We have entered a ‘Novel Economy’

by Brian Solis. We have entered a ‘Novel Economy’ as the global pandemic has reset standards for brand engagement and marketing.

by Brian Solis. The global pandemic has reset standards for brand engagement and marketing. In times of global disruption, it’s important for brands to reach out and remind customers that their health and wellbeing are important. But, these are no ordinary times. We’ve entered a Novel Economy. And like the Novel Coronavirus, the Novel Economy represents new, unusual, and uncharted conditions.

There is no playbook to navigate a global pandemic and resulting economic shutdowns, particularly the stringent lockdown conditions that many brands in South Africa have had to abide by. Yet, brands still have to survive. One way to do so is through marketing and customer engagement. The challenge is how to do so effectively in a pandemic without using outdated strategies, misusing platitudes, appearing as insensitive, or ignoring COVID-19 completely. Success forward requires a delicate balance of customer empathy, meaningful values, and of course, innovative technology.

Unfortunately, in the early days of the pandemic, many brands appeared to reference the same generic marketing template. This was uncomfortably clear in a video montage that featured clips from advertisements by leading brands titled, Every Covid-19 Commercial is Exactly the Same. As a result, customers were open to hearing from new brands, making brand loyalty itself up for grabs.

This is a time to be a light in the lives of consumers, to find ways to add value or remove friction, especially when customers feel overwhelmed and anxious. Those brands that take the time to understand what matters to customers and why; and communicate kindness and caring, will cinch newfound opportunities for genuine engagement.

Brands need a new playbook

Forbes recently published what could serve as a working outline for marketing and customer experience in the Novel Economy. In it, I explore trends among innovative brands and how they’re upgrading marketing toward customer experiences. Four key takeaways:

  1. Marketing transformation takes on a new sense of urgency, requiring true 360 customer understanding and engagement, at every stage, from discovery to engagement to retention and loyalty to advocacy. In fact, Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer research on customer engagement, indicates 69% of customers are reporting that they expect connected experiences, and 84% say the experience is as important as its products and services.
  2. Cross-functional collaboration is a mandate. CX integration will become the new standard, especially digital experiences. Marketers now need to think digital-first and digital only engagement and how those experiences play out across the journey. Cross-functional partnerships are instrumental.
  3. Data-driven empathy helps marketers deliver personalised and meaningful customer experiences as customer expectations and preferences evolve. Marketers cite data unification and activation among their top five challenges. Therein lies opportunity for differentiation and innovation. Data unification is the most effective path toward a 360 view of the customer.
  4. To engage customers from a true 360 approach takes a common, agile platform that can keep up with customer evolution, while bringing cross-functional teams together around the customer’s truth. For instance, 63% of these elite marketers, for example, use the same CRM system as sales and service departments.

The most meaningful way forward is to place the customer at the centre of your vision and decision-making in two distinct strategic phases: one with-COVID; and the other, post-COVID. This isn’t the ‘new normal’, and we’re not quite yet at the ‘next normal’. For the next 18-24 months, we’re in an ‘interim normal’ – a state of transition and uncertainty. During a global pandemic, as digital-first customer behaviours are accelerating, delivering the basics; combined with empathetic, connected, and innovative, cross- and omni-channel experiences are now matters of necessity. To thrive in the Novel Economy, brands and marketers must become the very people they’re trying to reach.


Brian Solis is a global innovation evangelist at Salesforce, a global leader in Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Marketing trends and brand engagement is shifting as a result of the coronavirus and evolving consumer attitudes. Solis details how brands are inadvertently damaging relationships and provides guidelines on what brands can do to upgrade marketing towards customer experiences.

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