How is Lockdown affecting the lives of leaders in different businesses? Running teams across multiple markets within the EU Marco already had his hands full as Spotify’s Head of Sales for Europe. In this series of the Marketing Minds he talks to me about how Spotify has had to adapt to the New Normal during the Coronavirus epidemic.
1. Where are you spending lockdown and how do you manage your day?
I am based in Beaconsfield, Bucks and I spend most of my time in the converted playroom, now my office base. My day is as busy as it ever was, in fact we are probably all trying to do too much between child care, work, staying well and being fit, it’s a lot packed into one day! I am focused on balancing the demands though, important to have a break, spend time with my son and some fitness time. Otherwise it is Hangouts/Zoom marathons. As I look after teams across EMEA, it was already part of the deal, but without the travel!
2. What are the biggest adjustments you’ve had to make in terms of your work, managing your teams/ clients?
In some ways the changes have not been massive. I run teams in multiple European markets and beyond, I work for American bosses and with many teams over there, so Hangouts is my daily life. The difference is I cant then supplement that with travel to see them in person, which does really help. On a physical level, staring at a laptop screen is very different to sitting in a meeting room staring at a big screen, much more tiring, so always feel tired at the end of day. We keep adjusting routines, as we move along, we are finding a rhythm, teams are finding what works for them so I would say we are finding our way together. We have to remind ourselves that everyone is living their own challenge, there are no rules or best ways to work.
3. How has your business been affected by and reacted to the crisis?
We are a fortunate business that remains in demand through these difficult times so I have to say we are in a good position. On top of that, as a company we have a huge focus on the well being of the team, so there has been an incredible level of support, communication and services to help people through these difficult times.
Whether it is yoga classes, mental health services through our Heart & Soul team, children entertainment, the company has been on point throughout this pandemic. As a truly global company they have had to adapt to many different countries being at different stages.
4. Spotify have always been very good at using data to provide an augmented experience for customers, what trends have been spotted since the outbreak started?
Listening to the platform has shifted from very mobile listening such as in-car, to very home centred. People are listening together on connected speakers on average in groups of four, listening on gaming consoles has sky rocketed and desktop as they work. We have enjoyed being something people turn to for family entertainment, feel good vibes and help for well being. Whether it is podcasts or music, we all need the support of listening in these difficult times.
We have noticed that people are very nostalgic, so playlists that are focused on ‘the old times’ whatever that means to you, are very popular indeed. I think we are all looking for content that helps us through this and makes us feel good.
5. Do you expect that your company will return to BAU post lock down or do you think there will be some changes? If so what?
I would have to say that I don’t know, I think it is safe to assume that travel will remain reduced for some time and working from home will be the norm for a few months, at least the majority of time. We have to remember there are all sorts of mentalities around this, some are keen to get back, some are anxious, some just can’t depending on child care. There are likely going to be no fixed rules.
As a business we will continue to deliver the service the listeners and creators expect, whether we are in an office or at home, so to that extent it is business as usual.
6. Have you been impressed or put off by any particular brands in how they have responded to the crisis?
I do actually try and give everyone the benefit of the doubt on this one. This has been a seismic shock to everyone and many companies are not well set to work from home at scale, so people needed time. I would say that those companies that have found a way to combine communications with meaningful support have been most well received. I have seen companies deliver free data in telecoms, Sky have made more content available for free and automatically stopped charging for Sports. These kind of things are more meaningful for me than just words.
7. What has been the hardest part and the best parts about lockdown?
Well the best part is easy, as someone who travelled three out of four weeks, spending time at home with my son has been amazing. 2020 is the lost year for so many things but will be my golden year for time with my son and I think I will look back on this time for the rest of my life, I hope he does too. I will very likely miss this time in the future.
I am a people person, I enjoy interaction and being with people. I believe work is still best done in person, not being able to read the signs, body language, the ability to bump into people, that loss has been the hardest for me.
8. There has been talk of massive changes to how we live our lives and how we work due to the lessons learnt from the Coronavirus – do you think this is true?
I would say that some things will remain to some extent. I believe event organisers will see virtual events could be more popular than just physical, at least doing both so they are more accessible to people who cant travel. Other things I think will return to normal, just see the signs, Carnival cruises just announced they are going again in August and they have been swamped with bookings – god knows why..or a KFC take away opens and there is a two hour queue. Does not shout ‘change’.
9. What one thing do you hope will continue post lock down?
I think the kindness that has come out of this, the sense of community, people helping people. All of those who were lonely may now have some friends and contacts after this which has to be a good thing. I also think that there are those with many things and those without. Lets share more, no household as I saw on the news the other day, should have only a phone to home school three kids, when many households have lots of devices.
10. Have you learnt anything about yourself during lock down that you didn’t know before?
I am capable of staying still and not travelling to be happy. I had to go cold turkey, but I have now adapted to that, it is possible!