Virtual roundtable: Brand leadership and investment through crisis

Dentsu's Hisham Ghostine, Smith School's Kenneth Wong and Level5 Strategy's David Kincaid discuss the risks and rewards of spending through a recession – and how to do it right.
RT Still

This is the second roundtable in Open MiC, a roundtable series by Media in Canada and Strategy. This collection of virtual roundtables will cover branding, marketing and media investment strategies as advertisers attempt to navigate the ever-changing landscape amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

This roundtable, co-hosted by Bree Rody and Justin Dallaire, brought together voices from the consultancy, academic and media worlds to discuss the benefits of spending during a pandemic, how brands can quickly adjust to new consumer behaviours and why this crisis can’t be compared to the recession in 2008.

Level5 Strategy managing partner David Kincaid, Smith School of Business distinguished professor Kenneth Wong and Dentsu Aegis Network CEO of media Hisham Ghostine joined us to discuss the current landscape, which you can listen to here.

Prefer a video version? Check that out below:

We’ve highlighted some of our favourite insights from the roundtable below, which show that, when it comes to media and branding, COVID-19 may have revealed some of the industry’s weaknesses.


Ken HS“If you’re [a brand] in travel or entertainment and we’re telling you to spend [on media] through the recession, you’re probably not going to see the other end of the recession. On the other hand… If you go back to Maslow’s hierarchy [of needs], there’s going to be a whole lot of products out there [like medical protection equipment, even firearms] that we’ve been telling people about for years. Finally we’re going to be able to use Maslow’s hierarchy in other ways than boring our students.” – Wong

“Looking at top-line economy, we’re far ahead [compared to] any crisis we’ve seen before. However, the world has changed drastically between 2008 and now. I’m talking about the SkipTheDishes, the Amazon Primes, the internet in general. Those unicorns came to the rescue for the COVID-19 crisis. We’re seeing that those could be the future.” – Ghostine

“You’ve got to spend where the consumer is now. You have to have some foresight as to where they’re going to go, but you have to spend where they are now. I interpret that as, ‘Just spending [for the sake of] keeping your media and your marketing effort up…’ is a waste of money.” – Kincaid

“While COVID is somewhat of a game-changer in some areas, it’s really an accelerator of some of the changes we’ve seen in terms of a move toward ecommerce… a lot of it was already in progress.” – Wong

David HS“Repositioning because of [the pandemic] would be the very worst thing a brand could do.” – Kincaid

“You either have a winning proposition or you don’t. And if you have a winning proposition, there’s no reason you have to change your brand’s value prop. What you might have to do is revise your copy… [but] as long as you have a good business, I don’t think there’s a dramatic need to reposition.” – Wong