The “Panic Pivot”: Marketing Innovations You Need to Adopt

In 2020 companies had to drastically alter the way they did business and spoke to their audience, and marketers followed suit. What we’ve seen across the marketing world over the last year or so is what we’re calling the “panic pivot” — a drastic shift in strategy as marketers attempt to adapt to the new world we’re living in.

Panicking is never a good thing, but pivoting is crucial.

Focus on Purpose

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently wrote a letter to employees in which he said: “It is in times of great disruption and uncertainty that our ability to stay grounded in our sense of purpose and remain true to our identity is of the utmost importance.” This is perhaps the most important that not only every marketer, but every business, needs to take note of this year.

When the world changes around you, it’s necessary to take a step back and think about your company’s (or client’s) purpose. For marketers and marketing departments, this pivot may start by asking questions like, why did you start using the channels, campaigns, or messaging you’ve been using all these years? What’s the reason your company exists? What are you trying to accomplish?

Knowing When to Act

Pivoting with your purpose as a focus is paramount, but it can come with its own risks.

Looking back, we learned some valuable lessons about when pivoting may help and when it can hurt.

  • Don’t panic: just because you need to adapt quickly doesn’t mean you should overcorrect. We need to look no further than the current controversy the MLB finds itself in over its decision to move its all-star game from Atlanta to Denver for a contemporary example. While the league acted in a way it claimed aligned with its purpose, the subsequent fallout over the impact it will have on the very people and interests it claimed the move was meant to empower demonstrates the hazard of overcorrection.
  • Keep your eyes open for new angles: when toilet paper shortages swept the country, bidet makers pounced on the opportunity to show their benefits. Sellers of tiny homes and backyard sheds billed them as work-from-home workspaces removed from the noise and chaos of your family. Airbnb, VRBO, and similar companies appealed to families who wanted to vacation without sharing a hotel with other people. RV and bicycle manufacturers capitalized on people’s desire to get outside safely. When change happens, you might be perfectly positioned to take advantage of it — as long as you’re paying attention.
  • Stand out or stay quiet: in the early days of the pandemic, every company seemed to feel the need to chime in to the conversation, assuring their customers that “we’re in this together” or “we’re here for you.” One video on YouTube compiles dozens of commercials to show just how monotonous this messaging became.

Not only did these commercials start to run together, but they immediately felt inauthentic. What does it mean to the average customer that a beer company or car company supports them? Virtually nothing. Remember, you don’t have to be a part of every conversation — if you don’t have anything relevant to contribute, then feel free to sit out.

Trends Looking Forward

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the digital shift experienced in both consumer behavior and the broader economy during 2020 wasn’t just a momentary blip. Looking forward, here are some of the top trends we’re anticipating will remain relevant for marketers:

  • Virtual events: virtual events were more of a necessity than a choice in 2020, but organizers quickly realized that they could attract a broader audience for a fraction of the price of renting out event space. Virtual events are easier to set up, easier to attend, and can take advantage of the best collaboration and presentation software. While many of us are excited at the prospect of returning to normalcy and realizing the benefits of working together in-person again, virtual events represent a complimentary and cost-effective event option beyond the current moment.
  • Interactive Content: Demand Gen reports that 91% of buyers want more visual and interactive content. The benefits of adopting this trend include attention to the novelty that interactive content still represents in crowded markets, which in turn helps a business differentiate itself. Interactive content is also typically highly shareable and can increase brand awareness, as well as providing an enriched engagement experience that can lead to longer time on-page and conversion rates.
  • Customers expect informed companies: as shopping shifted dramatically toward online shopping, customers’ standards for retailers rose. They want the contents of their cart to be there the next time they visit, and they don’t want to see ads for products they already own. Marketers will need to focus on data-driven, personalized shopping experiences going forward.

A New Normal

When marketers are able to overcome panic and instead embrace the pivot, they’ll be well-equipped for whatever’s next. Embrace your organizational purpose, know when to act and when to avoid overreacting, and consider what emerging trends fit your organization to thrive in the new normal.

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