As of this writing (November 2020), the world is many months into a pandemic that has lasted much longer than any of us had hoped. While we are entering the recovery phase in many places, in some areas we seem to be going in the opposite direction. What we knew as “normal” before this seems like a distant memory…and while we all patiently wish and wait for its return…the truth is that we don’t know when it will return…if it ever fully does.
Consumer spending has fallen quite a bit – with people using their dollars for fundamental goods and home-focused services, since that is where most people are still spending a majority of their time. Many people are still working from home too – some are scheduled to do so until at least the beginning of 2021, and some are doing a hybrid type of arrangement. Children going back to school was probably more complicated this year than it ever has been and remains complicated for many still. The travel, tourism and hospitality industry is still very much struggling to rebound from a complete shutdown – and some aspects of it, such as the cruise industry, will need to wait until 2021 to see when they can get things going again.
If you were to go back in time to say, the fall of 2019 and tell me that in just a few months, stores would routinely be out of things like ramen noodles, board games and Lysol…and that I would need to check 3 Target and 2 Walmart stores before being able to find a deck of Uno cards and a bottle of Windex, I would have probably told you “Go home, you’re drunk!” But yet, in the not-so-distant past…around April to be exact, this very scenario happened to me.
Oh, and then there was the toilet paper situation. TOILET PAPER. Phew. Let’s just…not even talk about that.
But the point of this is not to discuss our recent collective unpleasantness. It is more to ask the question…where do we go from here? What is going to be different going forward?
Well, there is some hope for the future – scientists are actively working on a vaccine…in fact, during the week of November 9th it was announced that biopharmaceutical giant Pfizer has developed a vaccine with a 90% efficacy rate. There are several other companies working on vaccines as well.
In addition, people have found new and innovative ways to still do business by quickly pivoting their operations. eCommerce is flourishing, as are streaming platforms and gaming. People have rediscovered reading; many learned how to bake bread or cook new things – creating an uptick in demand for books AND cooking/baking supplies. Restaurants who never offered take out or online ordering learned to do so in order to stay afloat. In some cities, streets were closed in downtown areas to help people feel safer while eating out – and create more capacity for establishments to serve patrons.
And in somewhat surprising but understandably necessary moves, United Airlines cancelled their change fees, forcing other major airlines to follow suit. Movie studios, faced with a complete shutdown of every movie theater across the globe, shifted to providing some new releases through video on demand. Both of these moves were not only smart but welcome and embraced by consumers…especially in a volatile economy where many people’s disposable incomes are not just less, but being spent far more carefully.
The point here is that we have ALL had to adapt in some way, shape or form. Sometimes it required us to get creative…to try new things…and to make moves, period. And honestly, this is not a bad thing. If there’s one thing that any business owner should understand is that you HAVE to be able to change when your customers’ habits do. You have to pay attention to what is going on around you…so you don’t find that while you weren’t, someone came around and ate your lunch.
And sure, not many people could have predicted the unprecedented things that have happened in the last several months. But lots of people have found a way to persevere anyway. You can bet your stash of toilet paper that it took almost all of them to get out of their comfort zone in some way to make that happen.
One of the things that clients asked me most often when all this began was: “Should I stop advertising?” And upon reopening, they asked: “Well, we are open now…should I cut back on my advertising?”
The answer was no to both questions. One of the most damaging things you can do to your brand is go dark.
Henry Ford once wisely said: “Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time.” So no, you don’t want to stop – but you MAY want to change your strategy/marketing mix, and refocus your message if it is necessary. This is all while making sure your advertising is situationally aware, of course.
A good example of this below from shoe manufacturer Toms.
Did you know Toms even made slippers? (I’ll admit that I didn’t prior to seeing this.) This ad’s message was relevant, and it included a nice discount to boot (no shoe-themed pun intended). Needless to say, this was an effective ad that sold them a lot of slippers.
So when I say that the road in front of us doesn’t look like the road that’s behind us…that’s because…it doesn’t. The map has changed, whether we all like it or not.
We have to learn to navigate this new road in order to keep our businesses going for the long term.
If you are interested in figuring out how to navigate this “new normal” for your business…drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here to help you thrive no matter what the circumstances.