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What NOT to Leave in 2020

As we come to the end of a year marked by uncertainty, one thing is absolutely certain: 2020 will be forever remembered as an inflection point in our lives.

While we may celebrate the upcoming New Year with a cathartic collective sigh of relief—and  a hearty “f@#k off” to the last one—we will know deep down that the past year has left us fundamentally changed.

How we work. How we parent. How we socialize. How we live. Even where we live. In the last 12 months, we’ve all had at least one of these—maybe even all of them—forever altered. And, as the art and science of marketing is a reflection of the society that it serves, it too has been indelibly changed.

So, what have we learned from 2020 that we’ll need to act on in 2021 (and beyond)?

Virtual brand experiences.

The crash course in virtual interaction that 10 months of Zoom, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube Live have given us has primed everyone to expect that their favorite brands can and should deliver quality content experiences in virtual spaces. Brands that do not demonstrate, educate, and entertain will become the laggards of the ’20s, just as companies that were slow to bring their brands to the web were when the millennium began.

Stand for something.

Social justice. Economic empowerment. Environmental stewardship. Brands can no longer claim the neutral, unsullied perspective of fence sitters when it comes to the issues of the day: The cost of inaction is often a dramatic hit to a brand’s reputation. The mission and vision statements of brands need to be lived out with conviction in today’s social media landscape.

Less celebrity, more reality.

As 2020 dragged on, the glamour fell away from our stars. TV hosts grew shaggy, newscasters did their own makeup, and virtual red carpets featured a lot of extremely casual “fashion.” Do we miss the glamour? Yes, but our outer obsessions turned inward towards ourselves. Gossip shows were replaced by bingeing home improvement and cooking shows. We rediscovered the joy and freedom of riding bicycles. Brands that align with this home-focused zeitgeist will create a natural affinity with this generation.

Nonsense makes perfect sense.

The antithesis of keeping it real is also incredibly valuable in this moment. Whether it’s the inane looping of viral TikTok videos or the surreal microvideo offerings from Progressive or Fanta, escapism is always a refuge in times of great social change. From Mozart to surrealism to 60s counterculture—avant-garde expressions of creativity often accompany times of upheaval. Extreme, often obtuse and preferably funny content cuts through and leaves a mark on viewers.

Wherever we go from here, 2020 will certainly stand alone as a year that broke all the rules. But if you’re expecting 2021 to put them back together, think again. If we ever do get “back to normal,” it won’t happen all that quickly, so marketers should be ready for more surprises.

To make sure you’re prepared, contact us.

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