It’s been 153 days since my last in-person business meeting on March 12. Like most people at the time, we thought this all might be over in a few weeks, and then we’ll be back at it by the time things warmed up. And like most people, we underestimated it. In the past five months, the world has changed, and on a micro-level our own lives have changed with it. We’ve had to think about how to run an agency and keep our team healthy and humming during this seismic shift. Here’s a few of the things we’ve done to keep us going – for however long this might be.
The followings you build on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, or wherever are not actually “owned” audiences. They’re “rented.” Like a rental car or apartment, you get to use these tools more or less as you see fit – but within the parameters of an agreement. You have to pay to keep access, and you don’t have any control over the future of that asset.
Like many of you with “laptop jobs” that have been working remotely for the bulk of this year, I’ve been spending a ton of time on Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams, or whatever other flavor of video calling. It seems like in addition to every meeting become a video call, half of all phone calls became video calls too. (If we need this many video calls, with “Zoom fatigue” creeping in on us, is a question for another day.)
With this change, we find ourselves doing a ton of virtual presentations. As screensharing has evolved over the years, we’ve thankfully grown from just being able to share the whole screen, to being able to exclusively sharing an application window. Fantastic, nobody has to see our messy desktops and awkward notifications.
Like a football team, every brand has to compete to win. But not every team is the best at everything – some have better quarterbacks, some are studs on defense, and yet others might even have the best placekicker in the league. Each team team competes on a different attribute to try to win the day.
A smart, well-defined brand does the same. It competes on having the best product, coolest mystique, or even the most righteous morals. But, like how you can’t have all the best players in the league, you can’t compete on every attribute. Just as with the brand personality, the strongest brands choose to play on one or two areas.
Close your eyes, and think of Coca-Cola. What comes to mind? Probably the bright cherry red or Spencerian script of its swooping logo. Maybe it is the caramel fizzy product itself, or even Santa Claus. Or, for billions of people around the globe, the first image to materialize is the infamous, iconic, contour bottle. And beyond the success of the end product, the process which got Coca-Cola here is a work of art in its own right. This bottle is the result of the best design brief I've ever seen.
During these unpredictable times, pressing questions loom over the heads of social marketers and clients alike: “what now, and where do we go from here?” Living in the era of social distancing presents unique challenges, and learning how to navigate these roadblocks becomes of even more importance.
It should go without saying, but please for the love of all that is good, do not use the Coronavirus to make your marketing cute or topical. You may think it’s a good idea, but it’s not even close. Making a witty or quirky Coronavirus post, ad, video, or email has very little upside, and very high downside. Every single year, you see roundups of tasteless tweets from brands around 9/11 or Pearl Harbor – and you don’t want to be on top of the inevitable listicle of crass content.
Every now and then, you come across an insight that is just so disruptively, spot-on accurate that it lodges itself in your skull, grabs a hold of your brain, and attaches itself so deeply that your entire worldview changes. It’s the sentence that makes the entire book, or interview, or movie, or blog, or whatever worth it. Hell, it’s the type of thought that makes the entire concept of reading worth it.
As I’ve been working on new projects and teaching a new semester the past few weeks, there are three of these golden nuggets recently banging around in my head. And the more I dwell on them, the more I start to believe that almost everything else is noise, and that understanding and internalizing these three ideas would put you ahead of 90% of other marketers and change makers in the world.
Trying out a new social network isn’t just a matter of claiming a username and repurposing past content. It involves research, design, and experimentation. Participating in TikTok is one thing, winning at it is another. And when we chase the shiny red ball (the newest social network) instead of focusing on the cash cow (wherever you’re currently converting your audience), you risk blowing up your entire social strategy and effectiveness.
Real talk: how many promotional emails do you receive on a given day? Now tell us, how many of those do you open, let alone click-through to learn more? We’d have to guess the answer to that is, well, not too many. But there are things you can do to increase your clickthrough rate, and it all starts with understanding your audience.