Lessons from 2020 must endure for New Year success
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Lessons from 2020 must endure for New Year success

The year 2020 has been a challenge on many fronts but has it also opened marketers’ eyes to new approaches, asks Morag Cuddeford-Jones

2020 has been the epitome of that old adage, “if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans”. No marketing strategy has escaped unscathed. At best, marketers found they had to (oh, this godforsaken word) ‘pivot’. At worst, there was all out chaos as one regulation contradicted another and it became hard to tell – in the travel, entertainment and hospitality businesses in particular – what tactics were even allowed on a day-to-day basis.

One thing is certain, 2020 had a huge impact on marketers’ ways of thinking and many will have had their dogmas challenged, if not changed outright, by the need to be agile.

First, the pandemic will have tested deeply held marketing beliefs to the limit. Strategies that worked flawlessly in ‘peacetime’ will have held no water in the shifting sands of coronavirus. Long-established workflows and hierarchies will have found themselves unfit for purpose, slowing down decision-making or creating too many bland ‘communications by committee’ when what consumers wanted was passion and purpose. I give you the unholy mess that was the never-ending dirge of ‘We’re here for you’ messages. Content needed to be adapted sensibly and strategically rather than changed on a tactical level.

But secondly, the ebb and flow of lockdown and release may have shown marketers some new approaches that could endure, well after the last nose has been swabbed. Whether it’s discovering that crisis preparedness was sadly lacking, or that the pandemic has been the shake-up no-one knew was badly needed, it seems like there is no time like the present to reassess our ways of thinking, and to ask ourselves if there’s not a better way of doing business.

This is the subject of New Model Army, an article on mental models by Griffith College, Dublin’s head of marketing, Steven Roberts, that features in the latest issue of Catalyst, out now.

In the feature, Roberts explores different ways of framing problems and finding solutions. He explores how Maslow’s hammer may have helped Adidas refocus its brand activity away from an over-dependence on digital; and how to ‘keep your powder dry’ long enough for an idea or product to achieve critical mass, that halcyon state of being where it becomes easier and easier to build on past success. Plus, with so much demanding our attention right now, a timely reminder to prioritise according to the Eisenhower Matrix and Pareto Principle which used individually and together can suddenly make a complex problem seem altogether simpler.

As Roberts suggests: “In times of crises, those who keep a clear head and strategise, while all around them are focused on tactics, will be best-placed when growth returns.” It’s just worth noting that this applies when you’re in ‘peacetime’ too.

A brief pause to breathe and assess could be what many of us need right now after a turbulent year. But, as we approach the typical time of year for reflection and renewal, there’s no point waiting till Jan 1st for those resolutions. Marketers must hit the ground running if the chaos wrought by 2020 is to be righted in 2021.

Ensure success for yourself and your business in 2021 with CIM’s one-day virtual training course, Strategic Marketing Planning for 2021. Delivered by leading industry practitioners, this learning experience will help you to refocus your strategy and planning process in the year ahead. Sign up here.

Morag Cuddeford-Jones Editor, Catalyst magazine CIM
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