It’s been a year unlike any other. Covid-19 has impacted the world around us in so many ways, with some businesses reaping the rewards and others struggling to adapt. Advertising guru and Ogilvy UK Vice Chairman Rory Sutherland joins fellow marketing experts in his podcast series, On Brand brought to you by Alf Insight. Read on for their advice for staying relevant during a time when the only thing we can rely on is change.

Podcast: 10 years change in 10 weeks

Guest: Helen Normoyle, Marketing Director of Boots.

Don’t be afraid to rethink 
In order for Boots to meet the changing needs of today’s customers, Helen says they’ve been “challenged” to “rethink” many of its core offerings. “As a brand, we have to adapt – we have to be where our customers are at,” she says. For example, the company is exploring switching from in-person to digital beauty consultations. At the beginning of the crisis, they used social listening to discover people’s key concerns before answering the burning questions of the day in daily videos. The 84 videos they created generated millions of impressions. “In a time of crisis, people do turn to brands they can trust,” says Helen. 
Combine data with instinct and technology
“Covid has impacted different people in different ways, says Helen. “It will continue to do so over the next 12 months so really understanding that and understanding how we can best serve people will make all the difference.” To best respond, she says, it’s important to combine data and insights with good instincts because although insights can guide you, they “don’t tell you what to do”. And this combined with an understanding of the potential of technology is “where the magic happens,” she says. 
Focus on personalisation
Describing the Advantage Card as the “jewel in the crown” for Boots, its introduction 22 years ago has led to the company developing a “really rich understanding of our customers,” she says. “With the advent of technology,” she says, “that enables us to connect with people one-to-one and really personalise our communications to them.” As a result, she says, Boots is able to “show up in a much more meaningful and relevant way.”


Listen to the podcast here

Podcast: The marketing challenge of convenience vs. commitment

Guests: Matt Hiscock, Vice President of Harry’s, and Franky Athill, Marketing & Brand Director at Patch Plants.

Solve genuine needs 
Franky explains that Patch Plants, which focuses on delivering plants to urban households, set up the business in response to three challenges. The first, a cultural problem when many more people were living urban lives and wanted to “reconnect with nature” without leaving the city. The second, that the gardening industry had not “adapted to consumer changes”, i.e. it’s predominantly offline, out of town, and you often need a car. And finally, consumer problems where people wanted plants but felt like they needed a garden. They spotted a gap in the market and have grown from 20 orders a day 3.5 years ago to 2,000 plants a day during lockdown, with 50% of customers never having bought plants before. 
Set your own standards
Razor subscription company Harry’s also had to think differently in order to establish new standards when it comes to subscription services – an industry that Rory believes is seen with “widespread distrust” due to the difficulty of leaving contracts. The only way forward for Harry’s was to ensure it’s as simple to opt out as it is to sign up. Many companies, says Matt, are “scared” of it being too easy to leave, but he believes it’s the “only” thing that can be done to stay true to transparency. Earning brand trust is key. 
Stand for a cause 
For Harry’s, 1% of revenue has been gifted to non-profits. “We don’t just want to pat ourselves on the back,” says Matt, we want to stand for a cause that will make a real difference to people and set ourselves targets.” Since setting up the company, they’ve hit the goal of helping 500,000 men globally and it helps to give the business a true purpose. 


Listen to the podcast here

During a year while many physical events are on hiatus, why are podcasts such a powerful tool for marketers?

9.4 million listeners In the UK every week – if you’re looking to set up your own, it’s a great way to get your message heard

72% of podcast listeners Listen to the whole episode – they’re engaged in the topics at hand

7.3 hours a week Is the average numbers of hours per week people spent listening to podcasts – there’s an appetite for content

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