Goodbye and good riddance.
No one could have predicted what our nation would have to endure in 2020. The pandemic, the renewed fight for social justice, the election and politics in general were so heavy that most people were expecting to see the rapture come at 11:59 PM on December 31. Despite all that we faced in 2020, here we are. Whether we were stuck at home on virtual meeting after virtual meeting, or sharing WiFi with our kids and spouse, a lot of us had the opportunity to learn more about ourselves and how we want to work in 2021 and beyond. Some of us were able to understand how workplace flexibility is crucial to maintaining our mental, physical and spiritual health, and most marketers were able to see that we didn’t have to be in an office to execute marketing plans.
“Adversity introduces a man to himself.”
– Albert Einstein
Above all else, 2020 taught us that we need to be thinking more about the future of our organizations and our industries if we want to survive. The pandemic shed light on how we function as organizations, ensuring that staff have a proper work/life balance. Our jobs are one of the leading causes of stress, so when you add the extremely high levels of uncertainty that a pandemic brings, it’s a recipe for disaster. We’ve learned that we can no longer stay silent on issues that are important to society because those issues directly affect how consumers view our brands. Seventy percent of consumers say it’s important for brands to take a stand on social and political issues, and 66% of consumers said they believed brands should weigh in on social issues because they can create real change. We learned that humanity still exists and can bring out the best in all of us.
“An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
– Winston Churchill
Going into 2021, our marketing plans may still be unresolved because of the uncertainty that comes with navigating a pandemic. So rather than sharing trends, I wanted to share four words to help you improve your marketing. These four words can serve as underlying themes for your strategies and tactics, because I believe they will lead you to a path of marketing success.
Agility. One of the first lessons we learned when the pandemic began was how to make swift decisions when it comes to marketing plans. Most of us had to pull the plug on existing media plans and campaigns due to the negative impact that COVID-19 placed on our industries. When states and cities implemented restrictions, we were forced to make more decisions. And then when those restrictions were lifted, we were forced to make yet another set of decisions. Agile marketers are the future and it means you should be using data and analytics to continuously identify opportunities or solutions to problems in real time and evaluating results. Being an agile marketer also requires you to plant creative seeds with your team about culture and trends, so when opportunities come along you can participate in trending topics before they pass.
Diversity. COVID-19 and social justice have two things in common – they both disproportionately affect communities of color. People of color die from COVID-19 at a much higher rate than white people, and are more likely to suffer from police brutality. These two issues are leading the conversations around how our nation can support people of color and other marginalized communities. A lot of times, we don’t want to have these conversations because they are uncomfortable, so the response is always, “our organizations don’t make political statements”. But diversity, equality and inclusion, are not political issues – they are human rights issues. Consumers are more likely to purchase a product or service from a company after seeing an ad they consider to be diverse or inclusive. Your organization needs to do a top-down assessment of your diversity policies, from employee training and hiring practices to creative assets and vendor selection.
Personalization. Personalization has been a marketing buzzword for years, and it’s often referred to as the Amazon Effect. Not only has Amazon disrupted the retail market, but they have changed consumer behavior when it comes to shopping patterns, customer expectations and shopping recommendations. With the pandemic, all of us were forced to do more with less – less money, less staff and less resources. But sometimes having less, allows us to focus more on delivering the best experience for our customers. Work towards making your touch-points with your customers as personal as possible. Ninety-one percent of consumers say they are more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations that are relevant to them, and 74% of customers feel frustrated when website content is not personalized.
Trust. In recent years, we have seen how much Americans distrust information from politics to companies and organizations. But one thing we do know is that people still trust people – above anything else. Word of mouth is still one of the most trusted channels, when it comes to decision making, as 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends, 88% of customers trust online reviews, and 74% of consumers identify word of mouth as a critical influencer in their purchasing decision. When it comes to connecting with your customers, there are few things more valuable than trust, it’s essential to all business relationships. You can build trust through being authentic, personal and transparent.
Here’s to 2021, good luck.