Experience change today in the era of new sustainable business models and Responsible Marketing | Part 1: The 5 lessons of COVID-19 for Business | Alain DEDOH

Experience change today in the era of new sustainable business models and Responsible Marketing


Never in modern history has a crisis confined just over 4 billion people, depriving them of their free will to do their daily business.

Undoubtedly, the crisis that we have just experienced or that we are still experiencing will have had unprecedented health, economic and societal consequences – It depends on where you were at the time of writing this article.

This article is a contribution to the decoding of this world after COVID-19. It is essentially based on a reading of the situation in France while drawing a parallel with certain regions of the world.

For that, a quick retrospection will allow us to draw the main lessons from this crisis on the business world. Next, we will explore the profound upheavals underway in the evolution of consumer needs and their impact on the transformation of business models. Finally, in the face of these upheavals, we will evoke the proposition that responsible marketing has an important role to play in the emergence of these companies at the service of society and the planet.

The 5 lessons of COVID-19 for Business

1 Rethinking your value chain

One of the first lessons from the COVID-19 crisis is to have exposed the complexity, but above all the fragility of business procurement processes.

In the name of the race for profitability, whole swathes of industrial sectors, mainly in the developed countries have been reduced like a skin of sorrow with the sole aim of tracking costs and making savings. In France, at the cost of abusive closings of production units, with their lots of reduction or even reduction of the workforce, the relocation mainly to Asia and Eastern Europe has resulted increase dependence on certain supplies of vital products, such as surgical masks.

In addition, the regions holding the production units have of course collapsed under the weight of orders which are often difficult to deliver while respecting the specifications of the principals. At first glance, one might think of the jackpot for all of these suppliers, which are worldwide courted during this exceptional period. However, it could be short-lived. It is that at the height of the crisis, we have indeed witnessed the return of state protectionism (notably on the part of the United States and European countries). Better still, many governments having taken the measure of their dependence have decided to reintroduce or even nationalize certain strategic industrial sectors. Undoubtedly, the corporate supply chain will be deeply redesigned in the coming years in order to preserve the responsiveness of businesses in the event of a delivery crisis.

2 Boost your agility and capacity for innovation

According to several informed observers, the health and economic crisis that we are experiencing has had the effect of demonstrating the need for greater organizational agility.

Clearly, we were able to observe heterogeneous attitudes of companies facing the same constraining global health reality.

The most striking example is that of some entrepreneurs and restaurateurs who were able to reinvent themselves at the height of the crisis. They quickly proposed new offers and new delivery methods, made possible through online platforms.

Likewise, some companies have shown great agility. They reorganized their working methods, while others carried out a temporary partial or total conversion of their production.

We can see here that corporate strategies, far from being set in stone, have not withstood the realities on the ground. And this is a great lesson: adapt above all to the needs of the market by demonstrating agility and innovation. Isn’t that the goal of any business?

3 Utility precedes profit

From what has been stated above, we see the appearance of certain characteristics shared by certain companies during this period of health crisis and which could be summed up in one word: Utility.

The purpose of this article is not to draw up any charts, but it is undeniable that certain industries have appeared to be essential in the eyes of consumers. Health, food, logistics, digital, telecommunications, banking and many more have been instrumental in meeting the immediate needs of consumers during this particularly trying time.

Could this suggest that there are useful companies, and others which are not really useful? judge for yourself …

When we take a closer look, the sectors which experienced exponential growth during the crisis Vs those which were the most affected, it appears that the first seem to be deeply linked to vital needs: Physiological needs, the need for security, as well as the need to belong (the first three levels of the Maslow pyramid). On the other hand, activities that have experienced an almost total slowdown perfectly integrate needs for self-esteem and accomplishment (the last two levels of the Maslow pyramid) …

Beyond this analysis, it would be simplistic to venture into the formulation of such a hypothesis on the existence of useful companies and those which would not be.

In reality, the notion of utility could simply be put into context. This means that from this crisis, it can be said that it is up to entrepreneurs to determine for themselves the usefulness of their activity vis-à-vis the market. Concretely, it is a matter of positioning oneself by providing concrete responses to the evolving needs of consumers according to their living context. Such an approach will undoubtedly be a factor in the sustainability of the activity.

4 Build strong relationships with stakeholders

Depending on whether they have endured the crisis or shown resilience, the companies that have succeeded in making their mark are certainly those who have understood the power of relational strategies that are still far too neglected. Banks, suppliers, customers, employees, public authorities are key players in keeping the company at the heart of the crisis. Some examples to illustrate our point.

Indeed, even though the State had undertaken to guarantee the loans that they could take out with their bank in order to “save” their activity, a large majority of companies (especially SMEs), were seen refused this financial boost. Beyond proven technical criteria justifying such decisions on the part of the banks, the fact remains that the relational factor in many cases would have made it possible to come up with tailor-made negotiated solutions.

Likewise, at the height of the crisis, we were able to observe, not without a touch of emotion, customers responding massively to the distress call launched by entrepreneurs to save their business. And even in some cases, “consumption by solidarity” actions have been observed through customers inquiring about news from their “favorite traders”.

Finally, faced with the partial or total cessation of their activities, some companies had to seek the help of their lessor in order to defer the payment of their rent.

These few examples illustrate the importance of trust capital in maintaining any activity even in a crisis situation.

5 Solidarity an intangible asset still under exploited in business

Directly related to the previous point, solidarity is not necessarily something to think about when talking about a business and yet …

The COVID-19 crisis has brought us back to basics, that is, the importance of human life above all else. Like genetic information deeply buried in every human being, the resurgence of the survival instinct has led to the formation of numerous chains of solidarity around the world.

Beyond individual initiatives and groups of individuals, we have been able to observe certain companies providing financial, material and human support to hospitals and their staff, to fragile people (especially the elderly), or even to a whole country by committing to produce masks and respirators. It is true that one could retort that there is always an agenda hidden behind these actions of generosity carried out by companies. It is also true that there is nothing to compel these companies to opt for these means to achieve their ends. Because, the ROI of a donation or any other sponsorship action is as easy to determine as to swim across the Channel …

All this to say that a company useful to its territory will be able to react effectively to defend its values ​​through acts of generosity when the situation requires it.

For the most skeptical of this idea, we can cite some spinoffs from such actions: the image of a corporate citizen and contributory, manifest its corporate social responsibility, improve its employer brand image, strengthen its relational strategy with its ecosystem , improve its trust capital with its customers and prospects, strengthen the commitment of its employees and their sense of pride in belonging to a united collective, etc.

We can see here that there is an unexpected power in the act of generosity. At the height of the crisis, we can even say that it is part of the process of resilience for any company that shares humanist values.

The COVID-19 crisis exposed many weaknesses, but also the formidable resilience of companies and their leaders. These few lessons (not exhaustive) now allow us to better understand that beyond the traditional processes taught in business schools and practiced by a large majority of business leaders, there are other growth factors still under -exploited. And this quick overview was of paramount importance to better understand the new challenges of the transformation of business models and the marketing of the company of tomorrow.

The Author

Through rich human and business experiences from various sectors of activity in Africa and in France, Alain DEDOH (Linkedin Profile) builds an atypical career in the Team management of the CSR project, as well as in Digital Marketing and entrepreneurship.

Today, he is responsible for CSR mission, within a Parisian health group. His passion for CSR and sustainability in general led him to prepare in parallel, a thesis on “strategic management of CSR as a lever for organizational transformation and factor in building a group identity”.

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