Lorraine Cushnie | July 21st, 2022

New Narrative’s team has been back on the road over the past few months, catching up with clients in Asia and Australia. It’s been great to be able to have in-person meetings again and get a sense of how marketers in these regions are feeling about the rest of the year.

While the uncertainties caused by the tough economic environment and the war in Ukraine are causing a rethink of strategies and messaging, it’s clear that companies are committed to pushing ahead with their marketing plans. There’s also a greater understanding of the importance that thought leadership plays in any campaign.

And because we’re a caring, sharing bunch at New Narrative, we’d like to talk about some of the trends that have emerged from our meetings. We hope you find them useful.

We’re all podcasters now

At New Narrative we‘ve been helping clients conceptualise and produce podcasts for a number of years now. But despite the general proliferation of this medium, many B2B marketers in Asia have been hesitant about including the format in their plans. Not anymore. As our conversations with clients made clear, the discussion about podcasts is no longer about if, but when.

In addition, there is a recognition that podcasts can - and should - be more ambitious than simply interviewing an in-house expert on a chosen topic. Ideas that regularly came up include opting for an audio magazine or storytelling format to help the series stand out from the competition.

Being more adventurous with the speaker list is also becoming important. For instance, if you’re discussing digital transformation, why not include a psychologist who can comment on why people and businesses find it hard to change. Or if you’re talking about supply chains, consider inviting the owner of a retail outlet or a warehouse manager.

China is a challenge, but it’s still on the agenda

Producing thought leadership about China has always required marketers to tread a fine line. While any strategy will want to promote the economic and investment opportunities, true thought leadership should also address the risks of investing in China. But marketers typically, and understandably so, worry about falling foul of Beijing’s sensitivity to criticism.

While these issues have always been part of the challenge, it’s evident from our conversations with marketers that the war in Ukraine has forced businesses to rethink how they communicate about China. This has been largely driven by the fact clients are no longer willing to receive one-dimensional insights about the country against a broader shift in the investment case for China.

Yet for now at least, China products and services remain a part of companies’ marketing plans. This is a reflection of the huge investment financial services companies have made into China over decades. As one marketer at a private bank told me: “Can we, or our clients, afford to ignore China given how huge their markets are?” The answer, for now, is no.

Budgets are holding steady for now

It’s well known that marketing budgets can be one of the first casualties when companies are looking to save money. But so far, the marketers we spoke to are not being asked to cut costs or curtail their marketing plans for the second half of the year.

One key takeaway from this trend is that after so many years of disruptions, there is an acceptance by the people that hold the purse strings that plans need to adapt rather than be put on hold. Also, the resilience that has been built up during the Covid-19 pandemic means marketers are in a better position to deal with uncertainties than they were before the crisis.

Content strategy takes centre stage

If you’ve followed N/N’s blog posts for any length of time – or indeed if you’ve been a client or potential client of ours – you know we are strong advocates of having a clear strategy in place before embarking on a content marketing campaign (in case you’ve missed them, see here, here and here, for some examples).

So it’s been refreshing on our trips to see marketers putting a greater emphasis on planning and setting milestones for their campaigns. For some, this is a recognition that without having a plan in place it’s a struggle to deliver on content marketing plans. For others, the need to prove the ROI of campaigns and provide measurable outcomes is the driving factor. In addition, the high volume of thought leadership that is now published means it takes more work at the beginning of a campaign to identify where your company’s thought leadership can add value and cut though the noise.

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