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Opportunities in a new era? Three brands’ POV

WBR Insights’ B2B virtual summit was interesting because of the myriad of brands they gathered to speak at their online event. Over the course of a few panel discussions, the moderators asked tough but pertinent questions.

How is the pandemic shaping the industry? What specific problems do these changing economic conditions pose for you and to what extent has the coronavirus impacted your brand and communications strategy to date?

Here are responses that panellists gave, summarised into a nutshell for each.

PPG Industries’ Chief Digital Officer, Devashish Saxena saw the pandemic hit the different countries PPG operates in, at different times. No doubt, the crisis has accelerated digital transformation and it also occurred out of the blue which many industries were not prepared for.

Devashish said, “What it has done for me and PPG is really put us in a space where we had to demonstrate our nimbleness – how quickly could we move to changing market circumstances, to changing market behaviour because of the changing market circumstances.

“And our ability to serve them was constantly evolving based on what actions we may or may not be taking in terms of who is available and who is not. And then we had to balance that against the digital readiness we have in different markets and different businesses, that we could bring to the table.

“How could we quickly adapt some things, and put them in place when there was absolutely nothing (in some markets), and how could we do that in a very quick manner? So coming down that funnel, from market to PPG to digital, for us that’s kind of been the key areas where I’ve seen impact.”

In short, different strategies were required for different markets. There were different levels of digital maturity to consider as well as the very unusual circumstance of different markets being in various different stages of lockdown or re-opening.

Susie Wong, Chief Digital & Marketing Officer at Fuji Xerox (FXP) highlighted the heritage the company has in document management and how this puts them in unique position to translate intelligence on paper and documents into information that enables businesses to make smarter decisions by looking at digital processes and digital workflows.

When the virus’ devastating impact was starting to felt, FXP found itself needing to transform itself in terms of offerings, who they partner in the ecosystem and so on… “It has put the whole transformation for us as an organisation, on steroids,” Susie described.

Some things which they looked into included: How to sign documents online, how to do contract lifecycle management remotely while working within constraints of regulation.

Susie saw the pandemic as having reinforced their narrative of helping businesses digitise their information into a format that can be managed, retrieved and monetised.

“So COVID-19 from our perspective has become the biggest single push in terms of convincing the skeptics to get onto the bandwagon,” she said.

Siew Ting Foo, VP & Global Head of Marketing Strategy and Planning, HP shared her view that really understanding insights and how human emotions evolve, is the starting point of how HP looks at pivoting its strategies.

How you access the market and how you talk to the market is totally disrupted. Everything pivoted straight to e-commerce and online platforms, Siew Ting had observed.

And at different stages, at different markets, there are different levels of capabilities.

Then there is also the impact the coronavirus has had upon consumers. There is skepticism about brands now, but also willingness to be open towards brands’ perspectives by consumers.

Does this spell as opportunity for brands to put their best foot forward? Siew Ting and her fellow panellists, generally agree that honesty is the best policy when communicating with their audience.