WFA asked four industry experts whether COVID-19 has the power to change marketing forever – and if yes, in which ways.

Clockwise from top left: Cindy Gallop; Bessie Lee, Withinlink; Claire Beale, Campaign; Gail Gallie, Project Everyone.

Cindy Gallop is a marketing and diversity consultant, founder and former chair of the US branch of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, and founder and CEO of IfWeRanTheWorld and MakeLoveNotPorn companies.

For years, reporters have asked me, “Is change happening for gender equality, diversity and inclusion?” My answer: “No.” After explaining why (closed loop of white guys talking to white guys about other white guys), the next question: “So what do you think will make change happen?” My answer: “Only one thing – complete, total, and utter disaster.”

And now we have it. The world will never be the same again, and that’s good news for those of us who were never the status quo to begin with. It’s only when things break down this completely, that new models emerge that never would have otherwise. Like Stephanie Nadi Olson, reinventing marketing with ‘agency of the future’ WeAreRosie (full disclosure: I’m a board advisor – so I can tell you their growth is astounding). The future belongs to those who were excluded and forced to start their own, visionary industry – the one brands now need.

Bessie Lee is former chief executive of WPP China and Founder and CEO of Withinlink, a China-based start-up incubator and early stage venture fund, focused on marketing technology that supports the media communications industry.

COVID-19 has made it possible for marketing management to go completely online now. Marketing has always been a labour-intensive industry with most marketers and agencies lacking a sense of urgency when it comes to embracing automation and online marketing management systems. Under mandatory quarantine and lockdown, with more people online as they can’t meet face to face, marketing campaign communication, creation and production have no choice but to go online too and be automated. This is when the impossible becomes possible and people have started to see the efficiency and effectiveness. COVID-19 is the biggest wake up call for everyone in the marketing world!

Gail Gallie is the Co-Founder of Project Everyone, a not-for-profit agency whose work revolves around developing campaigns, content and events which ladder up to the achievement of UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

There is a short answer to this question: Yes. Slightly longer answer:

dictionary.cambridge.org › dictionary › marketing. (1) the business activity that involves finding out what customers want, using that information to design products and services, and selling them effectively

I think we just got proof of the first truly global consumer insight: we all want to stay aliveAnd rightly the priority at the moment is just that, with full credit to the scientists and the front-line workers all doing their best to meet that need. But hopefully what comes after will be a widening of that insight, what it takes to stay alive- a planet in balance with itself, free from the sort of inequity that makes it a lottery of birth that determines whether you got an identity that comes with a health service or not.

Marketing, along with what it is selling, has the ultimate power to deliver this world as it can make us first imagine it, and then act upon it to deliver. It must now use its full powers of creativity, persuasion, and innovation, to reshape the world not back to normal but to a sustainable abnormal that works for all people, and for the planet we all depend on to sustain us.

Back to the definition, marketing needs to effectively sell a new vision for how we can all live and work productively and sustainably without crashing the ship every time a crisis hits us. This time it is a virus, next time it might be a flood, let’s do all we can to prevent there being a final time by spinning the ultimate dream, eternal life if not for any individual at least for the species on earth.

We have been given the gift of a wake- up call by COVID-19. Let’s hope it changes everything, forever.

Claire Beale is the global editor-in-chief of Campaign Magazine. She has written extensively on advertising and marketing for the UK national press, including a column in The Independent, and is a regular media commentator on the industry.

Only five months into this pandemic and it’s already become a cliché that Covid-19 will change our world – the whole world – fundamentally and forever. I don’t think so. But I do think – and hope – that some aspects of how we live and work will change for the better.

Where we can we’ll work from home more. That’s obvious. But in doing so we’ll also dismantle some of the boundaries between working life and home life and that new blend will bring greater harmony for everyone who finds their work fulfilling.

The joy of what we do has always been the relationships we build with inspiring colleagues. With more of the functional parts of our job now done from home, we’ll find new and more expansive ways of interacting with our team mates that really allow us to get the best out of each other.

And as consumers, I think we’re going to be asking a lot more from brands now. Although the economic crisis will demand a greater focus on value-for-money, we’ll expect brands to offer greater value to society and the planet than ever before. And I hope those demands remain long after the Coronavirus pandemic has receded.