By now, we are all getting settled into what is likely to be a new way of living and working that will linger for some time. Though we are unsure what the world will look like as we await a COVID-19 vaccine, the past two months have revealed enough clues to begin charting a course.
- The shock of disruption is largely at an end. We are moving into a steadier phase of life but are still far from normal, as the world waits in anticipation of outbreaks. This period is likely to swing between lockdowns and periods of raised restrictions.
- The world will not bounce back quickly. Experts largely agree that both social and economic recovery will follow an extended V shape, with regrowth happening slowly through the remainder of 2020. The impact has not been equally distributed, with urban, lower income and essential workers bearing the brunt of both the disease and its socio-economic fall out.
- People may not behave the way we expect them to. Everyone uses their own risk-reward algorithm to figure out what makes most sense for their own lives. Some people will choose to get on cruise ships, while others will disinfect every box that comes inside their house for months to come.
As a result, we will continue to ride this wave of uncertainty in 2020, with brands shifting direction and signaling support and safety for their consumers. Economic predictions show growth starting in the 4th quarter of this year, which means that while we look to make it through 2020, we also have the once-in-a-decade opportunity to rethink how to win moving forwards. 2021 will bring a chance for businesses to hit the reset button, an opportunity which encompasses:
- Reframing the future of our categories and go-to market business models, as well as our priority consumer targets and how their needs have shifted. Not only should we rethink what we need to do in a post-COVID-19 world (i.e. what can our business do to help protect people from the virus?) but also how can we rewrite those boundaries by driving innovation and disruption from the inside.
- Resetting how money is spent, channeling investment into the most important opportunities, and breaking away from old spending habits.
But it’s not just the what that businesses need to rewire, but also the how. Before they can effectively jump from reframing to resetting, businesses will need to accelerate efforts in organizational and individual capabilities.
We see the need for teams to double down their reskilling efforts across three critical areas.
1. Systematic processes for planning inside of change.
For the rest of 2020, organizations will need to have clear, cross-system approaches for the fluid management of resources. We need to be ready to shift direction in response to changes in the virus trajectory, institutional behavior, and people’s needs. This likely means multiple short planning cycles throughout 2020 and 2021.
2. Increased ability in core marketing and commercial capabilities.
The current situation underscores the importance of these skills, making it more urgent—even essential—to accelerate performance across these areas.
- People centricity: Tracking has shown that peoples’ attitudes and behaviors to the virus, and expectations from institutions and brands are shifting rapidly between groups and geographies. We don’t yet know where these attitudes, behaviors and values will land, but it’s clear that people-centricity and an “outside-in” mindset will be mission critical. All organizations need to have a strong approach to real-time collection and distillation of, and action against, consumer and cultural insights. These insights should be used to inform brand activities (e.g. is it OK to have humor in advertising this week?) and drive strategy (i.e. the reframing of categories and business models to drive psychological safety).
- Digital Expertise: Given the increase in time spent on digital media (web traffic is up 70%, while 50% of people have increased their visits to websites and 43% to Social media and Video) and the continued shift towards ecommerce (32% of Americans have increased their use of ecommerce), it seems safe to assume that we will need to continue to push capabilities in digital areas. If companies or teams are behind on the digital transformation journey, now seems a great time to kick those efforts into high gear.
- Zero-based budgeting: What we did last year, or during the storm of 2020, will not deliver the same results in 2021. Teams need to be very skilled in thinking through how to spend their money to drive maximum growth in a different way. Working through budgets, line item by line item, projecting which activities will be most valuable, and testing and learning along the way will become critical.
3. Increased humanity in mobilizing and motivating a remote workforce.
Many of us have now been working with and managing remote teams for a few months and are quickly realizing that this is not a temporary measure. Over the next year teams will shift between periods of working remote and in-person. At the same time, many of us are juggling complicated home lives, long hours in front of screens and higher levels of stress. Now, more than ever, we need to have clear, humanized ways of working with tight roles and responsibilities to ensure that teams are effective, efficient, engaged and supported.
Overall, it’s clear that the rest of 2020 will be a bumpy road. But as we look to survive this year and thrive in 2021 and beyond, we need to not only look at what we do, but how to do it better. And instead of pushing forwards with the status quo or settling for short-term workarounds like the last 3 months, we should take the opportunity to reframe, reskill and reset.
Data from Kantar Barometer Studies: March-May 2020
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