The Hero’s Journey - Enigma Marketing Services
The Hero’s Journey

Marketing in the world of COVID

Despite the striking similarities to a dystopian tv series, our current lives are not in fact a Hollywood production. But let’s hang around here for a while – let’s cast COVID as our villain, and the brands and businesses us marketers work for as our heroes.

In any great story, the hero is transformed by their experiences, we relate to their change and ultimately understand them and feel a loyalty to them. The same is true for brands dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic and cultural fallout.

If brands wish to create stronger bonds with audiences throughout this crisis and be seen an essential part of their customers lives, they need to show them how they – like a hero – have changed in the face of adversity. And it’s up to us marketers to tell the story of this transformation.

Understanding our audience

At the core to all stories is a conflict, and so we must first understand how our specific audience is struggling.

If we look at broad consumer behaviour, we might be out of the initial dip of the lockdown but it’s clear the current recession is causing fears of redundancies which will likely lead to reduced longer-term spending1. This is causing consumer priorities to change, in fact McKinsey reports of customers switching brands at unprecedented rates, with 75 percent of consumers shopping with alternative brands in response to economic pressures2.

By understanding our audience’s struggle, we can begin to form the basic journey – point A to point B – that our brands must take in order to become essential.

Creating a narrative of change

In the first stretch of the pandemic, relationships between consumers and brands actually changed for the better[1]. But this could be attributed to a knee-jerk loyalty that was reinforced by initial changes in content strategies: brands focussed on their commitments to customers and re-iterating their mission statements to them[2].

In order to create a narrative of change, we must increase the frequency at which we revaluate a brands messaging – with its audience at the fore-front of our minds. The precarious path that brands currently tread can easily switch direction, as seen in the recent diversion in priorities from COVID to racial injustice in the US. To show audiences that they are changing, throughout this and any future crises, brands will have to be both nimble and mindful.

We marketers must be just as aware and responsive as the brands we work for. Like any good writer, marketers cannot be precious with their creations: if something doesn’t serve, then we must rip it up and move on.

By knowing a brand’s audience and taking this considered yet flexible approach to messaging we can begin writing the journey and building the narrative of their change. The story, however, happens only when it rings true with their audience.

Forging bonds

The importance of nurturing a strong, understanding relationship with customers cannot be overstated.

Right now, it can be easy for marketers to feel hamstringed in this respect. Operating remotely and digitally has taken away many of the marketer’s beloved relationship-building tools, such as events, face-to-face meetings and physical direct mail, but there is one silver lining.

Deloitte found that 85% of customers are now more open to new digital offerings, and 84% value digital experiences more highly5. Deloitte also concluded that customers are now placing a higher than ever value on such trusting relationships.

Marketers must focus their efforts on campaigns that seamlessly span multiple channels – this will play a critical role in developing powerful relationships with customers from a distance. It is through these bonds that brand’s stories can be told – proving to their customers that they have changed for the better, that despite the current turmoil they are essential, and they deserve loyalty.

Reality check

By understanding an audience’s struggle, by being ever-mindful of the relevance and power of their messaging, and by strengthening relationships, marketers can tell the stories of change that make heroes of their brands.

But there is one part of this hero analogy that is more challenging than the rest. When we give thought to the victims in this story, the rest becomes somewhat frivolous. Victims of COVID are not film extras fleeing some threat across the streets of London. They are real people experiencing the impacts of the virus itself, the government measures that hold us from our lives and loved ones, or the fear that things will never go back to the way they were.

Real-world experiences have always been amplifiers of storytelling, and these real-world stakes should drive brands to do more.

Where the lines between fiction and reality blur, it is up to businesses to not only show their customers why they’re important, but to play a stabilising role amid the uncertainty, and to actually become the heroes their customers need.


1 Retail sales, Great Britain: July 2020
2 Perspectives on retail and consumer goods
3 3 months in, how COVID-19 has permanently changed marketing
4 Why Covid has given marketers the chance to start from scratch
5 The CMO Survey: Special edition report COVID-19 and the state of marketing


By Matt Mundy

Whether you need assistance with an ABM campaign, to improve engagement with channel partners or to take content marketing to the next level, just get in touch.

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