Mark Ritson is, as usual, correct.

In his latest typically ranty-pant blog he describes why, for those who make it through the apocalypse, the market won’t change.

The market is the market.

Market forces are market forces.

The same forces will apply after world emerges from its virus-centred slumber.

There will be a market leader.

There will be a challenger.

There will be other businesses in the market.

The relationships between those businesses will be the same – because the market will operate the way the market operates. (Unless we emerge into a world which has decided that market share should be allocated by the drawing of lottery balls at an annual industry convention.)

In broad terms, nothing will change.

The opportunity is in the specifics.

Which specific business will emerge as the market leader?

Which specific business will emerge as the challenger?

The longer the virus keeps us from the the-way-the-market-was, the greater the opportunity will be for businesses that went into the break wondering how they were ever going to get in front of the curve.

The rarest opportunity of them all.

A second chance to make a first impression.

It’s a bigger opportunity for some businesses than others.

FMCG businesses may not move up and down the ladder of choice because there’s some kind of normality despite the disruption. Aisle shelves become virtual shelves and we continue on.

The top end of education probably won’t change given the length of the consideration cycle – unless the enforced lockdown lasts for five years, then maybe things might change, perhaps. (But I suspect, once the reliance on foreign students is rebalanced, Melbourne University will still be the university of choice for people who care about that sort of thing.)

Challenger finance brands have a different kind of opportunity.

Long-funnel purchases like IT infrastructure probably won’t change.

B2B businesses have the biggest opportunity of them all.

Because the market will be smaller.

Because B2C businesses will need B2B support when people start spending.

Consumers will want to resume their lives. But they will be prepared to believe the world they once knew has changed – and here is the opportunity. Because buying habits will be disrupted. Not broken necessarily. But a moment’s chaos can be all the leverage a canny marketer needs.

Customers have very short memories.

John F Kennedy was once supposed to have said, “If you want to see how much you’ll be missed, put your hand in a bucket of water. The size of the hole you see when you remove your hand is how much people will remember you.” (How was he to know how much his bucket would be frozen in time.)

The role of the marketer is to make customers remember.

As much as advertising is an art, marketing is a science.

(Yes, marketers will tell you it’s a delicate balance of scientific rigour and insightful leaps, but that’s also what genetic engineers will tell you about genetic engineering. If your work is based on the scientific method of observation, theory and testing and more testing, chances are you’re closer to science than to art. If your marketing method is to paint gum trees blue and make market prognostications based on the patterns created by the falling leaves, then go ahead – call yourself an artist.)

Look at it this way.

If your favourite brand disappeared tomorrow, how long would it take for you to start buying a different brand?

My guess is, as soon as you started needing a product like that.

Hence the opportunity.

An opportunity based on memory structures, brand preference and the non-ethical nature of the universe.

First things first.

Advertising works through memory.

Marketing is about creating relevant, ownable, distinctive memory structures (which advertising can then leverage and turn spend into profit).

Think Coca-Cola’s memory structures, Coke, Red, Swirl, Happiness, Summer.

Or Nike’s, Swoosh, everyday achievement, Just Doing It.

A Millward Brown study from 2017 shows you shouldn’t assume: a) people will notice you; b) remember you, and; c) remember more than one message.

While I can’t tell you how many people will notice you, or your ads, we do know, in terms of advertising spend, on average only 4% of ads are remembered positively, 7% are remembered negatively and 89% are not remembered at all.

We can’t remember more than one thing at a time.

We like to think we can, but we can’t. It’s why many advertisers will pepper their ads with more than one message. Hoping something will stick. And it’s why many marketers are wrong.

Usually because they don’t want to miss an opportunity to give customers another justification to buy – a trap so filled with the litter of failed campaigns it should have its own name, the “While I have your attention” syndrome. It’s a temptation so fraught with danger, it should come with a warning from Snow White or the Surgeon General.

As the Millward Brown study shows, if the chances of remembering a single message are 4%, the chances of remembering one of two messages is 65% of 4% (2.6%). The third message takes memorability down to 1.2% (30% of 4%) and a fourth message to less than 1% (24% of 4%).

For your product to be bought, it needs to be remembered.

Your promise needs to be remembered – and absolutely tied to your brand.

Left unattended, memory structures will crumble.

The current situation in B2B world means many businesses – especially those who have survived ‘til now with a very thin margin – will not be investing in reinforcing, building or creating memory structures.

Many businesses will emerge blinking into the bright light of a new post-apocalyptic morning and assume a brief period of heightened activity will do the trick.

The same as everyone else.

They will assume if they run some kind of campaign people will notice them, remember them and buy their products. They will compound this error by trying to simply reintroduce themselves to the market – rather than reintroducing the benefit of their brand.

Which a lot of everyone else will also do. 

And they will further compound this by including a host of benefits and product attributes (more than one message) which will: a) reduce noticeability; b) reduce memorability, and; c) reduce effectiveness.

If your job as a marketer is to build memory structures (in order to build preference and therefore sales), now is the time to invest in what those memory structures should be.

And invest in how to best build your brand once the floodgates open.

The market is not fair.

There’s no point assuming normality will pick up where it left off and expecting your fair share. Try working just to get a share. Concentrate on getting a share.

The universe isn’t fair.

The market will be smaller.

The volume of sales will be smaller.

Profits will be reduced. Margins will be investigated.

Customers will take time to ramp up their purchases and their buying habits.

Smarter marketers will still adhere to the principles of the market.

Mark Ritson will continue to be correct most of the time.

It’s not the break in the purchase behaviour that matters.

It’s what you do once “normal” transmission resumes.

And, if you want to change the status quo, what are you doing right now to prepare to make a better first impression?

If the answer is, “Waiting to see what happens” my guess is you’ll be unpleasantly surprised by someone who’s doing more with their time than rearranging their home office.

Mark Ritson is right.

The market won’t change.

And therein lies your opportunity.

Use the forces that drive the market against the opposition – like some black-belted marketing sensei.

The makeup of the market could well go through what government likes to call, “a period of adjustment”.

The opportunity is in ensuring your brand position is adjusted upwards.