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Marketing at a Crossroads

What does it mean for something to be normal?

It's a concept that’s introduced to us at a young age, but many people don't often stop to think about what it actually means. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, the definition of normal is "conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern."

In other words: it's what people expect to see, do, and experience. Whether you're looking at individual behaviors, life experiences, or big picture issues, there's always a 'norm' that you hold to interpret what you observe.

Take summer, for example. From stadiums packed with fans to beaches jammed with vacationers, summer usually is regarded as the season full of crowds. However, in the age of the coronavirus pandemic where social distancing and masks are needed to flatten the curve, a new norm has quickly been molded to fit a summer that looks nothing like seasons preceding it.

When normalcy is challenged, it can sometimes push comfort levels and boundaries people don't even realize they have. When a situation is out of their control, there are usually two approaches that people can take:

  1. Live in the past and refuse to change

  2. Adapt to make the best of the situation

Just like people can choose to either focus on the summer experience they've lost or find new ways to enjoy the season, the disruption presented by COVID-19 has also left marketers at a crossroads. They can either keep their marketing strategy as if nothing has changed or adjust to the world's new normal and learn from their efforts.

A Marketing Crossroads

On January 1, 2020, marketers across industries felt prepared to tackle the new year. They'd spent hours analyzing their work from 2019, studying trends that told them what worked and what hadn't and crafting a strategy that would allow them to succeed.

However, any sense of preparedness that marketers may have felt at the start of the year went out the window when 2020 proved to be the curveball that no one could see coming.

When COVID-19 hit, everything changed.

It quickly became clear that the world that marketers were set to take on with their carefully molded strategies was no longer the world we found ourselves living in. As a result, marketers faced the choice to either be defined by the circumstances or determine their own by adjusting to today's norms.

The New Realm of Marketing

Marketing during the pandemic is the same as it's always been and different than it's ever been.

The core elements of marketing, as well as its purpose, have not changed. To be successful, you need to connect with your audience and realize that you're meeting a human need. While marketing has stayed the same, it's how you achieve your goals and stay connected to your consumers that's changed.

To successfully market during COVID, you need a solid, yet flexible plan.

While this may sound oxymoronic, the meaning behind it is incredibly straight forward. Despite the myths that now is a time where you can just 'wing' your marketing, or terminate it entirely, you need to keep your marketing efforts strong and purposeful to succeed.

With that being said, you don't want to put all your eggs in one basket. While it's essential to have a marketing direction, you need to evaluate it continually. As places open back up or close back down, you need to adjust your marketing to fit your audience's experience.

At THuS, we always stood behind the human side of marketing that treats marketing as a relationship. That's why being able to adapt, even when it means thinking outside of the box, is so important. Just like in any relationship, if you don't communicate and grow with your partner, your audience will ultimately take a path that you're not on.

Our Breaking Through the Noise blog explains how now, more than ever, it's vital to be intentional about connecting to your audience through your digital identity. Consider the following questions about the Five W's you learned in grade school:

  • Who: Who is your audience?

  • What: What are you posting?

  • When: When is your audience online?

  • Where: Which platforms are your audience on?

  • Why: Why should your consumers see your post?

Your answers pre-COVID and during COVID for these questions are likely not the same, and as a result, your social media strategy should be different as well. That's why despite having already published an article about the best time to post on social media in 2020, Sprout Social released a separate report about How COVID-19 has changed social media engagement.

Choosing your path

The impact of COVID is immeasurable. People talk about wanting to get back to our 'normal' lives, but truth be told, our associations of what's considered normal have been permanently disrupted. But this doesn't have to be completely bad.

2020 has proven to be a year full of unexpected challenges and unprecedented sadness, but it has also been a year of resilience and change. As humans and marketers, we are currently at a fork in the road: will we choose to take the path where the world defines our future, or will we adapt to the path where our future work can help shape the world?

THuS knows which path we're on, but we want to know: which one will you take?


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