By Victoria Perea-Usher, Vice President, Marketing Communications, JCB International (Europe) Ltd.
As I’m sure many of my fellow marketers can relate, I started 2020 feeling confident in the plans I had set out for my marketing team and was excited about the potential the new year could bring. These plans – which we had spent many months developing – were sure to set us up for a successful year, building on the incredible growth we have seen across Europe, especially in the past 4 years. And while, of course, we had factored in for any minor road bumps along the way, nothing could have prepared us for the global impact of the pandemic when it hit in March.
As a business centred on international cardmember spend, our marketing plans were structured around travel, physical retail, and physical events – the very things the pandemic put on immediate hold. With our 2020 vision turned on its head, I found myself and my team in a position whereby we were able to step back and reassess our plans pragmatically against the backdrop of an ever-changing landscape. And while this was certainly a challenging period, it was also a valuable learning opportunity – with lessons learned that will stay with me forever and which I will take into future strategies.
Now, more than 12 months on, I have reflected on what I learned during this period – many of which are practical tips and personal insights that will hopefully resonate with others in my field:
1) Bring it back to basics
Having to rethink almost all of our ideas and initiatives was an opportunity to look at the bigger picture and what we needed to achieve. It was an opportunity to “focus on our core values”. At JCB, this always comes back to ‘omotenashi ‘, the Japanese principle of hosting as a gracious act of sincerity and devotion. Or in other words, customer centricity.
By speaking to our cardmembers and business partners, with whom we have long standing and trusted relationships, we were able to understand what their challenges and priorities were during this extremely difficult time – and, in turn, we ensured that our initiatives were set up to support them and our wider ecosystem in order to begin to promote recovery.
This led us to build on our already blossoming and truly purpose-driven, customer-led approach. We are engaging with new platforms and channels to reach our audience such as podcasts and virtual events, as well as finding new ways to authentically connect with our global customer base to drive mutual value.
2) Adaptability isn’t going anywhere
Although things are slowly becoming easier to steer and predict, the need to turn to fresh methods to achieve long-term goals is one that’s here to stay. For us, keeping sharply focused on the overarching strategy and brand principles with a responsive mindset to the world around us has been crucial.
We have been able to empower our partners with curated business insights to support their growth and recovery, all centered around unlocking the enormous spending power coming from the Asian and Russian regions.
We further invested both time and budget into developing guidance around these key data points, via a content recovery series which included whitepapers and animated videos to support this narrative. To further engage our audiences visually, we have encompassed design, iconography and various creative elements into our look and feel.
3) Push forward with new initiatives
Another valuable lesson from this year for me has been in pursuing those projects that we know will have tangible impact and yield positive return. The need to build on and explore what we wanted to do came into sharp focus as we tried more contemporary tactics.
Our podcast series, Gateway to Growth, reaches audiences in over 35 regions including the United Kingdom, Japan, Italy, Austria, the United States, Germany and more. Whilst our series of JCB-hosted webinars -– provide our partners with added value in terms of insights and education, assisting our most senior community with specific solutions for growth in ecommerce.
4) Take your personal growth and development seriously.
When a new challenge comes along, learning new skills means that you will be better equipped to pivot your strategy. New learning and up-skilling platforms, such as Skillshare and Udemy and prestigious universities, are offering free online courses to support professional development.
It is also important to think outside your role and expand your broad-spectrum savvy through widening interests and hobbies. For instance, I took part in a Design Thinking course online which has made me think more creatively around problem-solving. By opening your mind to different ways of working and varied strategies you can become a better marketer. There is something to learn from every industry – comfort zones do not often offer first-class prizes.
My final piece of advice is that whenever you are faced with a difficult or new situation – take a step back, start from zero, and adapt your strategy and focus on delivering value to your community.
There is no greater teacher than self-reflection.