Recovery Watch: Brands Ready For IRL Holidays With Marketing Tech Shifts

Lisa Johnston
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Keeping in step with all things disruption, today’s consumer goods brands are re-evaluating their marketing spend and tech strategies around holidays in order to better connect with the pandemic-era consumer. And while a recovery is on the horizon, these shifts are expected to continue throughout 2021 as brands, retailers and consumers all experience varying degrees of “normal.”

The recovery will be more local than global for the foreseeable future, Kristen Groh, consumer products industry lead at Publicis Sapient, notes to CGT, and so as consumers re-enter the IRL world, that pent-up demand from spending physical time with their families is expected to translate into record-breaking sales in the fourth quarter.

“Consumers will be looking to make up for what they lost during the holidays in 2020,” she says, “and we believe we will see record-breaking sales in Halloween and Christmas seasons, and possibly even summer holidays and back-to-school.”

When it comes to re-evaluating their marketing plans, the most successful brands are taking a step back to develop more agile strategies rather than predefining their day-to-day tactics.

“Too many brands are chasing shiny new toys without an actual strategy,” Groh warns. “Defining a strategy that allows for agility in response to the very volatile market will allow teams to know how to act in favor of the brand while giving them the freedom to execute, experiment and excel.”

For Avocados From Mexico (AFM), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Mexican Hass Avocado Importers Association, defining this new strategy led to the company shifting its historically wildly successful Super Bowl campaign into a broader pre-game fall campaign.

Despite not having a TV spot as in years past, the company’s digital campaign broke records with a potential 7.6 billion social impressions per Sprout Social, says Ivonne Kinser, head of digital marketing and e-commerce. This equated into a 19% increase in sales for the first four weeks of the year.

"The most sophisticated [brands] are moving data to the cloud to enable even stronger utilization of the data across the enterprise,” adds Groh, “breaking down brand and functional silos to improve all aspects of the business.”
Kristen Groh, Publicis Sapient

What’s more, as AFM builds out its first-party ecosystem and audiences, the enormous amount of consumer data collected in the campaign is playing a significant role in pushing that data strategy forward.

Hershey is starting its holiday promotions early this year, with the hopes that seeding the season will prompt early purchases. In addition to spurring excitement for holiday seasons, it's supporting the digital customer journey with relevant content and recipes to accompany product information on retail websites.  

Campbell Soup Company also had success with adapting its marketing content during the December holiday season to focus on new ways consumers can enjoy its products. This strategy shift added up to increased purchase intent and positive engagement metrics, Mark Clouse, Campbell president and CEO, said in the company's most recent earnings call. 

Hershey is also monitoring both qualitative signals from consumers and quantitative retail trends, and then leveraging this data to shape its marketing strategies — a tactic it had great success with during summer holidays. 

Indeed, many companies are rethinking their efforts to collect consumer data as CG brands are no longer the envy of consumer insights, notes Groh. “For the most part, the retailers, marketplaces and platforms know the consumers far better than most CPGs.”

As a result, more brands are making investments to build out their marketing tech capabilities, especially regarding data and insights collection, with some leaning into engagements that provide valuable first-party data by offering consumers that necessary value exchange. “[They’re] re-grounding in the consumer journey and implementing technologies that enable further automation and personalization across a wide array of marketing use cases,” she says.

“The most sophisticated are moving data to the cloud to enable even stronger utilization of the data across the enterprise,” adds Groh, “breaking down brand and functional silos to improve all aspects of the business.”

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