It’s no secret that whatever world you work in, each year brings new challenges. 2020 will (hopefully) remain unique and unrivalled in its presentation of hurdle after hurdle, but interestingly this article is full of words like “human” and “patience”, despite the potential for words like “unprecedented” or “new-normal”. As marketers, we’ve had to adapt to the biggest changes in our careers, in the shortest timescales. In the face of uncertainty, we’ve all had to make split decisions without all the data, and instead of planning or tradition, it was empathy that kept us grounded and informed. That empathy lead us to cancel in-person events and activations back in March, and whilst no one was sure of the road ahead, it was clear we needed to pivot our approach.
Since then, the Connects team – and influencer friends of the agency – have been proactively adapting and learning lessons left, right and centre; we’ve come to understand the fabric of how we operate as a wider team better than ever. And as this year draws to a close, with the hope of a vaccine finally in sight, many things will return to normal, but several changes in the marketing world are hopefully here to stay.
In the face of utter mayhem, influencers have cemented themselves as one of the most reliable forms of marketing. So, in a 50/50 effort, this list of advice is made up of influential voices, and the Connects team combined. The last 12 months can’t be belittled to a simple ‘test’, but if we were to seize the challenges we faced as opportunities, and emerge from the downturn even stronger, these are the lessons we’d pass on – to do better and survive more, today or tomorrow.
- REMAIN AUTHENTIC – It would have been easy to fall into line this year, by staying low to the ground and hoping you wouldn’t get caught in the crossfire. So many brands and agencies pivoted towards how they thought they should behave, when the sentiment for “should” didn’t really exist at all. Throughout 2020, as planning-people floundered, we’ve seen a sea of generic adverts, patronisingly created with little thought (cough, Dettol’s tube ad). We’ve also seen some outstanding ads, full of originality, sentimentality and humour. And the thing they all have in common? Those that remained authentic and true to their brand, achieved cut through.
- NOTHING SHOULD BE TAKEN FOR GRANTED – “One of the lessons 2020 has taught me is that nothing should be taken for granted; our freedom, our loved ones and our mental health. We should be very careful and aware of what’s happening around us. As a digital creator, I really struggled with my productivity this year, and learned that I don’t need to be productive all the time – it’s fine to take time for myself, to reflect on what I can do better at and what I can improve to make things better around me. I highly appreciate people with big platforms that are showing the worlds’ problems – we have to speak up and use our influence in the correct way, because social media needs to becomes less about how perfect we are and how beautifully we dress, and more about addressing the issues we face as a global society.” @flicka_elisa
- MOVE FAST, BREAK THINGS – We talked about this a lot in the early months of lockdown, but the lesson rings true 9 months down the line. Facebook were onto something when they made their mantra “Move Fast, Break Things”, and we learnt this year that their intention was to inspire agility and not get bogged down in ideas that aren’t working. There’s really nothing like a global pandemic to stop you in your tracks and force you to think on your feet and try new things. Being flexible very often leads to more relevant storytelling anyway, and in turn, bigger success; after all, timing and tone of voice are everything.
- BE GRATEFUL – “2020 has taught me to be more grateful. Grateful for everything, from my health, family and friends, to my home and job. 2020 has taught me just how fragile all these things can be, so it’s important to appreciate, care for and invest time and energy in them.” @liamsmith
- ELEVATE EMPATHY – We live in an unbelievably fast-paced world, and probably for the first time since the 80s, life really slowed down in 2020. With more time to breathe, think and reflect, people became more human and empathy was abundant. If anything sticks around from this year, it should be an elevation of empathy – for colleagues, creators and clients. The world needs to stop glorifying exhaustion, and start celebrating life. There’s no need for apologies when your child throws a fit on Zoom, or your partner’s trying to pitch from the kitchen – it’s important to dial-up humanity, and let things slide. That’s what customers need from brands, so it’s important we reflect that in the industry.
- COMPARISON KILLS – “2020 taught me that I am more than enough. I, like many other creatives and creators, sometimes doubted myself, compared myself and my work to other people who ‘seemed to be doing better’ and thought that my environment, style, life – etcetera – could be upgraded. 2020 also taught me that I encompass and embody every little thing I need to be the success I’ve always strived for. Everything I need is within me and even if I can’t see it now, that is definitely the process.” @chloepierreldn
- PATIENCE NOT PANIC – For much of this year, most of us felt completely rudderless and overwhelmed by the sheer weight of external forces. As natural planners in the marketing sphere, the go-to vibe was restlessness and frustration at the paradox of inactivity and mayhem unfolding before us. So, perhaps the toughest lesson we’ve all had to learn, is patience. It would have been easy to sail through this year in a fired-up state of panic-driven chaos, but instead we realised that sometimes all you can do is let sleeping dogs lie and go with the flow (or whatever it is the hippies say!)
- PRIORITISE BALANCE – “2020 has taught me to take more time for self-care. Having work disrupted showed me how little I used to switch off, but now I take those days to do the little things for me. Whether that’s taking a bath, watching a show or even plucking my chin hair – ah, the joys of aging. These little things mean that when I do work, it’s a better quality, as I have now discovered a work/life balance.” @charlottedecarle
- KNOW YOUR LIMITS – Let’s be real, we all overcompensated at the beginning of lockdown; how many half-done puzzles are still lying around your house? Is Duolingo still sending you daily reminders to practice your Spanish?! Our go-to mode was hyper-productivity, as we all tried to replicate our jampacked lives from days past. Before 2020, most of us believed we were invincible, with infinite hours in the day to clock-up on this and that. A festive break has never been more welcome, and finally understanding our personal and work-life limits might be the most sustainable lesson we carry into 2021.
- STAY OPEN TO CHANGE – The other influencers we approached generously gave us a quote, but Katie Woods (aka, @comedowntothewoods) mic-dropped her latest blog post instead, titled ‘71 Things I’ve Learned During Lockdown.’ Her words ring true, from realising we consume enough milk to warrant investing in an actual cow, to noticing this year has been both incredibly hard and ridiculously joyous in almost equal measures. So, our final lesson? We are always learning, and should try to remain as open-minded as possible.
If you’re looking to integrate these invaluable leanings into your next campaign, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d be happy to help!