Krishnan is a Marketing and media measurement leader with over 14 years of experience in delivering products, and consulting engagements across Asia-Pacific. His focus for the last 8 years at MediaCom Singapore has been on nurturing teams to design products and solutions using data and technology at scale, to enable brands to grow.

How is the recent COVID-19 outbreak impacting your day to day work life and what steps are you taking to cope with this?

The Covid-19 outbreak has impacted two main aspects of our day to day life:

  1.       Team level:  The new reality has made it more challenging for teams, including ours, to coordinate work efficiently, all while maintaining the morale of all the team members. Keeping that in mind, I believe that combining humour, and empathy is the best recipe to communicate effectively during challenging times. Being able to tackle the team’s concerns and keeping their perspectives in mind, is key to coping with the current reality.
  2.        Visibility level: Due to the complicated nature of the current economic situation, it is very hard to predict a specific timeline for the recovery. However, the nature of our jobs necessitates the flexibility to provide the needed direction for our clients regardless of the reality at hand. With no exact historical data to provide visibility, we believe in the utility of being up to date with the research publications regarding the economic impact of Covid-19 and examining the biographies of countries/economies who survived similar economic hardships. Secondary research allows us to get some sense of what to expect and what will happen.

According to you, how will the COVID-19 outbreak impact Marketing, Marketing Measurement, and Marketing Mix Modelling in particular?

Looking at the industry at this specific point in time, I believe that Covid-19 is impacting us in different ways creating three main tiers:

  1.        Tier 1: Mainly businesses who are facing an impact of plus or minus 30% on their revenue compared to usual. Within this tier, we can also find clusters of companies who are doing better now in some specific industries such as the Video Games Industry. For this tier, I believe that this time should be invested to monitor and understand their expanding set of competitors (e.g. e-commerce) and not cut on marketing spend.
  2.         Tier 2: Companies with a projected loss in revenue between 30% to 60% compared to usual.
  3.         Tier 3: Companies with a projected loss in revenue of more than 60%.

For the last two tiers, we must be very conscious of what marketing and media budgets should be.  Thus, the budget setting is becoming a key focus and we are being asked to provide guidance to clients on how to evaluate their current realities and make the necessary decisions.

And here, businesses are asking four main questions:

  •         What should my budget be during and after recovery?
  •         When should I start spending?
  •          Which are the touchpoints I need to focus on more during and after recovery?
  •          Is it still relevant to invest in MMM?

However, from an industry perspective, we are seeing that everyone is pausing more because it takes organisations few weeks to realise what is the new normal, and this will result in pausing Marketing Measurement and Marketing Mix Modelling as well. In fact, I am seeing that most clients are postponing their MMM projects, and I believe that this will be the norm until countries start their recovery.

How do you think Marketing Measurement can contribute to overcome the economic consequences of this crisis?

The answer to this question will heavily depend on which tier we are discussing. Tier 2 and tier 3 businesses, for instance, will be in need of guidance, and will make great use of services that we can offer at low/no charge to help them through this. Services such as benchmarking will see a big resurgence, while it might be necessary to reduce the cost of services like MMM.

What we can do, is to leverage existing data from past research and perform benchmarking. While we don’t have specific relevant historical data for similar crisis in the past, we can still look at cases where similar businesses to our clients faced certain challenges, and leverage that (e.g. a leading international brand lost their major distributor in Singapore and Malaysia for 6 months, which can serve as a good use case for brands who lost their distribution channels during this period). So, what we have here, is the possibility to be creative and look for similar situations in the past that can serve as a good proxy.

In terms of MMM, clients who are initially investing in MMM projects will be able to derive better benefits from their data in this specific period compared to their normal state, and it will also be the best time for other clients to start investing in MMM. However, we might have to review the cost structure of MMM and try to reduce it (e.g. reduce the data period) to better adjust to the specific needs of this period.

“In a nutshell, we cannot improve something we cannot measure, and right now the focus on efficiency and effectiveness in massive.”

What can we do as a community to prepare to help the industry thrive again after this crisis?

Looking at the specific context of this interview, I believe that this is a great time for cross-industry collaborations. What could be very important from a community perspective, is to try to have events and webinars where we bring the senior marketers of leading brands and ask them what they believe we need to do, understand their specific needs, and engage them with analytics leads in an attempt to exchange valuable insights. We would then need to share the content on all possible channels to bring more exposure and share the findings with the community, which will be a breakthrough.

Any advice you would like to share with the community to cope with the COVID-19 outbreak?

Let’s all follow the processes that have got Marketing Measurement and Marketing Mix Modelling going:

  1. They should know it
  2. They should love it
  3. Then, they will buy it

Thus, we have to share more and more knowledge with clients about measurement during uncertain times and do our best to guide them to make important decisions through these times, make them love it, and then they will buy the services that they can afford at the current time.

I believe that the last mile is very critical, we have an unprecedented opportunity for next year, which will hopefully be a Covid-19 free year, to get more and more clients eager to understand the true impact of periods where there were little or no media vs a period where media was on or where marketing was heavier. Then, we will be able to ask questions such as, what will happen to my sale if I switch off marketing?