Marketing ideas for 2020

It’s Thanksgiving in the US, and one of the big days for marketers, Black Friday, is just one day away! It says a lot for the power of US marketers that countries as disparate as The Netherlands and India are hosting Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, despite not celebrating the actual festival. The term was first used by the police in Philadelphia in the 60s to describe the rush of people descending on the city to watch an annual football game. Retailers started attracting the crowds with sales, and by the 80s it was a mainstream phenomenon.

2020 has changed the way we eat, work, connect, study, shop. I took part in an online discussion yesterday with Anup Sharma, a communications expert, and Rahul Munjal, MD of Hero Future Energies on the topic of “What will marketing look like in 2021”. This triggered a bout of crystal-ball gazing. Yes, traditionally I do this in December but I think we’re all in a hurry to move on this year, so here are my thoughts on five trends that we should plan for.

Trend #1: Make it easy for me
COVID-19 has isolated us from our usual support system in so many aspects of our professional and personal lives. We are looking for brands that are trying to make it easier for us. It could be added flexibility, added features, and genuine empathy.

Trend #2: DIY
We’ve had to learn to do so many things for ourselves – cooking, cleaning, technology, security, childcare, petcare, hairstyling, skincare, plumbing, mixing drinks, brewing coffee etc. In our professional lives we’ve had to manage without the constant support and supervision of peers and bosses, and without the physical infrastructure that we took for granted. The way we learn, buy and communicate has all changed. We’ve all become hardened DIYers in at least some parts of our lives. And as Ikea and Lego figured out years ago, we sort of like things we do for ourselves, even when they don’t turn out perfect. So we’ll definitely be looking for more opportunities to do this.

Trend #3: Asynchronous communication
One of the fallouts of working (and living) remotely is that we are relying far more on asynchronous communication. As time goes on and we adapt to this, we will increasingly want everything to be either on demand or available only when we want it. Many of us are working later than before as we have to devote morning hours to trends #1 and #2. So we expect that whatever we want will be available at that time too – it is a huge expectation mismatch if we are asked to wait till 9am for a service agent or sales rep to come back online. We would be happier if the information or service we wanted was available offline.

Trend #4: More of Marketing, Less of Sales
This is more specific to B2B. If we define sales as 1 to 1 and marketing as 1 to many, this year would have shifted the balance towards marketing. Because physical meetings were not possible, more of sales had to be done remotely, asynchronously, and through a DIY model. Clients had to do more research and product selection relying on online material. Since face to face meetings at trade shows were eliminated and that is typically a big part of the closure of a deal in B2B, there has been a significant shift in the adoption path. But even in B2C, as brands could not count on a promoter at the point of sale to push their product they have had to move to digital and mass media channels to spread that message.

Trend #5: Space utilization
Our relationship with space has changed. Many of us were used to having designated spaces for specific activities – coffee, alcohol, food, exercise, meetings, studying, working, shopping etc. That has shrunk considerably. Post-pandemic I doubt if we will be willing to pay what we used to for this amount of space. So businesses and marketers have to rethink the economics of space. Customers will not automatically pay a premium for a physical location.  Businesses may not be willing to pay for a in-person sales team. Employees may not be willing to be co-located with their colleagues. What happens to the sunk cost of existing real estate? That’s a problem and an opportunity.

I hope I have given you food for thought. Me, I’m off to enjoy my home delivered Thanksgiving turkey. Happy Thanksgiving and Black Friday!

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