Covid-19 has effected seismic changes in consumer behaviour. Hansang Cho, head of Beta Institute, Cheil Worldwide, says marketers must place strategy that demands social discussion and interaction in the centre of this year’s marketing strategy.

For so many marketers around the world, COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on everything we do. So it is really not a surprise that in the Marketer’s Toolkit 2021 by WARC, as much as 98% of respondents said that the most important factor in this year’s marketing strategy would be centred on the changes in consumer behaviour caused by COVID-19. The response might be too obvious as we were all caught off-guard by this virus and we are all now struggling to find meaning while we search for the right path forward.

However, I am hesitant to speak with confidence if the effects of the virus we experience as of now would be permanent even in the post-COVID era because the answer depends on considering the daunting question of how long the current situation will last.

What is certain is that some day, the virus will be in our rear-view mirror, and that most of us will survive these uncertain times. When that time comes, there is no doubt that we would hate to go backward, and for that reason we are going to raise questions and make changes to how we used to live and how the social system was built. In order to take the right steps forward, we need to think less about someone’s prediction of what changes are coming post-COVID and more about what differences we want to make in the present.

From this standpoint, the most interesting survey result is the proportion of marketers in Korea who believe that brands should express their position on social issues. The number is as high as 95%, with a global average of 71%. What does that tell us? The answer is in the social stance that people closest to the brand share, from internal employees to shareholders, customers, and more broadly, members of the society who interact with the brand in their everyday lives. Brands cannot just acknowledge that fact and move on. They need to take responsibility by actively supporting these people, speaking out, and inviting more people to join.

Marketing strategy we marketers need to consider seriously at this point has to focus on addressing the everyday issues that people closest to us raise and wish to repair. We need to place strategy that demands social discussion and interaction in the centre of this year’s marketing strategy.

People often say that change is the centrepiece in marketing. But change does not come easy and it does not happen by itself. Especially now, with this virus, we need to step back from marketing COVID-19 and truly listen to and express people’s aspirations. Let’s take this opportunity to dream of a new cultural revolution in the post-COVID-19 world that is, hopefully, just around the corner. Remember, we are the opinion leaders.