Most Important Skill Set for Agencies During COVID-19 Pandemic: Cultural IQ

During a time when agencies are adapting to a new way of doing business, with back-to-back Zoom calls and smaller team huddles, agencies with culture marketing expertise are thriving. Why? Because cultural IQ has never been more important. Moments of crisis are when strategic partners are needed, particularly in today’s climate when there are shifts in behavior, messaging and production capabilities.

Culture marketing specialists have understood culture for decades — from its impact on shopping behavior to media consumption and content sharing. This pandemic, much like the events of 9/11, are shaping the cultural fabric of our nation. What will culture look like on the other side of this? Experts with culture marketing expertise will be better prepared to answer that question, identify new value propositions, and adapt strategies accordingly.

Here are three marketing trends we see emerging for agencies in a post-COVID-19 reality:

Increased cache in inclusivity



Multicultural marketing agencies have long advocated for inclusivity of diverse communities, not only in creative, but also in strategic in-culture efforts and purchased media. Today, high percentages of essential workers are multicultural—nurses, grocery workers, delivery personnel, etc. Agencies have taken great care to ensure that new COVID-19-related creative reflects our current multicultural realities and resonates across wider audiences, including those working from home, unemployed and essential workers. While conversations surrounding increased investment in multicultural marketing were happening before social distancing, we see inclusivity extend to the types of strategic partners helping brands make decisions and navigate the new marketing culture post-COVID-19.

More loyalty for brands with purpose

From financial relief and donations of goods to delivery efforts and more accessible technology and connectivity, many brands are stepping up to help make social distancing easier. Well beyond the days of barren shelves, people will remember the charitable and responsible acts undertaken by brand leaders, particularly multicultural audiences who have always paid attention to brand purpose and over indexed on linking that purpose to loyalty. With the under-18 segment being a multicultural majority, this trend will only increase under the COVID-19 glare where community giving, free services and home entertainment have never been more important for morale. As agencies, our job is not to have our clients communicate directly with people, our job is to be direct and bold and do the things that really matter to people.

Greater focus on customer service and digital support

Many brands have realized they have gaps in their customer service capabilities. Not only are they scrambling to ensure their own employees are prepared for teleworking, but many are just now realizing that they lack Spanish-language support or that maybe they have relied solely on automation. During this period of social distancing when many marketing campaigns would be perceived as tone deaf, many agencies and brands are course-correcting their digital infrastructure to ensure that diverse consumers can connect and have the right interfaces to access their goods and services.

Warren Buffet said, “When the tide goes down, we see who is swimming naked.” Right now, a lot of brands are swimming naked, and culture marketing agencies are poised to help and provide action plans to enhance relationships and build loyalty with brands, even during this time of crisis.

In addition to his GroupM role, Del Fa is chairman of the Culture Marketing Council

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