Mark Evans is Managing Director, Marketing & Digital at Direct Line Group. He was appointed to the role in June last year, after serving as Marketing Director since 2012.

We caught up with Evans to find out how his job has changed since the Covid-19 outbreak, and ask what advice he would give marketers right now.

Here’s what he had to say…

Hear Evans speak at Festival of Marketing: Fast Forward, June 7-10th. Other speakers include Unilever’s Chief Digital & Marketing Officer, Conny Braams; Nestlé CMO, Aude Gandon; and Amazon Studios’ CMO, Ukonwa Ojo.

Please describe your job: What do you do?

I lead the Digital and Marketing functions – but in truth they are both very strong and self-sufficient teams so most of my time and energy is spent across helping the organisation become more customer and digital centric, representing the teams through to the Exec and Board, and in creating the right context for everyone to thrive.

Creating that context has included the need for a greatly increased level of engagement and communication to keep everyone feeling included and motivated in the creation of a virtual marketing office with lots of virtual stand-ups, huddles, and Lunch & Learn events.

How has your typical day been impacted in the short term by the pandemic?

Most notably I have happily been able to swap nearly 4 hours of commuting with a morning walk each day and having dinner with my family. That said the first few weeks were heavily dominated by crisis management as we adjusted to an emerging new reality. For example how do we re-cut our media plans in the short term, how do we guide our customers through a time when we are moving 10,000 people into home-working. However, that has settled down quite a bit now and I have been amazed by the resilience and ingenuity of our people in this moment.

What are your favourite tools and techniques to help you get your work done at the moment?

I have used Trello for a number of years but am now finding it more useful than ever. It’s a simple kanban app but is incredibly effective at keeping track of everything when things are moving very fast

Mark Evans, Managing Director, Marketing & Digital, Direct Line Group

Which companies have impressed you since the outbreak?

The food retailers have done a pretty good job in their advertising communications in terms of reflecting people’s desire to feel a sense of connection, showing adverts that are humble, human and very relatable.

It’s a bit pot-luck right now though and I genuinely feel for anyone working in travel, entertainment and other most seriously impacted sectors. Some companies seem to have made self-sacrificial moves though, such as declaring too early that they would cut all advertising spend when they perhaps didn’t need to, which I suspect will be a regretful move

What changes are you making to help your brand connect with how people are feeling and experiencing the pandemic?

We have very much focussed on being useful, updating customers with how our products and services are adjusting. A good example is to let customers know that we decided to automatically cover their vehicles for volunteering.

We are desperately trying to avoid doing anything that could be seen as splashy, sales-y, or jumping on the bandwagon. There is still an important role to tell customers how we are helping them, helping our people and doing stuff that is in the nation’s interest but there is an important tonal aspect to doing that.

What trends have you seen in the last few weeks in your sector?

We have seen a reduction in shopping activity. It looks like in these early days of the pandemic many people have more pressing needs. We have, however, seen an increase in customers contacting us because they are in financial difficulties. This is something that we see frequently but the increase has been significant so we are doing everything we can to help in these circumstances

What advice would you give a marketer right now?

Be curious – we’re all learning. Despite the fact that this is a highly uncertain time it is also an incredibly rich learning environment. Everywhere you look new things are emerging, be that new ways of working, through to huge changes in media and living in general. It takes its toll on all of us to some extent but we will get through this and those that will bounce into the new reality with more vigour will be those that maintained a high level of inquisitiveness. At the very least though it’s critical to stay in tune with the mood of the nation to ensure that all communication is relatable.

What does long term planning and strategy look like now at your brand?

At the beginning of the crisis we set out four clear priorities – look after our people, look after our customers, keep thinking long term, do things that act in the nation’s interest.

In this way we had long-term thinking identified as an important consideration from the outset. Having said that it is important not to solidify predictions too soon given that everything is evolving so fast and there will be unexpected twists and turns. Nonetheless, we are reviewing our long term consumer trends work in light of Covid-19 and we have a Board strategy day set up in June to take stock on our overall strategy.