February 28, 2012
How Marketers Are Preparing For a New Greece: Successful Marketers Need To Come To Grips With a New Psychological Environment — And a New Approach To Communications
By Mania Xenou, Managing Director of IPREX Partner Reliant Communications
While Greece is constantly in the news for all the wrong reasons, marketers are still competing for customers and finding ways to generate profit. In the catastrophic current circumstances the Greek communication sector is being forced to re-invent itself.
It's true that the statistics are scary. Private sector unemployment overall is at 20 percent (45.5 percent among those under 24), and as demand continues to shrink, these figures are only likely to get worse. The mainstream media are in trouble - TV channels have gone bankrupt, dragging advertising agencies down with them, major newspapers have ceased publication, media pension funds are collapsing, and with 70 percent of journalists aged 30-50 out of work it is estimated that seven percent of them are suffering from long-term depression.
The economic statistics, from the crippling lack of liquidity to chronically low productivity, don't tell the whole story though, and all people doing business with Greeks need to come to terms with something new - a nation in confusion which is starting to lose its social cohesion. People simply do not know what to expect or whom to believe, and there is considerable anger and suspicion as they try to understand how things were allowed to deteriorate so badly.
Unsurprisingly, this is having a major impact on Greek public opinion, which previously reacted immediately to problems identified by the media. Even major crises no longer have the same impact, as society's tolerance is reaching its end — we are "punch-drunk".
Not business as usual
However, despite all this, and while Greece as a nation may be currently uncompetitive, shops are open, restaurants are doing business, companies are trading with each other, firms are importing and exporting and customers are being cultivated. Whether or however Greece defaults, it's clear that further structural change is coming and the successful marketers will be those who can appeal to the evolving Greek business and consumer mindset, no matter how gloomy, with a credible approach to both the current situation and whatever happens next. It is definitely not "business as usual."
Reinventing marketing communication
Companies are freezing marketing budgets, slashing advertising programs and cancelling PR campaigns, while the media landscape is depopulating at speed. But although traditional communication methodologies can no longer be relied on, those public relations professionals still standing are redefining their relevance to their client base in three ways.
First, they are re-inventing corporate and brand positioning to help clients talk credibly to the people in their target audiences. The emphasis is on "people" here, since text-book demographics do not help with the rapidly-changing psychological themes that must now be understood to maintain an organization's credibility and appeal.
Second, they are looking to more mature marketing communication environments elsewhere in the world, where the structure of the industry has changed more rapidly. With its 70 partner firms in IPREX around the world, Reliant Communications is fortunate to be able to access the experience of senior strategists, and get a head start for my clients, who include McDonald's, Kraft, Eurobank and Zara.
Third, they are adopting the new integrated approach now found in more mature markets where, for example, the old advertising and PR "bunkers" are disappearing fast as business adapts to the imperatives of the online world and the discipline of tight budgets. After all, in Greece today, your advertising campaign can be out of date by the time you've thought up a great headline.
Using the speed, precision and responsiveness of social media, we are helping organizations understand and empathize with the fluctuating moods of consumers and businesspeople, identify new influence structures and build new and profitable relationships.
While buying assets and companies is currently a dangerous game in Greece, investment in aligning brands with the mindset of customers through new communication strategies will pay dividends both in short term credibility and long term market share.