative to consider employees. How the business stands behind them and provides for their safety demonstrates humanity, stability and credibility to customers. Some businesses have even seen the opportunity to step up to provide opportunities for workers displaced from other industries. A CDL (Commercial Driver License) driver recruitment company that typically advertised with Entercom on over-the-air country and sports radio expanded its plan to include audio streaming and then email marketing via Entercom’s email database solutions. By adding the ability to target CDL-licensed individuals and the trifecta of all three platforms, the company has increased their recruitment across new markets and built their workforce.

PRODUCT: When it comes to product, this may be an ideal time to reposition or even launch a new product. With marketing noise muted a bit by brands that have cut back, history has shown recessions are time for new product launches to make a larger impact. On the other hand, some small businesses have completely pivoted their offering to introduce a new product in demand now that will allow them to keep the lights on until they can return to their core offering. Distilleries shifted to hand sanitizer and pizza ovens turned into PPE makers. How can you get creative?

PRICE: The principles of price still apply, though I suggest a few points to keep top of mind. Watch out for competitors who may be adjusting prices or discounting; you want to stay competitive. Go back to the first “p”—people—and consider any adjustments you can make to accommodate customers now, such as bundling, incentives, special offers, and so on. Also, look at your media mix. The cost of inventory on various channels may be in flux by changes in demand, and you may stand to gain.

And, finally, PROMOTION. The bottom line here is don’t stop. Now is the time to continue, or even increase, promotion efforts and ad spend. Explore new channels. Keep your business in customers’ minds. One such company is a DIY home improvement store. With an eye toward staying top of mind and driving store visits, the brand engaged Entercom to run a social conquesting campaign on Facebook and Instagram. With Entercom’s help, the store targeted consumers who may have visited a competitor’s shop. The store also employed OTT video to reach homeowners who lived near a store location with multiple ads that featured a variety of products and services.

Entercom can help businesses of all sizes adapt to the current environment and the new rules of marketing to reach customers wherever they are—online, over the air, streaming podcasts, events, apps—through an effective suite of solutions, like SEO/SEM, email and mobile marketing, and social media marketing. As the old adage says, “When times are good you should advertise. When times are bad you must advertise.” Those who do, thrive on the other side of adversity.

We are here to help you thrive, starting now.

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