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Harris Atkins, CEO North America
Harris Atkins, CEO North America 02 December 2020

The only thing constant in life is change

So, what are today's brands doing to keep up?

Harris Atkins, CEO North America
Harris Atkins, CEO North America 02 December 2020

So, what are today's brands doing to keep up?

All in this together

Baby boomers recall the “boom” of technology when computers and giant car phones were cool gadgets to consider. Millennials take the Internet highway to work as naturally as the rest of us drive a car, and according to a recent Spotify survey the majority of Gen-Z, who prefer shopping in brick and mortar stores, say they are ready to rebuild society from the ground up.

These observations highlight our different preferences and ways of adapting. But they also point out the one very important thing we have in common, and that’s the ability we all have to change. If this past year has proved anything, it is that change is inevitable, and adapt we must.

Ready or not…

2020 has taught us a lot, challenged us to create new ideas and race some to the table before completely baked. It has been a year filled with extraordinary challenges and resilience on every level, from the most personal to universal. This of course includes the world of marketing (in which online sales grew 50% during the peak of the pandemic), and the need to find solutions for problems not even on our radar, or at least thought to be further down the calendar.

You can’t touch this

This phrase once associated only with an MC Hammer song and toddlers in a china shop, has now become an international directive for anyone venturing outside home. Everyone, everywhere, has become super-conscientious about the transmission of germs. Yes, Covid-19 started it, but hygiene awareness isn’t going away. The Coronavirus pandemic has ignited a volcanic eruption of change in physical spaces that has spread to every place consumers go: restaurants, theme parks, retail stores, theaters, museums, airports; you name it, there’s six feet of distance, Plexiglas dividers, sanitary solution and gloves that represent the current condition, but also a new awareness and respect for the need to protect ourselves and each other in terms of health, always.

Beyond Triage

This situation has closed countless businesses and opened a new reality that marketers have already begun to solve for in order to survive. Thriving depends on finding ongoing solutions beyond the band-aids of adding tables in parking lots and putting bottles of hand sanitizer on counters in stores. The baby boomers may put wipes in their purses, and have joined the millennials in shopping more online, with Gen-Zs thinking of how to change the entire system of commerce. The bottom line: change is happening and we all need to catch our breath, catch up, and get ahead of it.

Solution solutions

Easy answer: put permanent touch-free hand sanitizers in all people-places. And so much more:

  • Curbside pickups — According to Forbes, curbside pickups have increased 208% with 59% of customers saying they are likely to continue the practice post pandemic.

  • QR Codes — They are back and have found more relevant applications than boarding passes at the airport; everything touch-free from getting a number in a customer service line to opening a restaurant menu on a mobile device.

  • Displays — So many left empty, as the sample products loved by all can no longer be available due to safety guidelines. Hence, display designs will need reimagining.

  • Voice search — We’re talking to Alexa and Siri more, and they are listening.

  • Samples — No longer can one tube be squeezed or a bottle be sprayed by multiple users so packaging for individual use will increase.

  • Food Service — The next generation will not believe we poured condiments from one bottle and prepared salad from an open buffet station. Individual ketchup and mustard, salt and pepper servings please.

  • In-store grocery shopping — Handling of produce to pick the best apple will be a thing of the past as the entire marketing experience is being reimagined in increased hygienic style.

Retail spaces are being configured with the addition of electronic doors where there were handles, counters set further apart, products dispensed as opposed to piled on shelves, etc. Case in point: there is much to consider and renovate.

Going virtual

People have learned to function online quickly. With Zoom and other online hubs, everyone can now experience much of their lives through their computer and mobile devices: 

  • Business meetings

  • University tours, school classes

  • Retail, wholesale, every kind of sale (Amazon, Etsy, Fine Art America, Ebay)

  • Real Estate

  • Social events, dating, concerts

  • Weddings, funerals, religious services

There are a variety of ways to bring experiences to life virtually that provide the same benefits of in-person events plus added perks like less expense than mounting a live event, easier attendance without travel, recording for future viewing, and all-important data capture. 

Read more about the shift to virtual experiences that has not only replaced physical events but has proven to work as a perfect complement to them in every case moving forward.

Social Media, Social Media, Social Media

If a baby boomer isn’t on snapchat, twitter or playing online games and streaming, they are on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn—along with the rest of the world. Undoubtedly, by the time you read this there will be more sites with ads and influencers touting the benefits of persons, places and things that drive interaction, commerce, profits. And although different groups view differently, they ‘share’ with each other. As marketers, we must stay on top of where our targets are—and make sure we are there. There will be more sites and brands embracing micro-influencers as an efficient way to find a foothold and tout benefits.

Strategy, Experience, Application

Especially now, companies need marketing expertise beyond good business sense. With data gathering and deciphering, multiple online methods of communicating, in-store promotions and technological advancements to be balanced with personal outreach, there are more moving parts than ever that businesses must align and execute in order to realize sustained and escalating profitability.

Implementing an overall marketing strategy is vital to surviving through this unprecedented phase of change and rebuilding, maybe not from the ground up, but certainly up. Up and forward. We can all agree to that.


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