For the first weeks of COVID-19, it felt like the end of the world was indeed finally here. The stock market was falling, companies were laying people off, people were forced to work from home, grocery shelves emptied, and, almost every country in the world had infections and deaths soaring – there seemed to be no end in sight. Many of us who have been through other crises before could not help make comparisons of past crises — the dot-com bust of 2000, 9/11 in 2001, the financial crisis of 2008. However, even the most optimistic of us couldn’t help feeling that this was different — never before, in our lifetimes at least, had we seen a crisis with a catastrophic combination of a financial crisis and a humanitarian crisis happening simultaneously and at a global scale.
12 years ago, when I founded Jivox, just before the 2008 financial crisis, the thing I learned very quickly (and painfully) was that Marketing was almost always the very first budget to be cut in a crisis. In general, most CEOs and CFOs in the midst of such an enormous crisis, take the attitude of “shoot first and then aim” when it comes to cutting costs in a crisis and marketing is an easy target. Given most of the Marketing function in large companies has traditionally been outsourced, it’s an easy place to cut before you think of cutting personnel. Within Marketing, media spend is, of course, the easiest to cut and so that goes first and then possibly services, tech vendors, and lastly personnel, probably in that order.
COVID-19, therefore, at first felt like yet another crisis that would decimate Digital Marketing tech companies as budgets were cut and it seemed like we would go into another nuclear winter for tech purchases. COVID-19 was, of course, a crisis like many others before, but it was also unlike others — different as it seemed like it could be short-lived, with various pundits predicting so-called “V” and “U” and “boat-shaped” recoveries. As we saw groceries and consumables flying off the shelves (toilet paper anyone?), another question that came to mind was whether with the significant change in lifestyles with working from home, whether this was going to impact all businesses or just some.