Flex, Freeze or Fix – marketing strategies in the time of Covid-19


To use an unprecedented phrase. We are in ‘unprecedented times’.

Some industries are thriving, some are in stasis, some don’t know where they are, and some are gone [going] for good. Some industries are taking the opportunity to make big strategic changes. Some are accelerating the changes they were going to make in the coming months/years etc. We have seen some public sector and private business make changes in 3 days that in ordinary times could take months even years.

Some industries are going to change forever. Or at least their daily functioning and even business models e.g. co-working, theatres, shared spaces or anything that involves a crowd. Many businesses are accelerating their digital transformation. Investing in tech, remote working, and even large scale ‘right-sizing’ sweeping organisation changes. Companies like Zoom, Ocado that were ready to exploit the change in consumer demand/preferences have surged. And, businesses that had not been looking forward, or hoping it wouldn’t happen are suffering!

How should I think strategically?

Last year I completed the Marketing Week Mini MBA in Marketing from the legend that is Mark Ritson. A few weeks back I was on his webinar about Covid-19 and its effects on business.

He proposed 3 generic approaches for this Corona-time. Flex, Freeze and Fix.

These terms resonated with me.

  • ‘Flex’ – where a business/organisation can ‘flex’ their existing capabilities.
  • ‘Freeze’ – or ‘stasis’, where the business/organisation goes into hibernation e.g. to furlough and wait it out.
  • ‘Fix’ – where a business/organisation can use this slow-down time to ‘fix’ their people | processes | strategy | tech stack | resources | deliverables | products | acquisition tactics etcetera.

As a marketer of >20 years, I still try to think of the basics but BIG questions for every project. So, always thinking about market orientation, segmentation mapping, targeting and positioning. Applying this to my influencer marketplace and this could affect the in-house marketers and agencies we support.

In conversations recently with active and future users it comes back to these 3 generic situations.

Are you Flexing?

Are you are shipping products, on-demand delivery over the internet, SaaS etc, you can increase your acquisition efforts. Many firms are doing more direct response style advertising to harvest this increased demand.

These organisations have two generic options:

  • Option 1 – carry on with what you are doing. Maybe more money in PPC and more CSR style adverts ‘to show you care’ etcetera.
  • Option 2 – try / test some new things. Maybe introducing new products/services, running pricing tests, and routes to reach new segments. This could be to grow your business or even defend your lead from eager challengers.

You may be busier than ever. And too busy to think, but whilst you are making the proverbial hay, others may be outthinking you for H2 2020 and next year! Are there new segments you could target? Who are they? Where are they? Are they aware of you already? How to I reach them? What do they need to be move down your funnel?

Are you Freezing?

If your business has nothing to sell e.g. live entertainment, in someone else’s supply chain, you are a reseller/aggregator or a personal service there is not much you can do. You may be right-sizing your business that may mean all efforts are on furloughing, redundancies or just frozen with no immediate end-in-sight. When this eases you hope to pick back-up on the V, U or L shape economic model of recovery you subscribe to.

The next group is the most interesting to me right now.

Are you Fixing?

You are temporarily in a slump. But this is a BIG opportunity to take stock, to think, to be genuinely strategic.

To review your marketing assumptions, plans, segments, positioning, your brand messaging, all of your touch-points through to your bottom up acquisition plans. The whole lot. If you are clever here, you can re-emerge, sharper, more on-point and accelerate hard. This is a time to come out stronger, fitter and energised.

These organisations have four generic options:

  • Option 1 – ‘Confirmation’. You have it right. And when demand comes back/supply is available you carry on as before.
  • Option 2 – ‘Confirmation ++’. You have the right marketing mix, a light refresh and fresh funding with a few tweaks.
  • Option 3 – ‘Right sized’. You may have scaled-up people, resources or even scales back and you have to make the new plans fit the new resources. There may be bloat in the other acquisition plans and you have cut these in favour of new tests.
  • Option 4 – ‘Right shaped’. You have made changes; your team are focused, and you are ready.

Businesses and organisations that are Fixing and are planning to come out strong are most interesting to me. Considerable Influence, is one route to work with bloggers / influencers / creators.

Micro influencers are often overlooked but have so many advantages over other marketing channels. They have built up their own audiences, have built a genuine relationship and trust. So, to work with a blogger to do a product launch, a review, an unboxing, story amplification to name a few is a way to reach your segments and piggyback on this route.

Smart marketers are always thinking about their audience and how to engage with them. I believe IM can be part of any Fix or Flex strategy right now – and in these unprecedented times, trying something new is exactly the right time.

Other recent and relevant articles:

  • How to write a good brief, and what should be in it? – Read more >>
  • How content marketing can drive sales – Read more >>
  • What is content marketing? –
  • How content marketing fits into a customer buying journey – Read more >>
  • 8 reasons why you should invest in IM – Read more >>

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