Challenged to reflect on the impact of Covid-19 on financial services for Aviva’s recent marketing event, Twink Field shares five key themes she’s seen emerging.

Marketing rightfully, finally seen as a strategic partner

With the transition to a fully remote and largely digital client journey, marketing has become responsible for delivering a significant part of the client’s experience.  This has demanded better communication and real partnership between sales and marketing.  These teams are working together better than ever. There is a greater recognition and appreciation of marketing’s real value from sales teams, which hasn’t necessarily always the case.

Of course, with so much digital interaction and engagement, it also presents the opportunity for better client insight.  Many asset management companies have invested in their marketing technology, but in some instances have not experienced the full value of it, as internal utilisation has been so mixed. Yet, the past six months has led to greater utilisation, providing robust evidence and insights that again underpin marketing’s strategic influence.

Being strategic partners isn’t limited to our sales colleagues of course. Marketing is working right across the business, whether it’s with IT on tech, influencing decision-making and implementation, to working with the Financial Director on scenario planning of budget spend and supporting Human Resources to help on the morale and motivation of teams through lasting change.

From what we’ve witnessed, marketers are stepping confidently in to this broader, more influential role.

Reallocations of budget and priorities

The past six months have seen plenty of budget scenario planning.  Largely it has come down to a reallocation of budgets – rather than cutting them – due to changing priorities. For example, while businesses may not be able to host face-to-face events, these budgets are not necessarily being removed, but instead we’re seeing a move to invest in better tech. There is much more interest in finding ways to deliver events successfully, whether physically or digitally. Unsurprisingly, travel and expense budgets have been completely cut back and businesses have been finding ways of redeploying these budgets where it can be used more effectively. Companies have relished the efficiency of presenting to clients online, where they could reach bigger parts of their audience through smaller groups, with bespoke content.  

Two other areas being prioritised include employee wellness and brand strength. More companies now use their budgets to invest in the mental health of their employees, which is a very welcome development. Over the past few months, businesses have become more human, especially as we have started to see many of our colleagues in their home environments. Brands are also significantly more important to internal and external audiences. Investors are looking for more transparent, trusted brands that invest in their communities. This is just as important for employees, in terms of attracting and retaining talent, as it is for external stakeholders, who want to support responsible brands.

Fear of the f-word (flexibility)

The reimagination of the workplace was just waiting to happen.  With five generations in the workplace, greater flexibility is needed to meet their expectations, wants and needs.  How to support and optimise performance for everyone is difficult. Companies are really struggling with that.

Another challenge is the fact that many managers have historically relied on a command and control management style, part of which is presenteeism: seeing employees in the office. The increased productivity that many have reported whilst working from home has rendered this management style unnecessary. Thankfully we are now moving to more responsive, supportive structures to working efficiently with colleagues. 

It goes without saying, that if we manage to create more flexibility, we can attract a broader base of people to our industry and so drive better inclusion and improved diversity.

Increased storytelling in ESG and sustainability

There has been a notable increase in appetite for more ESG solutions from investors and their advisers, each looking to be part of the solution. COVID-19 has brought our social conscience to the fore, and I think our industry is in a great position to enable this change. This means we need better storytelling from businesses – which is where marketing is unmissable. Powerful storytelling needs to be at the heart of what we do.  It gives tangible proof and authentic evidence to what brands are saying. It is easy to state something, but telling stories about how brands influence and what they are changing, is what makes them thrive.

Test & learn approach to everything

The ability for a business to adopt a test and learn culture has never been more valuable.  Whilst very much part of our language and application to many projects, the new operating environment demands a much more responsive corporate mindset and way or doing business. 

It is really exciting to see much more license given to just try stuff! To pilot an initiative with a defined scope and clear purpose and to then see what the results are.  If it’s working, let’s keep doing it. If it’s not working, let’s understand and learn the lessons as to why not. Then let’s reshape and sharpen the initiative and on you go. 

This is how we get to better informed decision making, where strategy and tactics are supported by the evidence. This is another significant move for marketing –  removing the subjectivity and opportunity for individual option and influence on marketing strategy, often by non marketing professionals!