Marketing Through Supplymagedon

The labor crisis, the great resignation and COVD-19.  Any one of these global issues could have impacted our collective capacity to produce, but you line up all three of them at once and you have all the ingredients for a massive, once in a generation supply chain crisis.  As a marketer, I considered the impact to our business back in Q3, but I wasn’t compelled to write about it until a recent discussion with an esteemed colleague.  In reference to a client postponing work, he simply said, “Well supply chain issues…not much you can do there.”  He wasn’t wrong and I was prepared to move on from that discussion… but then I saw this headline in the Washington Post….”Even the new Girl Scout cookie is having supply-chain issues”.

OK…now, this needs to be addressed!!

So, the question – What can you do as a marketer, when you are facing supply chain issues? 

On initial evaluation, you might think – “why promote a brand when you don’t have the product to sell? As a marketer, is there really anything you can do?”  In short, yes there is plenty we can do.

First scrutinize your short to mid-term goals and projections. Review the benefits to resetting expectations, or at least consider creating a secondary set of metrics that enables you to make more informed strategic business decisions based on current realities.

Next, here are four key considerations for brand marketers in the era of Supplymageddon:

Adjust the message and the offering:

  • Many products have different product offerings or varying payment terms.  Take wireless carriers for example.  The great value to the wireless carrier is the sale of airtime. They don’t really care if you buy a phone from them,  they just want you to switch.  In the current climate, the message should shift from a “phone first message” to a “Bring Your Own Phone” (BYOP) message.
  • The automotive, household appliance and furniture industries (to name a few) all provide low-to-no monthly payment terms in order to create urgency in the purchasing decision.  In this era of challenging supply chain, plus crippling inflation, a reverse strategy of “pay now to lock in current prices” is a better way to shift customer expectations. Replace the feeling of frustration with a “worth the wait” sentiment and encourage lease to own or similar purchasing behaviors.

Think ahead: Improve planning

  • Social: This is the ideal time to improve your planning through a longer term, sustained social engagement.  From content calendars to potential partnerships with creators, the savviest social marketers are thinking 12-18 months ahead (at least).  Develop plans to leverage social to drive brand health metrics to positively influence long-term sales and conversions. Brands should consider locking in some of those creator deals now and developing a calendar with content for later in the year (or when supply is planned to come back to normal levels).
  • Partnerships:  Brands should always be evaluating partnerships for their brand fit and benefits. Now more than ever, partnerships should be evaluated for the flexibility of those benefits. Reviewing deal points with a sponsorship expert will insure you are not only getting value across live, social, digital and added value benefits, but also have the ability to shift the emphasis between those sponsorship assets.  This approach will also save a lot of back and forth with legal, should your business needs change.

Sales & Customer Service

  • The relationship between marketing, sales, and customer service is never more challenged than during a supply chain crisis (Google “sales and marketing meme” if you need confirmation or a reminder). This is a time to lean into creativity to develop solutions together.  From a customer service perspective, this is not a time to hide. Customers are more receptive to transparency during these difficult times. Solutions such as an improved customer service representative training program, cross departmental customer focus groups or greater overall customer/shopper engagement will enable your business to shift the narrative from what someone is missing (your product) to what they are getting (empathy and honesty).   Great brands are like great leaders, a little vulnerability can be a powerful positive.


  • When the fear of missing out turns into the reality of missing out, shopper engagement (especially digital engagement) is critical.  Giving your greatest brand advocates the ability to engage and stay engaged will allow you to maintain a positive overall sentiment in the market.  Consider updating your digital UX flow to consider the new supply chain reality.
  • Establish or improve loyalty.  Provide opportunities to gain greater access, greater value or priority access to products or services post the product supply gap.

As you consider your marketing options, it is important to remember, brands that invest in brand development are the ones most impacted by supply chain because they have built up demand. However, the brands who invest in branding are also the most likely to survive Supplymageddon. After all, it’s not like a retailer is going to replace Oreos, Tide or Campbell’s Soup with something else. That’s because those brands have made the investment and will be rewarded for it.

By: Mike Kelley
Managing Director