Are you ready to say goodbye to 2020? I know I am. But I have to look back at this year of change, pain, innovation, “pivoting” (and how I hate that word now), reaction, closings, attrition, health concerns, and more before I look forward to 2021. True, it has been a tumultuous year, but as always, I am looking for the silver linings of 2020. And yes, there are some. It is through these silver linings that I see what 2021 will look like.
So what and where are these silver linings? I chatted with a few industry leaders and asked for their positive take-aways (if any) from 2020. I got quite a few. Here are the top four concepts and positive outcomes identified by our group.
- The push for digital has happened. For many organizations, going digital in a big way (whether for tracking, activations, learning, etc.) has been on the radar for five to ten years, but never made the budget cut. There was never the money to shift into the 21st century, but because of COVID, we had to—or meet our demise. I think this has been a huge blessing. We are getting where we need to be in the digital world. We are not 100% there and some of it is “lipstick on a pig” digital, but we moved farther along that path in the first four months during COVID than we have in the last four years combined!
- Working from home. The virtual world abounded. Our company has been operating since 2001, but we have never had physical offices. We have been virtual since day one. But the decline in travel from 150 days a year in 2019 to 10 days in the last nine months of 2020 was a change. For others, the shift was immediate—lots of initial issues in March and April, but by May, working from home, having Zoom meetings, and attending conferences virtually all became second nature. A great many companies have already indicated that there will not be a return to the office for those who wish to continue working from home. Productivity is up. Time with family has increased for many. True, some miss the camaraderie of the office and water cooler chat, but we have found ways to replace (not replicate or duplicate) them. For most, this new working from home option is a blessing, and again, something that would not have happened without COVID—at least not in this decade!
- We deepened relationships (well, at least the successful organizations did). COVID made us connect with our partners to determine how they were doing, both as a business and personally. It forced us to ask our partners what they needed, where they saw their businesses going, and how we could assist them. What previously may have been high-level relationships, probably closer to transactional relationships, most often have developed into intimate business relationships. We had to deliver on make-goods. We had to determine replacement value. We had to decide whether to leave our money with that partner or ask for it back and understand the consequences. Today, most properties and brands know far more about each others’ businesses than they ever thought they would. That’s what builds great relationships. That’s what makes successful partnerships. If we can continue to be kind and work to achieve others’ goals, we will see exponential growth in our sector as the economy recovers. We have that because of COVID.
- We got creative and innovative. Many of those with whom I chatted had to admit that our industry really had become complacent. Sure, there were some blockbuster deals in the past few years, and some great activations and partnerships that made headlines, but for the most part, we rested on our laurels. COVID has forced us to see how to deliver rink boards virtually in a stadium with no audience. It has required us to find new ways to activate, be it AR, AI, VR, or shipping product. It has compelled us to create partnerships that we never imagined. It has encouraged us to think differently about how to deliver live experiences such as conferences and concerts successfully, effectively, and efficiently. It has also obligated us to learn how to deliver what was live on-site as a virtual or hybrid experience. We have had to think differently. We have had to innovate to survive. We have had to be more creative not only to stand out, but also to survive. For me, this is a huge win. Nothing trumps the reinvigoration of creativity and innovation.
I think, though, in a different time and circumstance, but applicable today, Winston Churchill expressed it best when he said, “Now, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” And I think that is where we are today. Many blessings have come from COVID, and 2021 will be successful if we engage these silver linings beyond 2020. Next week, I will share with you my vision for 2021.
Please remember to stay HIMPS! (Healthy, Isolate when possible, Masked, Physically distanced and Safe!).
© 2020 All rights reserved.