By Miloje Sekulić
Co-Founder & E-PR Director
Homepage Creative. Digital.
A huge passenger plane, the largest of all in its class, was cruising peacefully at the highest flying altitude in the sky, well above the competition. The pilot kept an eye on the instruments that showed that the aircraft was functioning perfectly. They were above the clouds, completely alone in the place that only the best aircraft could occupy; the aircraft that had the skilled crew and powerful engines. The air was calm, the sun enveloped the plane with its golden rays, and the air currents pushed them toward their desired destination. They were ahead of their flight plan so the pilot decided to relax both the machine and crew a little. Why spend expensive kerosene to power engines when they are above other airlines and ahead of the planned schedule? He switched off the kerosene supply to the engines, shut the engines down and switched on the autopilot.
Even such a huge aircraft is manufactured according to the principles of aerodynamics. It can float on his powerful wings, carried by the inertia which was, truth be told, powered by a considerable amount of expensive kerosene in its engines. When the engines shut down, the aircraft continued to float through the air like a sailboat. It did not stop, nor did it fall to the ground like a rock. It hovered gently and quietly, flying in the desired direction, losing some height and speed. It didn’t matter that much because they had such an advantage.
What mistakes we usually make when things are good?
The pilot reclined comfortably into his seat, pleased that the flight was flawless. The autopilot is will remind him, on time, when the aircraft reaches the point where the fuel supply to the engines and the engines themselves need to be turned on again which would bring the flight to its safe conclusion. Then, something unforeseen happened.
A tiny oversight in adjusting the autopilot caused the crew to wake up only when the plane was already dangerously close to the ground. The plane’s signal was mixed with the strong beeping noise of the device informing the crew that they were approaching the ground dangerously fast. The pilot jumped up, hearing that the alarms, and abruptly dumped a large amount of kerosene into one engine, launching it while trying to add gas, quite panicked by the looming catastrophe. The only thing he achieved with that was to cause the engine to congest and fail.
He pulled himself together and focused on the other engine. When the panic ceased, and as the alarm sounded that the plane was approaching the ground too fast, he was shouting increasingly louder. In the end, he followed the procedure, gradually started to supply the first engine with fuel and turned on the second engine. Everything went well, the engine worked well and the pilot added gas while pointing the nose of the aircraft upwards, leading it to the safe height.
The moment when he breathed a sigh of relief, thinking that the disaster was averted, the alarm which alerted the crew that the plane was about to hit the ground went off again. The next moment the pilot felt a powerful blow far behind, heard the eerie sound of the crash and the terrified screams of the passengers. The tail of the aircraft hit the ground because the power generated by the poorly fuelled remaining engine, which was turned on too late, was insufficient. The plane scraped the ground and it all ended up in a disaster.
Feeling complacent with the position that was a result of hard work and investment and the idea of stopping the fuel supply while showing ignorance that an aeroplane of that size must have its engines on all the time, and sometimes when it encounters turbulence it needs additional power, in combination with the suppressed engine force and the autopilot situation, ended in a fatal error.
I read this story, which quite realistically could play out in real life, packaged in no more than five effective slides, on Ogilvy’s Slideshare account in 2008 at the outbreak of the major economic crisis. The huge aircraft is, of course, an analogy for a successful corporation, the engines are marketing activity that has shut down, the reduced flow of kerosene is cutting down on marketing costs, and the autopilot defect is any kind of disorder, even a time oversight in terms of when the machine needs to be restarted. Even though the outcome was not a complete crash, as in this story, you noticed that with the engines switched off and the kerosene supply interrupted, the plane still flies, but loses altitude. In our example, it starts to lose ground over its competition. It does not have to end with a total collapse, but the effort that must be invested, and of course, the means to reinstate its previous position, are disproportionately greater than those spent to maintain the position gained with occasional high altitude flights.
Marketing should not be viewed as a cost, as it is certainly the most important investment that a company can make, along with production and management, and it serves to create the conditions to form the new value. It is a bad decision to cut off marketing completely, even in good times when it seems that the acquired position cannot be so easily lost. You may even be able to pull the nose of an aeroplane, but your tail may hit the ground, so the consequences are inconsiderable.
What to do when things get worse?
In times of crisis, the first and quite rational move by management should be to exercise strict control and cost reduction. In assessing what matters, that is, whether an aeroplane can fly without a wing, crew or engine, oftentimes a decision is made to shut down one engine or at least to reduce the fuel flow, i.e. in marketing terms, to reduce or eliminate marketing budget. This seems reasonable to a certain degree, but the words “Reducing marketing spending will, in most cases, only make a bad financial situation worse,” from the aforementioned article spring to mind.
I have already written about crises. They only concern you and in most cases, you can prepare well if you apply good reasoning and spend enough time on it. Crisis times are periods that significantly outgrow us and during which there are forces at work which are far more powerful than we are. These include wars, natural disasters, migrant crises, natural disasters, global epidemics, etc. There are many things which emergence and development are outside of our power, and it all boils down to how skilful and wise we are and what opportunities are available to us, and therefore what decisions we will make while managing our business or company during crisis periods.
