Three Ways Marketers Can Innovate In Times Of Uncertainty

Sep 15, 2020

Mike Rowan, President, Founder @KPItarget

This article originally appeared on

Remember those days when the biggest challenge marketers faced was figuring out how to cut through all of the noise?

Let’s face it, the economy has had a pretty good run for the past decade or so. Budgets were ample, businesses were growing and our biggest stressors were choosing the right CMS platform and speculating on when AI was going to steal our jobs.

Now, for the first time in years, we’re facing a slew of severe economic conditions, from pared-back budgets and reduced workforces to a general mood of anxiety and uncertainty — not to mention the pandemic itself. In times like these, marketers have a choice to make.

You can sit back, continue business as usual (or as close to “usual” as possible), cross your fingers and wait to see how the chips fall. Or, you can roll up your sleeves and find new ways to connect with your clients and help your brand shine during a difficult time.

But what does innovation look like during an economic downturn? It starts with the ability to pivot quickly, whether in your messaging or overall marketing strategy. Here are three ways that being agile can help your business excel in uncertain times.

 1. Adjust your offerings.

Consumers and businesses alike are faced with a whole new set of problems and challenges, most of which were not remotely anticipated. Can your company’s product or service offerings help solve any of these new problems?

Tailoring your offerings to the new landscape is not a move to make out of desperation. It will only be effective if your intentions come from a genuine desire to help make life a little bit easier for your customers during these challenging times.

Consider Zoom. Video conferencing is nothing new for the company, but offering educators free use of the platform with no time limit provides an effective and much-needed solution for homeschooling.

For a Fintech client with a financing network designed for small businesses, pivoting meant providing a streamlined online application for their paycheck protection program. Similarly, a POS company offered its restaurant clients a software solution for online ordering and curbside pickup that could help keep them in business.

In some cases, adjusting your offerings may mean introducing an entirely new product line. For example, a client who makes medical safety devices started producing face shields at their customers’ continued requests for desperately needed personal protective equipment. Likewise, a company that makes natural air fresheners ramped up the production of disinfectants to meet a need.

It may be a new use for a current product or an offering you’ve never considered before, but asking yourself what new problems you can solve is a good place to start.

2. Embrace empathy in your messaging.

Chances are, the messaging your team came up with two months ago is wildly inappropriate for the current times. And while all of us can agree that we could do without another “Covid-19 Response” email from any and every business we’ve ever come into contact with, you do need to acknowledge the times.

You’re obviously going to want to pull any messaging that alludes to travel or parties or pretty much anything that references “normal” life. It’s important to address the elephant in the room, in a real and genuine way, hence empathy. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes and recognize what they’re dealing with right now.

B2B clients are likely worried about budget cuts, heavy workloads and the looming possibility of having to lay off workers. On the flipside, B2C audiences may have been furloughed or anxious about losing their job. All of the above may be concerned about catching coronavirus.

No matter your audience, customers are especially sensitive to tone-deaf communications in this stressful time. At the same time, they’re equally leery of inauthentic outreach that’s an obvious play for impressions and eyeballs.

Be authentic and speak to your customers honestly, transparently and with true empathy. If you don’t, trust that they’ll see right through your efforts, which may do more damage than good.

3. Invest in digital marketing channels.

We don’t need to tell you that people are stuck at home. Which means they’re on their screens a lot more than usual. Needless to say, now would be a very good time to put your company’s marketing resources into digital marketing channels, from paid social to over-the-top advertising (OTT).

At KPItarget, our clients have been experiencing a significant uptick in virtual event interest, and webinar registrations are through the roof — especially for sessions that provide solutions and advice for navigating these trying times.

It’s also never been a better time to invest in OTT. More people than ever are cutting the cord, especially now that many household budgets are under siege. Yet as much as streaming hours are going up, ad budgets are declining. Depending on your current situation, this could actually be an opportunity.

As fewer ad dollars flow into the system, inventory is opening up and CPM is coming down. Assuming your product is well suited for this advertising medium, you may find a favorable price and a captive audience.

As always, do your due diligence and market research to identify the digital marketing opportunities that are best suited for your brand at this time.

Embracing The New Normal

Someday, we’ll all look back at these times, trying to remember just how surreal it all felt. By then, we probably won’t be marketers at all because, you know, robots. But still, as difficult as it is to imagine the future at this moment, our best course of action is to remain firmly planted in the present and find a way to provide real value in a time of uncertainty. In other words, be prepared to pivot.

If you’d like to chat about marketing innovation in times of uncertainty, contact me at