Reflections of Marketing in 2020

October 10, 2020

It’s been an interesting era to be in digital marketing during 2020. I use the word, “era,” because the word “year” doesn’t seem to do it justice. 

I’ve written down some reflections about this past year in hope that it may help some of you gleam some takeaways and offer commiseration for others.

Hitting the Pause Button

It’s always been important to monitor what’s happening in the world to “read the room” and know whether or not it’s a good idea to proceed with messaging as planned. What was different this year was the extent of time that we had to hit the pause button. 

I would wager that there isn’t a digital marketing team out there that didn’t have to reinvent their Q1,Q2,Q3 & probably Q4 strategy. 

In the US in both March and June there was a significant amount of time that messages didn’t go out on social media. Brands have a business obligation to continue to drive awareness or consumer demand but in this moment, many brands chose to withhold their messaging in order to allow  the voices that needed to be heard a better chance of getting through the crowded social media fray. 

There is, however, a downside to monitoring social media at all times. There were times this year when the topics were incredibly emotional, and unlike everyone else I couldn’t simply “unplug” when things got intense. It’s literally my job to stay plugged in. I learned that finding an outlet that allowed me to mentally step away for a little bit every day recharged my batteries, and ultimately helped me be better at my job and avoid burnout.

Read, Read, Read

I find that when I read a lot my creativity increases. By reading everything from literature to news articles to blogs and personal opinions on social media, I gain new perspectives, which in turn, helps me be a better marketer. Finding time to read can be a challenge in a busy world, so in recent years I’ve found that podcasts and audiobooks can be a way to fill in that gap in areas of down time. For me that’s walking the dog, folding laundry, cooking dinner, in the car etc. I also read before bed almost every night, something I’ve done since I was young. During 2020 I find that reading is critical to allow my brain to escape some of the darkness, and at other times, educates me on different points of view. To me, reading is an essential part of our job as marketers.

Choosing Where You Spend Your Ad Dollars Sends Its own Message

Regardless of how you feel about any particular social media platform, the days of being disassociated from the people who run the platform are gone. Your brand will inevitably be scrutinized by your audience on advertising choice of platforms. An example of this is the July boycott of Facebook.

In July the #StopHateForProfit campaign called on advertisers to boycott spending on Facebook and their respective platforms to protest the platform’s mishandling of information and hate speech.  More than 1,000 companies joined in the boycott. 

This is a tricky situation to navigate because on one hand people may condemn your brand for choosing to spend money on any given platform but on the other, the audience you want to reach is probably still there. 

There are a lot of options for digital advertising. Now might be a good time to explore some new outlets to advertise. As always with all things digital, stay current to make sure the platform you choose today continues to send the right message tomorrow.

Creative Campaigns During Quarantine

One of my favorite things from a marketing perspective about this year is how marketers improvised their creative for their campaigns. Remember, all of us had to scrap our original plans and come up with something new without the luxury of being able to utilize all of our usual tactics, such as professional video production and anything else that allowed in-person collaboration.

From advertisements that showed regular people connecting through their mobile device to sharing feel good content that reminded people that we’re not alone, there were some really creative ways that brands adapted during the quarantine. Showing real people’s videos shot on their mobile device can be just as effective and powerful a message as the polished creative that brands historically have produced. 

A good recent example of this is the Google ad called, “Support the Places Near You,” which you can watch here.

Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

In the past, brands have historically tried to stay neutral and away from polarizing topics. However, 2020 forced brands to take a hard look in the mirror and say, what do you stand for? For brands with strong core values this task was easier than for some.

Whether it was wanting to know where a brand stood on addressing COVID-19 or what they were doing about racial justice, it’s clear that these important issues need to be raised in branding messages. If there is a recurring theme I have read this year from my peers in marketing it’s that we all need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

As we get closer to the US election in November keep vigilante in staying informed. Stay adaptable when it comes to your upcoming marketing strategies. For those of you monitoring social media heavily, make time to let your mind clear, whether that’s reading, talking a walk, exercise or something else, you need to prioritize that time to stay on top of your A game. 

Good luck everyone, 

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