Campaign Asia: Guy Kawasaki's 10-point pandemic prescription for marketers

Rahul Sachitanand Mar 31, 2021

The brand evangelist lists measures for brands—ranging from durability to shelving under-performing businesses and products—to survive as the pandemic rattles on.


Guy Kawasaki

As marketers figure out how to keep their brands afloat in the prolonged Covid-19 pandemic, Guy Kawasaki, the former brand evangelist for Apple and currently for Canva, a graphic design platform, has some suggestions to keep the lights on and to use this tough time to streamline their offerings.

At Marketing Pulse Online he offered the following advice to marketers looking to retool themselves during this time and prepare for a digital future, as they learn to communicate with customers in this new era. 

Here's what Kawasaki told attendees:

1. Expect to run a decathlon, not even a marathon: Even as people may be enthused by growing numbers of vaccinations and talks of travel bubbles, he advises that it is going to take a long time to get back to normal. "You just can't be a runner, you need to be good in a lot of different events," he said.

2. Milk your (cash) cows: Everyone has something in their product line that doesn't take too much more investment to keep up to date and squeeze valuable cash to keep the business going. For example, Apple milked the solid Apple 2 line to pay for the more revolutionary Macintosh line. "Cash is everything and from a marketing standpoint, it is about survival," he added. 

3. Lose the deadweight: "If there ever was a time to get rid of stuff in your marketing platform or mix that it isn't working, now is the time."  

MERGE4 Sublime crew socks

4. Do business directly: In a pandemic, there are so many variables for a marketer to contend with—your reseller may not be able to open, or may even go out of business. Or an online catalogue firm may not prioritise your products, or more tellingly, a container ship could get stuck in the Suez Canal and hold up global trade. Consider the example of Merge4 socks, sold mainly sold through surf stores in the US, which saw its business up-ended by the pandemic and got lukewarm attention from online retailers when it attempted to pivot in that direction. Instead, it survived by turning into a direct-to-consumer business. 

5. Mine your database: If you do decide to take your business directly to consumers, you need to tap your customer database to boost your odds of success. "More than a follower on social media, I would much rather have an email address." 

6. Simplify your offerings: At the start of the pandemic, Kawasaki didn't leave home for 90 days and relied on online deliveries to stock up on the most basic items such as peanut butter. If he was inundated with choices in brick-and-mortar stores, shopping on Instacart boiled down his delivery to a two-pack of the (wrong brand of) peanut butter. While he was grateful to have "any peanut butter at all," this delivery also pointed to the benefit of distilling choices for consumers, rather than going too wide and build a costly catalogue to please everyone.

7. The emergence of hybrid models: As marketers get enthused by the prospect of vaccines and business as usual returning, Kawasaki cautions that businesses are more likely to adopt a middle path.

8. Work backwards: "Many companies, pandemic or not, work forward from what they are currently doing or what they currently can do," he contended. "If Kodak had worked backwards, they would have figured out they are not in the chemicals business, they are in the creation of memories business."

9. Marketers need to ask: therefore, what? Consider your industry and segment, and the trends affecting your market. Marketers need to work backwards and ask what your customers want. In education today, with all classrooms virtual, you could ask what do schools and parents really need? Another example, if you could foresee the rise of increasingly powerful smartphones (with faster and faster processing capability and connectivity), you may have chanced on wildly popular ventures such as Instagram.

10. Build unique and valuable businesses: Consider the iPod, which on its release was not just portable, but also with an interface "any mere mortal could operate," backed by a wide selection of music with an affordable price point (99 cents). In contrast, marketing a business like online food delivery suffers from little differentiation and low value. "You need to have someone at home to receive a package from a UPS driver to deliver the dead cow in a can," he argues. 

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