Let us imagine, for a moment, that the periods of crisis are severe storms that planes encounter on their way, and we need to fly our plane safely through them, i.e. properly manage the business of both the company and the marketing sector. Would a pilot in a storm shut off the plane’s engines and leave it at the storm’s mercy? Of course, he wouldn’t. Rather, he would need the extra thrust of engine power to overcome it. He would supply the engines with more kerosene. In our metaphor, engines are marketing, and kerosene is its fuel – budgets. Without the power that the marketing engine gives us in times of crisis, we are just a shell that can hover for a while, but the storm then tosses us around until we fall to the ground.
What can and what should we do when crisis periods occur?
Let’s plan according to the new situation.
A popular managerial saying goes – “a plan is nothing and planning is everything …”Planning, even in marketing, is a continuous process, and not rounded up and frozen at some point in time. You certainly have strategic marketing plans in place and act on them. Although are made for one specific situation, a natural disaster or global pandemic completely changes the circumstances in which you devised these plans. You will have to reshuffle them, adjust as necessary and extract tactics from them that you will immediately apply.
Reassess who are our target groups.
Significant changes in crises can significantly change the structure of a population, whether the population is moving from or moving to an area (in the case of a natural disaster), but with perhaps different characteristics and habits (for example, migrants in significant numbers). Ask yourself again who your “buyer persona” is. They may have changed significantly or changed their habits due to a new experience.
Let’s adjust our product, services, pricing and sales channels.
Crisis times cause a lot of changes. Mostly, we are not the same, as a society or large parts of it, after them. Let’s re-consider, investigate and, reassess how much will our products, services, pricing policies, as well as our distribution and sales channels, and promotional techniques fit with the new situation once the crisis has passed.
Let’s boost our brand and its reputation.
We can “remain silent” during the crisis period. We can cancel all leases, withdraw creative, and terminate campaigns. We can also adapt to the situation, to generally offer useful, interesting and quality content to our users, as well as to the audience, both according to the message and the form of the new situation. People like that because they see it as paying attention to them. They will remember it and they will be grateful when the crisis period passes. It’s a small step from that to gaining loyal customers or clients, and you have practically made it.
Let me give you an example. Of course, it is not appropriate at this time, when a state of emergency is in place, to effectively promote, for example, sports shoes or clothing, but such brand could prepare a series of educational announcements on how to keep fit at home.
We care about our employees.
We live in a time where employees, not machines or raw materials, are key business factors. There is an entire scientific, professional and practical area called employer branding and related disciplines. Besides, your employees are your best representatives. They, as well as their family members and friends with whom they talk to, will convey that you are a desirable or undesirable employer.
Let’s show that we care about the community in which we work and live.
Taking care of the environment in which we live and work has long since grown into forms of action during which company employees have helping in clean up campaigns or donating money. Today, in the age of digital communications, the opportunities to do something good and useful for the community in times of crisis are truly enormous, and we just need to think and create an action that can be simple and effective, quite in line with the values for which as a company or brand you advocate.
Unlocking digital books or creating a series of exercises that can be practised in isolation are just some of the ways we can use to show that we care. We have seen that record labels and fitness centres have already launched them. Such activities also have one peculiarity and it’s about the reluctance that people have when they have to change applications for specific purposes that they have already installed. The crisis will pass and many new registered users of your application will remain.
We are adopting new knowledge.
Crisis periods are also a time when, by default, certain events cause or force us to reduce our personal activities. This period can be useful to learn some new techniques and adopt processes, as well as to get acquainted with the innovations that technology development brings to the marketing profession.
Let’s prepare for the post-crisis period.
Only two things are certain about the time of crisis. They come and go. They behave cyclically, as well as everything else in life, both personal and work. When the first impact passes, damage, if any, is assessed and repaired, and the emergent activities are adapted to the new circumstances. The time is to prepare the activities that will be carried out in the post-crisis period.
Failure to do so will eliminate the opportunity to start on time and once conditions are met, to immediately re-join the market. If we implement all of this, or at least most of what we have written, we will emerge stronger from the crisis.
Let’s conquer the competition!
Last but not least, we live in a market economy and fight market battles. The Chinese sign for crisis is also the sign for an opportunity. Your competition may behave exactly like the pilot from the beginning of this article. This creates space for you, as wonderfully described in this sentence: “Without marketing investment, companies cannot hang on to their marketing position for long.” Use it smartly, thoughtfully, creatively, with measure and taste! That is, fitting to the situation.
Be well, protect yourself, and protect others
Homepagers have already organized their work according to all decisions of the authorities and recommendations from valid sources. We protect ourselves and keep others safe. We are working regularly and we are preparing new, very interesting and useful projects. Stay tuned!