Written By Kyle Henderick, Senior Director of Client Services, Yes Marketing
Back in March, which feels like an eternity ago, people started jokingly asking if 2020 were over yet. Now, five months later, personal and professional existences not influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic seem a distant memory. For every business, brand and marketer, 2020 has been a festival of upheaval and strategic pivots, without an end in sight.
Many industry observers have wisely pointed out that, as in all times of crisis and economic downturn, now is the time for brands to shore up their cores and invest in a way that prioritizes long-term growth. Indeed, 2020 has added a sense of urgency to innovation in many industries and functions, and the brands that have innovated most quickly are already finding success in a down economy. However, 2020 isn’t just another dip along the expected tide of economic ebbs and flows. The current health, political, cultural and societal climate in which we’re entering this recession is unlike any of its predecessors and, thus, demands unique considerations. Let’s look at three unique 2020 trends that brands need to consider as they plan for recovery in the back third of the year.
Navigating Polarizing Viewpoints and the Upcoming Election
These days, even the most historically neutral parties are expected to have an opinion on the political issues of the day, and brands are no exception. In fact, according to a recent survey, about 60 percent of Americans expect companies to have a position on issues like racial and social justice, and 50 percent say they research to understand how a brand has reacted to such issues. Also, consumers are increasingly attuned to not just the messaging that brands use when they advertise to them, but also the venues in which they advertise to them, as evidenced by the recent high-profile Facebook ad boycotts.
That said, in a polarized political climate where a given stance seems destined to alienate half of the population, it can be challenging for brands to know when and how to take a stand on the issues that matter. Those that do so without an intimate understanding of their customers—particularly their most loyal patrons, who invest not only in their products but in their very brand identities—risk everything from minor messaging missteps to the ignition of impassioned protests.
Understanding your customers’ political leanings can help inform not only your brands’ stance around key social issues but also the channels and messaging through which you reach certain audiences. According to recent research, people’s political preferences are strongly correlated to how they shop and what they buy, both of which are key dimensions that brands need to consider during campaign planning. By layering a political understanding onto existing audience profiles, brands can better navigate the turbulent waters of 2020’s remaining months.
Aligning Charitable Efforts with Core Business Initiatives
In a time of need—and let’s face it, there are a lot of people in need in 2020—brands have the opportunity to shine. By putting charitable causes at the center of core business initiatives, rather than approaching them as periodic, campaign-based side projects, companies can not only build their reputations and loyal customer bases, but they can also establish themselves as organizations that foster pride and activism among their employees and partners.
Consider Lemonade, whose mission is to “transform insurance from a necessary evil into a social good.” Every year, the company tallies up unclaimed premiums and donates a significant portion to charities chosen by their customers. It’s a revolutionary approach in a product category that has historically been anything but “feel good.” As to the question of whether such an approach represents good business? Well, 500 percent growth in 12 months is hard to dispute.
Not every organization is structured in a way that can support substantial charitable giving as a percentage of profits, but there are several ways in which companies can give back to their communities, such as making the time for employees to get involved with local and national charities. Again, as with taking social stands, the most important factor in these decisions should be a brand’s customers. By understanding the causes that motivate them, brands can align themselves with their audiences and communities in a meaningful way, thereby building loyalty, acquiring new customers that align with their loyal bases and — most importantly — investing in the future of the world in which they operate by giving back to those in need.
Enhancing Digital-Focused Business and Customer Service
On the macroeconomic front, 2020 has given us plenty of cause for concern. In the second quarter, the U.S. GDP plunged an astounding 33 percent. That’s understandably alarming. And yet, digital-ready brands across several industries are continuing to grow like crazy. Therein lies a lesson for all brands. By investing heavily in fine-tuning your digital efforts going into the end of this year, your organization can offset some of the uncertainty that is dominating the landscape right now while future-proofing your brand.
What was previously a gradual trend toward seamless, virtual and subscription-based digital business models has become a sea change in 2020. The companies that are succeeding are the ones that are automating and streamlining customer experiences, but without losing their human connections. Chewy.com is a prime example of a company that sits at the nexus of several of 2020’s unique market opportunities while showcasing key differentiators to its biggest competition, Amazon. The company is a core player in the e-commerce pet product space, offering fast shipping and seamless customer experience. The company also offers subscription options and—importantly—access to 24/7 phone support via real, live humans. Furthermore, the company invests heavily in giving back to the communities—both pet and otherwise—that are responsible for its success and growth.
There’s no reason to believe that the remainder of 2020 will be any less eventful than it’s been to date. But as brands become acclimated to a business landscape ruled by constant upheaval, the principles that are helping brands stay afloat are becoming clear. Now more than ever, it’s time for brands to put their customer knowledge to work. By investing in what matters most to your customers and the communities that surround them, your brand can find a guiding light by which to navigate the forthcoming uncertainty.