What We Learned in 2020
2020 is over. Finally. In a year responsible for an overwhelming amount of grief, loss, hate, and fear, a few things emerged that proved to be a bright light in an otherwise dark year.
Work From Home, aka WFH
With the pandemic taking over, many companies that weren’t on the front-lines – including ours – were forced by shutdowns to adapt to working remotely. Many of these companies hadn’t considered keeping their workforce at home before, certainly not at the scale required to comply with local requirements. But they adapted.
There were struggles at first, which is to be expected when implementing such a seismic shift in operational strategy, and a few technology fumbles, but ultimately, working from home became a thing. It offered a chance to continue earning a paycheck while helping your company move forward – or at least stay afloat – and it offered a bit of protection from COVID by being able to avoid the germy communal water cooler.
Thankfully, all the technology and digital tools we needed for WFH to be successful largely existed already. If we had been required to work from home ten or 15 years ago, it might have turned out to be the end of many companies. The infrastructure we have today of high-speed internet and cloud-based technology would have been a nearly insurmountable challenge to overcome years ago.
For us introverts, this WFH thing was fantastic. For you social butterflies, not so much. But even you extroverts found ways to have online happy hours with your close friends and family, or play hours-long card games with friends around the world. As much as WFH separated us physically, it brought us closer emotionally.
Our pets had to adapt to us humans being home now, too. The dogs in our lives were on cloud nine being able to spend ALL DAY with us – even if they slept most of the time. Cats? Who knows.
WFH orders for employees will likely continue into 2021 until the vaccine rolls out on a larger scale, but with companies finding they can be successful with their workforce working from home at least some of the time, it opens up possibilities for everyone. Maybe companies can downsize their office space if some people are only in the office some of the time. For employees, being able to WFH allows greater ability to flex schedules that fit your life better. Even being able to WFH on a day where you’re too sick to come into the office, but not that sick where you can’t work, allows you keep projects moving along from the comfort of your home (and couch and pajamas). Simply having that option and being flexible with how we work are things we might not have seriously considered pre-pandemic.
The Real Heroes
It took a lot of scary stuff to happen for us to collectively recognize and appreciate who the true heroes in our communities are: medical workers, first responders, teachers, grocery store employees, and postal workers to name just a few. It wasn’t an athlete, or a celebrity, or a shallow icon that we looked up to in 2020. It was the people who saved lives, who put their own lives on the line, who made sure food shelves were stocked (even if toilet paper and bleach were 2020’s impossible-to-find items), who learned in a week how to adapt and teach their classes online, and who made sure our mail arrived and our ballots delivered.
These people in each of our communities were taken for granted pre-pandemic. We knew they provided an important service, but never grasped how critical a service they provided until March arrived.
The Little Things
Of all the little things that we learned from the pandemic (to be sure, this is small potatoes compared to the other two up on this list), take-out drinks are a great idea that I hope stick around post-pandemic. Many places relaxed their laws about to-go alcohol in an effort to help revenue streams for restaurants, but it’s brilliant. There’s something really nice about being able to bring home a margarita to go with the camarones a la diabla I got from a local Mexican restaurant without having to buy my own ingredients and make a mess of my blender.
Streaming services and their usage proved to fill a critical need for entertainment and escape during shutdowns. More streaming services showed up, from Disney+ to Peacock and probably several others that aren’t on my radar screen. “The Last Dance” managed to fill my husband’s need for sports and my former obsession with the Bulls (and getting the tea about Jerry Krause). I finally got sucked into YouTube officially with “Hot Ones” episodes, a fascinating marble race , online workouts, and watching an Olympic-hopeful skillfully gentle wild mustangs and share some heart-racing cross-country footage from her helmet cams. Oh, and this amazingly talented 10-year-old drummer taking on Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters.
Hey look, I didn’t even mention “Tiger King”!
(I haven’t watched it.)
There are other bright spots in 2020, as well. Neighbors helping neighbors. Towns showing up to support birthday kids. Impromptu musical performances for everyone in earshot. Lots of product innovation. A push to help small businesses. And the list goes on.
So what does all of this have to do with marketing? Nothing and yet, everything. 2020 realigned our perspective on what’s important. It’s forced us to rethink how we frame marketing against the context of the world right now. The pandemic cannot be ignored; to do so would be tone-deaf. But the messaging will need to evolve to reflect the prevailing attitudes and restrictions. Maybe even your business model will need to evolve – consider what movie theaters are up against right now. Moving forward is important both economically and emotionally, we just need to determine how best to do that together (but socially distanced). This, too, shall pass. The way out of 2020 is to move forward. No, things will never truly go back to the way they were, but we will persevere and triumph and become better. Because we have to.