Since the onset of COVID-19, our team has been committed to helping brands pivot, strategize, and innovate during a year where nothing was guaranteed. As we head towards 2021 — another year of uncertainty, no doubt — our goal hasn’t changed. We love partnering with brands to help them not only get by, but thrive and grow. To that end, we’ve recently released a number of eBooks and reports with strategic recommendations from our experts on how to best prepare for next year. Here, we’ve culled the top tips marketers need to know heading into 2021. Read on to get a leg up on the competition.
Takeaway #1: It’s time to refresh the foundational insights driving your brand strategy.
The ROI on brand strategy is hard to nail down and the time horizon is long. So not surprisingly, during a time of great uncertainty and a sharp decline in the economy, companies have focused much more on the quicker levers they could pull and the tactical things they could do immediately. As things level off, we’re already starting to see just in the past month or two companies returning to longer-term brand-building through brand strategy initiatives. Those who aren’t thinking about this, who feel the time isn’t right, will be left behind as their competitors grow stronger.
What to do: Lay the groundwork for brand initiatives by refreshing your foundational insights. A lot has changed in a lot of categories in a very short timeframe, and now is the time to refresh what you think you know about consumers (and the competitive landscape) to use as input to brand strategy.
Takeaway #2: Make sure your brand isn’t caught off guard again.
COVID-19 has created entirely new ways to categorize consumers into groups. Take fear, for instance. The different levels of fear shoppers feel around the pandemic will dictate their shopping habits and preferences, what their customer journeys look like, the messaging they’ll respond to — you get the idea. Or geography: the differences between markets have always mattered, of course, but they have the power to create entirely disparate experiences now. Someone who lives in New York City is facing very different shopping and public health environments than someone living in the suburban Midwest.
What to do: Do your research earlier — so that you have it when you need it. This time last year, nobody was actively preparing for a pandemic. But once brands were forced to invent new ways of doing business on the fly, the need for deep customer insights quickly became clear. We’re not saying you need to anticipate every crisis, but you do have to understand the detailed characteristics and drivers of your various customer groups. That’s how you’ll be able to meet their needs even in a volatile situation. Of course, that’s only useful advice for the next catastrophe. If you’re still struggling now, don’t wait to conduct the necessary research to understand your customer groups in the context of our current moment.
Takeaway #3: Be ready to evolve the way your brand looks, talks, and acts.
Based on the ongoing fallout from COVID-19, we predict we’ll see two things: 1). A lot of consolidation, mergers, and acquisitions across diverse business sectors, and 2). Businesses positively building on the disruption that has occurred. Very few companies in 2021 will go back to business as usual, so we’re going to see new operational models, brand repositioning, and perception changes, with ongoing tactical marketing and communications in support of all that.
2021 is going to continue to be turbulent, but brands are moving out of panic mode. This will cause them to have to change how they do many things, resulting in lots of opportunity for brand building. And that doesn’t mean going back to the way things were. Brands that revert to their 2019 behaviors will be seen as old and outdated. Most brands will have to evolve
to move forward. This includes internal (cultural) as well as external (customer) behaviors. In other words, you brand will have to look, talk, and act differently.
What to do: Create a brand plan. Look at where you were, where you are, and where
you’re going. Put this in the context of competitive and best practice examples, plus changing social and consumer needs and perceptions. This opens the door to extensive research and new branding solutions to directly show the vision you have and what you’re doing to deliver on it.
Takeaway #4: Digital touchpoints are your brand’s lifeblood — optimize them to drive growth.
There’s no other way to say it: 2020 has been a hard year. But the challenges we’ve collectively faced have made one thing clearer than ever — digital experiences are a brand’s lifeblood. In our times of rapid change and deep uncertainty, they’ve provided an essential connection between company and customer. This will stay true in 2021.
Brands need to make sure this connection — determined by the quality and effectiveness of the user experience — is as strong as possible.
What to do: Conduct an audit of your brand’s current UX, going under the hood of your digital touchpoints to identify and implement tactical optimizations and conversion-boosting enhancements.
Takeaway #5: Invest in visual content that resonates with your MVPs.
In 2021, we will see marketers doubling down on traditional short-form media (infographics, eBooks, motion graphics, etc), but we will also see a higher demand for videos under 60-seconds, augmented reality (especially with audiences now trained to snap QR codes like never before), virtual conference booths (in VR/360 viewing rooms), visualization tools within video conference platforms, and more.
Zoom fatigue is already leading to shortened attention spans. Today’s audiences want content as short as possible. Additionally, our demand for quality continues to increase. We have escaped quarantine by diving into streaming media, much of which is produced at extremely high production values. At the same time, many consumers have spent their quarantines
learning new skills and getting creative. They are challenging themselves to create out-of-the-box video on TikTok to stand out and expect brands to do better than they can. Brands need to communicate in more succinct mediums, at seemingly high production values, while sticking to likely tightened budgets.
What to do: If your budgets are going to decrease in 2021, then pair down your target audience by identifying the most important customer segments to you and learn what moves them to action. From there, invest in 2-5 pieces of long form content that would resonate with
your target audience and can then be broken up into dozens of short-form pieces. Deliver that content to the audiences that matter most, releasing the bite-sized content first and then driving your audience to the long form versions, taking them through your conversion funnel. This will allow you to reach the most important 25% of your audience while remaining budget conscious and ensuring high-quality and high-value content to drive sales.
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