Experience is the New Branding

How Marketing Can Adapt to the New Normal


Many of you are asking how this crisis will change the landscape for marketing professionals. However, the changes required will apply to everyone. If you are in business, then you are in marketing!

Let’s start by level-setting the concept of marketing. 

If you think that marketing is just about communications and advertising… you are just seeing two pieces of a much larger puzzle. The way I like to define it is that marketing is all about experiences! (Ok… think Disney and you’ll know what I mean) 

“Experience” IS the new branding!

The real answer to the question about how this crisis will change the landscape is that nobody really knows. There isn’t a precedent that can tell us how this will impact the current roles of marketing. However, we can learn from different perspectives to gain insight on what we may be able to predict.

In this article I share my key takeaways and personal views from “Marketing in the New Normal”, the topic presented in the Calgary Marketing League’s meetup organized by Caleb Clark, co-founder of Hook + Ladder Digital

This session involved three distinguished panelists:

  • Chris Kneeland “The Bald Wonder” co-founder of Cult Collective (an agency perspective) 
  • Matthew (Matt) Hunt (a speaker’s angle); 
  • Marketing Professor Leyland Pitt, from Simon Fraser University (an academia perspective)   

Here are my favourite topics and my personal perspectives on the panel’s discussion:


Q: How has marketing changed in the new normal?

Matt said, “It is forcing companies to do what they should always be doing… the right things!” 

My take: Boom! Yes! I agree, in happy times, companies (and politicians) can lose perspective of what matters most (human centric approach) and tend to focus on winning at all costs. However, when under pressure, we see great leadership and the essence of good branding principles rise! 

Chris’s comment: “When so many people have lost their jobs and are uncertain about the future, things have fundamentally changed!” 

My take: Exactly! We need to empathize with the individual’s situation first and then build a connection to how we can serve them.

Chris suggested that the opportunity for good marketing practices is to focus on those needs (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) and then, “Enter the conversation consumers are having in their heads.”


Q: How do you pivot and who is doing it well?

Chris believes that in this new normal, the “Principle of congregation is compromised.” 

Many brands such as Harley Davidson rely on generating a sense of community. As a result of this crisis, more brands are becoming creative on how to keep their communities connected.

My take: If you watched my episode of Coffee with Cory – “Brands to Love,” you saw that one of the key elements of a great brand is creating a sense of belonging. 

One of my favourite brands which depends largely on group gatherings is doing an incredible job on pivoting and doing “good.” I am talking about Zumba! You may think it is just a latin-inspired dance class, but Zumba is an actual B2B and B2C enterprise with more than 100K licensed members around the world who pay a monthly fee.

Zumba quickly pivoted and created a virtual app to enable thousands of instructors around the world to help people MOVE from their homes, keeping that strong feeling of community, helping instructors stay relevant and generate an income during this crisis. 

Zumba also lifted the licensing restrictions to allow online classes on social media. And now they are giving 1 million free meals worldwide through the food bank for every participant in a virtual Zumba class! This brand continues to impress me!

Professor Pitt brought up many good points mostly referencing how critical times spur innovation. One of my favourite comments: “Never let a crisis go to waste.”

Pitt referenced innovative products that stemmed from weapons used during the world wars such as the microwave and the GPS.  He also referenced non-consumer facing brands such as John Deere, which in times of crisis developed John Deere Credit and is now remembered by farmers for saving their families. 

My take: Pivoting means rethinking the possibilities and focusing on what your audience needs. The challenge as a society is enabling those who are not clear on how to pivot. I believe this crisis will prove that some industries and past experiences will become irrelevant, such as the demand for office spaces. For example, Twitter has now permanently made it optional for employees to work from the office.

Finally, I love how the participants in this group remain positive and believe that positive changes will come from this crisis.  

“I think something is going to change is human interaction… It will never be the same! [and it will be for the best]”


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Cory Davison

Cory Davison

CEO 4Xperience, Market Research and Experience Design Expert

Cory is one of only 100 Gold Qualtrics Certified researchers and a certified customer experience (CX) expert. With more than two decades of experience as a consultant, entrepreneur and in corporate leadership roles, Cory is a guru in connecting the dots and bringing data into action. Her expertise has been invaluable to companies in several industries.