At the beginning of the day, the middle of the week. Two years ago, many of us would have been in a conference room, at a desk, in a car to meet with a customer, or on site to solve a problem.

In the spring of 2022, chances are, unless you’ve succumbed to your “big retirement” and are making artisanal cheese in the Karoo, you’ll be sitting in a Teams meeting and effectively deciding your work priorities online.

And if you’re wearing slippers and shorts, it’s not for me to judge. Although I do know a guy in a little kaftan who makes sheepskin slippers. And it turns out very well.

De Wet Bischoff, Africa Operations and Sales Director, Accenture

De Wet Bischoff, Africa Operations and Sales Director, Accenture

The pandemic has not only changed the way we work, but also our relationship with commerce and technology, and the way we interact with brands. A survey by Accenture of more than 25,000 consumers in 22 countries found that 50% of customers say the pandemic has forced them to reevaluate their personal goals and reevaluate what is important to them in life. We call them “reimagined consumers”.

Having worked at the business-technology nexus and keenly understanding the speed at which change is happening, I wonder if brands have understood this new consumer and how to reach them. Are they rethinking their own policies, protocols and practices to meet the new needs of their customers?

Our research also found that in addition to parity needs such as price and quality, consumers also look for ease and convenience, service and personal care, trust and reputation, product origin, and health and safety. And I would argue that all of this should be presented under the broad banner of ongoing technology support.

Part of the problem, however, is that your competitor is traversing the same data-rich landscape, driving multiple streams of constant opt-in. The clutter has become harder to navigate, but brands that are rethinking their approach are doing it right.

My best advice is to keep innovating, which means a greater acceptance and appreciation of technology. Here’s an example I really like: Not too long ago, when you wanted to sell tomato sauce, you used traditional media channels like radio, television, and print. There is nothing wrong with this approach and they still have a place in retail.

But today, you have no choice but to go beyond the tried and tested. Famous brand Heinz used text-to-image machine learning programs to demonstrate market dominance. In a clever marketing campaign, a machine, rather than a human, was tasked with drawing the tomato sauce, and it was able to draw near-correct iterations of the Heinz brand the first time.

The marketing team used DALLĀ·E 2, a new artificial intelligence system that can create images and art from textual descriptions. This is a great example of how the brand prioritizes innovation and creativity with technology.

I encourage marketers to become what we call Thrivers. Further research we conducted shows that a small group of marketers (17%) are thriving despite global challenges by focusing on the changing motives of their customers and what it takes to serve them in smarter and better ways. These best ways, I believe, also have technology and spontaneity at their core.

Janine Falcone, head of global marketing services at Accenture Song, says: “For today’s brands, in-the-moment relevance is essential.”

Thrivers operate under critical guiding principles, including listening to and understanding the new customer, going beyond the marketing department, and working across departments.

Breaking through the hustle and bustle, these Thrivers outsmarted complexity by leaning towards automating processes and industrializing operations.

All of this, of course, requires new thinking on both sides of the marketing divide, with curiosity being the bridge that will bring technology leaders and marketing leaders together. Both teams need to look more inquisitively at the possibilities.

Marketers have no choice but to upgrade their skills to champion relevant digital campaigns and collaborate more with data scientists, web developers and social media professionals. And my guys on the technical side of the building need to understand the immense power of creativity and embrace the intangible magic of blue-sky thinking.

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