Last updated: State of the world: Marketing experts on COVID-19 in their regions

State of the world: Marketing experts on COVID-19 in their regions


As the world shifts to a new way of life in the midst of a global pandemic, marketers are facing unprecedented challenges, scrambling to adapt to changing customer needs.

Physical events are being ported to virtual. Content messaging must be re-written. Sales support has transformed into a new, never-seen-before model. Additionally, the element of future uncertainty looms, leading to further complications in establishing a firm plan to move forward.

In fact, in a recent survey of over 887 UK brand marketers by MarketingWeek and Econsultancy, respondents raised the following top three concerns:

  • 68% were concerned of the future, with uncertainty around budgets, planning and events.
  • 45% were unsure of how organize people and systems for remote work.
  • 43% were worried about maintaining strong communications with clients.

Across the globe, different regions are facing similar situations. We asked senior marketing leaders from around the world about how COVID-19 is affecting them, and how they’re adapting regionally. 

Marketing experts from around the world report on what COVID-19 looks like in their region, and how they’re adapting

Jennifer Arnold, VP of Marketing, SAP Customer Experience
Region: Asia Pacific Japan & Greater China

How has COVID-19 impacted your region?
Part of Asia has been through the worst of it (we hope), so there is some semblance of normal business returning in markets like China, Korea, Japan. However, there is recognition of the toll it’s taken on economies – especially since those markets are manufacturing hubs at the core of global supply chains – so if markets globally are disrupted, they will continue to feel the impact. Business continuity is a big topic of discussion – future proofing business to ride out the long-term implications of this and be prepared should pandemics, like large natural disasters, become part of the new normal

How are you shifting your focus to adapt?
Moving from physical events to digital and webinar, with adapted messaging that addresses the new business issues companies are facing – depending on the industry, some are struggling to keep businesses running, while others having to scale up extremely rapidly.

What takeaways & learnings can you leverage from this going forward?
From a marketing perspective? Shining a light on the need for a strong digital presence, customer feedback tools, and marketing automation tools that help you make decisions and act quickly – hopefully seeing more investment in those areas.

Michele Keeffe, Head of Field Marketing at SAP Customer Experience
Region: North America

How has COVID-19 impacted your region?
Our North American region was highly leveraged on events to drive leads, but we won’t have events for 6 months. We’re likely to see a very quick drop off in leads coming into the pipeline.

How are you shifting your focus to adapt?
We are quickly reorganizing into work-stream focus. Leveraging campaigns through the buyers journey more deeply, placing more focus on stalled pipeline and acceleration, developing new programs with 3rd party publishers and associations to tap into their databases to drive top of funnel and nurture activities, and new delivery programs including a podcast series.

What takeaways & learnings can you leverage from this going forward?
I joined SAP in November with the goal of transitioning an event-heavy program to a multi-channel program over 18 months. It’s been painful, but we are going to make this shift in a matter of months and I don’t see us going back. I do see events as a very important part of the mix and we won’t stop them all together. But we will go from a mix of 80% events to something closer to 20% events.

Andreas Helios, Head of Marketing at SAP Customer Experience
Region: MEE

How has COVID-19 impacted your regions?
While every informed person knew that the COVID-19 crisis would hit the region sooner or later, most people have been still been surprised by the dramatic impact it has on our daily lives. It will take some time to fully comprehend the impact on our supply chains, customers buying behaviors, and the economy as such.

How are you shifting your focus to adapt?
We agreed with our stakeholders on three simple steps to adapt to the new situation:

    1. Speed is more important than perfection. We need to be agile and think hours, not weeks
    2. Stop physical programs (events) and moved the entire marketing (roles, processes, budgets) towards digital
    3. Adapt the messaging towards business continuity while showing empathy and willingness to help

What takeaways & learnings can you leverage from this going forward?
The purpose messaging is more valid than ever. Helping companies to run (better) is the #1 task in this crisis situation. The shift towards digital has been significantly accelerated and we will benefit from this in the future. A crisis situation requires to adapt quickly to a new situation. This is the change process and sense of urgency that most enterprises need in the digital transformation.

Maya Price, Marketing Director, SAP Customer Experience
Region: UK & Ireland

How has COVID-19 impacted your regions?
From an internal point of view, this has really brought people together (as strange as it sounds) – we take time to talk more, to reach out ,and find out how people are doing. Every call begins with a “check in” around how we are all feeling, adapting, where we see concerns and challenges. We are amazed at how quickly everyone has adjusted in our team, but it is only because we have been given the freedom and trust to do what is needed and what is right for our families and our health, above everything else.

Externally, we are seeing so many struggle. Our hearts, our gratitude, and our appreciation go out to those who are essential workers and need to be on the front line to keep the country going. We all have friends and family who are affected in one way or another, either having to go into work without the option of working from home, or losing their jobs, or just the uncertainty of how to maintain family life for an extended period. Supply chains are stretched, health systems are stretched, and the country is trying to come together to help one and all.

How are you shifting your focus to adapt? 
With our largest MU event of the year – our flagship event InnovationX  being cancelled one week before the event date, the company as a whole was devastated, but completely understood it was the right thing to do. We had to quickly respond to customers, work with partners on new initiatives, and pivot our marketing team to think beyond the physical.

We realised that speed is better than perfection, and it was better to do something quickly and ten add to it, adapt it and modify it as we went along. The entire team is dedicated to bringing the most out of our digital platforms, engaging with customers in new ways, when they are ready, and with compassion. Yes, it’s about getting messages out there, but especially that ensuring the content is relevant and appropriate. We also put ourselves in our customers’ shoes – and their customers’ customer. This is now about helping, creating a sounding board, and building a community. Doing good because it’s the right thing to do.

What takeaways & learnings can you leverage from this going forward?
The pivot to digital, while has always been a priority, has  fast tracked to the front of the queue. Trainings are more visible, and help is always at hand. We really do feel that we are all in this together. Marketing, comms, pre sales, COEs, sales, etc – we are all coming even closer together to do the right things.

And it’s about listening – to our team mates, our partners, our customers and our communities, what do they need, how can we help…because doing good is good business and right now it’s all about doing what we can to help.

The retail landscape is shifting.
Consumer buying behavior
is changing.
Learn how to adapt your e-commerce marketing strategy HERE.

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