Innovation and adaptation in response to times of crisis

Innovation and adaptation in response to times of crisis


By Cat Davis Group Marketing Director at The MISSION Group & krow Group

It may be a cliché (not to mention a famous quote from John.F Kennedy) that in times of crisis we will find both danger and opportunity, but as we continue to navigate our way as a society and an industry through the current global health crisis, it’s clear that there is also much truth in this statement.

Perhaps the greatest of these opportunities for the world of marketing, along with many other industries, is the huge potential for innovation and for looking at new ways of approaching old challenges. With so much uncertainty and upheaval on the horizon there has arguably never been a better time to step back and reevaluate our products, services and even, our purpose as a business.

Within the world of big brands we have seen many inspiring examples of innovation, as they seek to adapt their offering (albeit temporarily) to meet changing customer demands or wider societal needs. A host of luxury fashion houses including Prada and the Armani Group were quick to switch their manufacturing plants to focus on production of PPE such as masks and gowns for medical staff, whilst companies such as Dyson, Gtech and even Formula One teams have used their engineering expertise to address the challenge of producing more ventilators, vital to the fight against Covid-19.

As brands continue to turn away from the notion of ‘what do people want?’ towards ‘what do people need? more and more examples of redirected purpose and innovation are born. A number of distilleries and breweries including BrewDog and Tappers Gin have utilised their manufacturing facilities to produce much needed hand sanitiser, while the hard-hit fitness industry has responded with innovative online options from group Zoom classes to one to one personal training and even virtual ‘ravercise’ sessions. Evolving business interests to align with immediate needs during the current crisis will not only help them to survive in the short term, but will play a critical role in maintaining brand credibility and loyalty in the longer term.

Marketing Agencies may not have the infrastructure or assets required for these types of pivot, but creative problem solving and adaptability are critical to the success and longevity of our industry. Many Agencies have innovation teams as standard and within MISSION Group we have our own innovation team. Fuse is a group-wide innovation initiative to explore the potential of emerging technologies.

One of the great success stories to come out of Fuse is Pathfindr, a company that uses innovative assets tracking technology to help transform businesses. A growing business before the global pandemic hit, Pathfindr swiftly pivoted from Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices to develop a safe distancing device to help employers reopen workplaces amid the COVID-10 pandemic.

Pathfindr is now offering its Safe Distancing Assistant to businesses, particularly those with large warehouse or manufacturing facilities, to help them comply with regulations for 2m social distancing of staff, and are looking at new innovative ways to utilise their technology in the future. Following a targeted PR campaign the Safe Distancing Assistant received over 200 orders and 400 enquiries from interested businesses and a 1,500% increase in traffic to the Pathfindr website.

Another MISSION Agency, ThinkBDW, has also adapted their Client offering within the property marketing sector. With restrictions now easing and the housing market starting to get back to business, they have developed bespoke branded screens for the workplace and showrooms that will help enforce social distancing guidelines for staff.

One of the areas of marketing that has been most severely impacted by the restrictions of lockdown is live events, with the events calendar for 2020 largely wiped out and huge uncertainty around when the industry will be able to resume in full. In response to this challenge many events Agencies, including MISSION Agency Bray Leino Events, have been looking at innovative new ways to use technology to enable them to offer virtual solutions for hosting live events.

While webinars and some element of online programming in the events world is clearly not new, the complete switch to virtual events of a mass scale, such as high profile examples including The Chelsea Flower Show and London Pride, has challenged the industry to become more creative, innovative and engaging to a wide range of audiences. From the use of VR to create immersive environments, to gamification and even real time illustration of conferences, many of the innovative ideas being trialled right now are likely to be here to stay.

As with much innovation, these examples are largely born from necessity – the necessity to adapt in order to meet the challenges being presented to us as an industry by the current health crisis. Central to the ability to adapt in this way is an entrepreneurial spirit at the heart of Agencies, and a leadership team that embraces new ideas and opportunities and empowers their teams to react rapidly in response to external changes.

As we continue to assess both the dangers and opportunities presented to the marketing industry by the current health crisis, innovation and adaptability will be two of our greatest tools in facing them with confidence.