The game of tag got away from us.
We were constantly “it,” never quite catching up to our audiences and getting tired. Need a campaign? Tag that influencer over there. Have a project? Tag eight agencies to pitch for it. Need to stay relevant? Tag something with a lot of views and slap a logo on it. And there we stood, gasping for air.
We stopped leading consumers and started chasing them. Branding gave way to transaction. Purpose took a back seat to promotion. Values were cast aside for likes, views and retweets. The message became less important than the medium.
But now we’re home, taking a lemonade break when we catch our breath. Consumers, marketers and agencies can take a sip, bonded by uncertainty and insecurity, uncertain and insecure on what we’re allowed to buy, sell, think or feel, but still united in our desire for trust, search for hope and need for a connection.
For marketers, this is a good time to think about the type of relationships you are trying to build. Here are a few things to consider:
Stand for something bigger than your product or brand
Coming out of this, there will be an acceleration and broadening of the need to identify with values and principles that go beyond demographics. What do you stand for beyond your product or brand? What do you want your corporate reputation to be? Which principles will connect you to your consumers because they are considering your values and not just what you sell?
Be open, transparent and sometimes funny
In order to cultivate trust, we have to put ourselves out there more than we might be used to. Gimmicks, pranks on unsuspecting customers and faux testimonials might not fly anymore. But let’s not overcorrect and take ourselves too seriously. Humor and irony can be wonderful antidotes. Real connections through humor, relatable expressions of emotions, empathy and sincere reason will strike a more profound chord with consumers.
Live your purpose
The relationship will be as important as the transaction. Help consumers identify with something that is meaningful. Value purpose over popularity, and align your brand with influencers and partners that share your beliefs. We might be in a time of snackable content, but principles can be enduring. A strong purpose—through principles—will help your brand prosper in good times and will allow it to live on when times get rough.
Welcome outside opinions
Self-serving I admit, but now you need the agency and people with outside perspective that can push you to solve new, unexpected problems and overcome challenges with objective, consumer-focused creative solutions. For agencies, it’d be a shame not to take advantage of the restart as well.
Look at your talent
We’ve been stripped of the accessories that help make the pressure of this industry palpable. Who wants to write strong briefs, develop breakthrough work and help a business grow more than they want ping pong tables and open taps? Find those people who believe in what we do and the importance of what we put out there, who are hungry for insightful strategies and breakthrough work, who want to help lead culture.
As offices sit empty, we’re seeing that the physical space is no substitute for a commitment to people and ideas. As we return to our offices after a deep cleaning to remove all potential germs and viruses, what else can we wipe clean? This will be a good time to redefine how we bring people together and collectively use and behave in a space.
Reassess best practices
Be more transparent and open in relationships with clients, from billing to how we collaborate. If we want to be a true partner, this is the time to prove it. If we want to earn the respect we believe we deserve, let’s earn it by becoming true partners in their time of need.
Put more of a priority on originality. Not every brief has to have the product make the consumer a better version of themselves. Not every execution needs a reveal. Testing doesn’t have to be the only means of validating ideas. If we want to be taken seriously, treat each client as its own and stop trying to find common denominators between them.
When this shall pass, who will people believe in and identify with to get on a plane, go to a restaurant or shop at a store? It’s not going to happen with a bunch of we’re-all-in-this-together-messages. And it won’t happen from following the habits and practices of our consumers since those have all been put on pause. We will need to lead. Invests in our consumers more than the vehicles with which we try to reach them.
We joined this business because we wanted to insert our voice into the brands and products we sold. We wanted the power of having something to say and to see who listened. In these fearful and surreal times, we have the opportunity to rediscover why we fell in love with this business in the first place. And when the world gives a loud and collective “game on!” we can put down our lemonade, retie our sneakers, step away from the oak tree and let a new game begin.