11 things we’ve learned about marketing in 2020

Robin Emiliani  /  Aug 21, 2020

If there are two things we all know about crises, they’re these: 1) they suck, and 2) we usually learn something from them.

So, with the hot mess of crises plaguing us all in 2020, we wondered what people were taking away from it so far. Exactly how are we adjusting our perspectives? What’s changed in our understanding—of the world, the people our businesses serve, and the way we work?

Or, in other words: What have we learned during a year best summed up by that GIF of the dog drinking coffee in a house fire?

This Is Fine GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

We asked the Catalyst team for their answers. Here’s what they said:

Be authentic and empathic

“We’ve long been outspoken about how important empathy and authenticity are in marketing. After all, people who associate your brand with a positive emotional experience are seven times more likely to make a purchase. And as this year has shown us, the more chaotic the world gets, the more empathic, authentic marketing resonates.” – Cathleen Esposito

Discipline is key

“When the world goes off the rails, it’s easy to go off the rails with it. Which is why discipline is key—not only at work, but in trying to balance an unexpectedly out-of-whack social life and home life. Not only does discipline help us reach goals and keep order in our lives. It also makes us happier, according to some studies.” – Derek Ng

Take a stand

“Don’t be scared to market your company’s voice and stance—to stand up for the issues and values you care about. Sometimes, silence can be taken as a response, and prospects and customers may pass their own judgement if you don’t speak out publicly.

Also: get creative. Think outside the box. Now is the time to be unique. Unique messaging. Unique marketing. Unique ways of reaching your audience.” – Ariel Lawrence

Be human

“If something comes across as fake, clients and prospects alike will see right through it. If you want to sell to humans, you better be one.” – Molly Bullock

Be flexible

“Flexibility and adaptability are the only way forward.

Nobody would have guessed eight months ago that 42% of the US workforce would be working from home today. Nobody predicted Zoom would grow by 350% this year or that breadmakers would be this year’s most in-demand gift. Nobody knew that Microsoft would shutter its storefronts.

But all those things happened—and the companies doing well right now are the ones who adapted (and adapted quick). As marketers, it’s always our job to roll with the punches.” – Julie Marks

Transparency supports connection

“Stepping forward and being transparent with COVID responses (and other crisis responses) is a powerful way to stay connected to your customers, employees, and prospects. It makes people feel supported and eases anxiety.” – Jordyn Demar

Find the sweet spot between optimism and sensitivity

“At our core, marketers are communicators. And when the world is in chaos, we—more than almost anyone—need to find the right balance between being optimistic and sensitive with our content. When it comes to content, your tone should match the situation.” – Cameron Beards

Let people know you give a damn

“Show up for your prospects, customers, and employees. All three groups need to hear from you and need to know that your company is on their side and how you’re adding value to their businesses and lives.” – Gem Swartz

Be genuine

“In times of uncertainty, brands who express genuine empathy shine. And that shine doesn’t wear off. People remember how brands respond. A great response can earn lifetime customer loyalty. A bad one? Well, let’s just say people aren’t in the mood for performative solidarity.” – Trevor Keating

Put your foot on the gas

“2020 is accelerating trends that were already in play. Be ready to adapt and change at a faster rate. Now’s the time to be bold and get out of your comfort zone. Mediocrity is harder to hide when everyone’s watching.” – Mariah Kamei

Content is still the game-changer

“This is the age of killer content. And you better step up your game, because the world is being bombarded with it. Make it interesting and engaging. Don’t skimp on your content budgets. Consider interactivity, animation, and bold images.” – Robin Emiliani

So, what have you learned in 2020?


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