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Posted on: 26.03.2021

Fortune favours the agile: A global pandemic and the rise of the flexible marketing strategy


There’s nothing better, or more important than being prepared, especially in this industry. 

Planning in advance allows you the time to be creative, to think outside the box and make sure the execution of the idea stands up to scrutiny. It gives you the best chance of booking the best ad slots at the best rates, and to make sure all of your ducks are in order.

And that’s where we were last January and February. 

We’d worked hard for months in advance to plan in campaigns that would stand out, storyboard videos that would showcase our clients brands, products and services in the best possible light, and made plans for marketing budgets for the entire year.

Then March the 23rd arrived. 

Everything went straight into the trash folder. 

And we, like many others the world over, had to quickly take stock of what this meant for all of the industries that we work across. 

We had to start from the ground up. 

We started by asking ourselves what challenges the lockdown presented for each client. How could we shift our focus to make sure that businesses were still present, operational and supported? 

At ilk we don’t specialise in any one industry, so we had clients across a spectrum of industries like construction, food and drink, telecoms, fitness, recruitment, retail (physical and online stores), tourism and not-for-profit. The impact of the pandemic in each of these industries was very, very different. Some would be hit by closures, some would be busier than ever. 

Some of the issues were more easily solved – our fantastic production team cancelled planned in video shoots and used animation instead. Our social teams canned promotional content and shifted to an information-first approach, making sure customers and communities were aware of closures and home-delivery services. We set up websites to allow for online sales, and created  new brands for new food and drink products that were needed in supermarkets. We helped to push virtual show home tours, new online sales and when things moved along a little bit, staycations and outdoor venues. 

Case study: CityFibre

Perhaps one of the biggest adaptations made across the business was for the UK’s third largest national infrastructure provider, CityFibre

CityFibre is installing essential full fibre internet across hundreds of towns and cities in the UK, and as a result the government designated their staff as key workers, thus enabling them to continue their infrastructure projects. 

As the business is very active with construction projects, there’s bound to be disruption caused at a local level – and a chat on the doorstep with local residents is usually the best way to give them the right information, and provide much needed reassurance. However, COVID-19 stopped these teams in their tracks. 

In response, we moved that wide scale customer information campaign online, using their social media channels and their advertising features. We developed a reactive strategy based around social advertising, designed to show ads to demographics in specific postcodes across all of the cities CityFibre class as pre-build. These were postcode targeted, and created with specific messaging letting people know when CityFibre would be coming to their street and providing them with signposts to the website for them to find any more information if they needed it. 

The pre-build campaign has proved a success, and as such as the world emerges from full-lockdown, the campaign will stay steadfast as a core part of the brand’s always-on activity. 

Another opportunity that became clear as the lockdown progressed from weeks to months, was the opportunity to highlight the benefits that the full fibre network will have on the UK as more people were confined to slow speeds while working from home connections.

We understood, because we were experiencing them ourselves, the pain that comes from connectivity problems during the workday and the new frontier of the Zoom meeting. We knew the difficulties of cutting out mid-sentence, of not being able to download files or re-share them, or of sounding like a robot and every other word being the only audio.

So we created a campaign to let people know how CityFibre’s gigabit speed network could assist. Zoom Faces saw ilk staff using screen record software to showcase these pain points in short, snappy videos. These were packaged for social, and supported with a paid campaign to amplify the messaging. And it performed well, because it touched on an issue that was so present in the lives of our audience right at that moment. It gave them a direct solution to a problem they didn’t expect to be facing, and a way to imagine working from home as part of their lives long-term if they wanted to experience more flexibility within their working lives. 

Our approach for CityFibre showcased how we’re able to be agile not only to solve problems, but to provide crisis comms, to move to an informational strategy instead of a promotional one, to continue to get core messages out there and continue to grow with new campaigns that have relevant, reactive messaging. 

As we carry on through 2021, it’s still not clear what will happen next. What is clear though is that ilk, like many other agencies across the board, has learned the lesson of agility. 

In the hardest possible way, we’ve learned the value of throwing original plans in the bin and starting again; f thinking outside the box to solve problems and tapping into the public feeling to provide solutions in a largely chaotic online space. We’ve learned how to be creative when you can’t do what you’ve always done, and when client budgets are tighter than ever. We’ve learned how to push things through quickly when we can’t be poised for every twist and turn in advance. We’ve learned that fortune favours the agile.

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