Seemingly overnight, the coronavirus changed everything. We are all now suddenly navigating unfamiliar territory.
We have multiple priorities —first, to keep ourselves, families, friends and communities healthy and safe. And second, to do what we always do. As business and marketing professionals, we must remain focused on serving the needs of customers in every way possible.
The following thoughts may help us squint toward the future a little more clearly and, perhaps, find new paths through these uncertain times.
1. The entire world is focused on the same issue.
For likely the first time in our lives, all eyes are on all of us. Each nation, region, city and individual is looking intently at what’s happening to our world — and working to understand what it means.
We’re hyper-attentive to the latest news and developments. Carefully examining patterns and trends. Asking questions. Checking in with family and friends. Sharing information with others. Actively trying to listen, learn and adapt.
What it can mean: Because everyone is having the same conversations, joining in is okay. Having our brands provide ideas and solutions is timely. And appreciated. When everyone is seeking answers, any good idea has the potential for widespread adoption.
2. We’ve revived a long-dormant dialogue about civic duty.
When was the last time you heard this much conversation about civic duty? Usually, we only hear this phrase around voting. But now, it’s gone way beyond that. More than a high-minded ideal, duty has become a tangible part of our lives, something we can all relate to.
The sacrifices we are all being asked to make are being cast in the name of the greater good. Along the way, we’re redefining what social responsibility looks like — and why it’s so vital. That’s a profound development.
What it can mean: While messages must tread carefully, a language of shared sacrifice is gaining traction. It makes sense to people. Put another way, there is an “in it together” esprit to consider when thinking about actions your brands can take.
3. Leadership is emerging from unexpected places.
As national institutions work to catch up to the fluid circumstances on the ground, organizations closer to daily life are patching together a coherent response. They’re making a difference when and where it’s needed most.
State and local governments, neighborhood associations, businesses, community groups, cultural organizations and more are stepping up to offer help and points of view — all scrutinized by a concerned populace.
What it can mean: Taking a leadership position now is entirely legitimate. We don’t have to wait for permission or guidance. Whether it’s a small-business owner taking the initiative with a new home-delivery service or a large company shifting production to manufacture needed supplies, good ideas can come from anywhere. No brand and no person is too small.
4. Empathy is more of a thing than ever.
It’s part of our job to be empathetic — to understand and appreciate the needs and feelings of others. Every successful business relationship depends on it. Now that empathy matters more than ever.
Businesses, brands and customers all benefit from sensitivity during these uncertain times. That’s particularly true when it comes to how we communicate in the marketplace. Finding our way through this moment of crisis calls for calm, confidence and a steady hand.
What it can mean: As marketers and partners, we need to take the time to listen closely to the concerns of others. We don’t need to be afraid of adopting a sensitive tone, so long as it feels authentic and we back it up. The effort will be noted and remembered.
5. We’re discovering how to be “alone together.”
Face-to-face interaction has come to a screeching halt. We are hunkered down, yet not alone. Entire companies shifted to working remotely overnight. Zoom happy hours sprang up immediately.
When things eventually return to normal, “normal” will be forever altered. There will be more ways to feel close to people and interact without feeling compromised. We now have an opportunity to identify things that once felt “virtual” and make them feel “real.” Because, indeed, they are.
What it can mean: This is the million-dollar question: How do we crack the code on further innovations to help bridge the gap? We’re social creatures. Smart marketers will find even more ways to gather, collaborate and create new forms of social continuity.
6. The hidden are now heroes.
Farmers. Truckers. Pharmacists. Grocery clerks. Sanitation workers. Up until this moment, most people rarely gave them a moment’s thought. Yet now, they are literally keeping us alive.
Now others are becoming aware of what these hidden heroes mean to all of society. We’re realizing why the food and retail supply chain is such an essential industry. And how services we often take for granted make everyday life possible.
What it can mean: Often invisible, the stories that many of our clients can and do tell every day are now the stories that people eagerly want to consume. We have the chance to create a sea change in how people perceive the value of what’s quietly done, all of the time.
We will find new balance.
It’s what we do during changing times. We learn, we adapt to our new reality and we move on — hopefully with fresh perspective on how what we do matters, both individually and together.
About the Author
As EVP of Strategy and Planning at Bader Rutter, Pamela Narins’ perspectives inform all of our business and communications thinking. Pamela has served as a Global Planning Director at DDB and Director of Planning at Y&R, among other agencies. She helped win, design, and launch the fully integrated agency model for McDonald’s that placed human insights at the center of all brand and communications development. A graduate of the University of Chicago, she’s a lover of words, who can frequently be found nerding out behind a book, gesticulating madly with a fork, or drinking in every second with her teenage twins.