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Three keys to reset your marketing strategy in a post-crisis world

Pandemic. Lockdowns. Work from home. Rollercoaster economy. Social upheaval. Contact-free shopping. Social distancing. Masks.

Take a moment and think back to the beginning of 2020, back to when “coronavirus” was a phrase most of us weren’t even thinking about, and “pandemic” was something that happened in movies and TV.

The front page of the New York Times on Monday, March 2, reserved its boldest type for an article on the Democratic primary in the upper right, and this headline was a third of the page down: “Death at Nursing Home as Virus Spreads in the U.S.” Already the country was beginning to “scramble to assess emerging risks” of the disease. The dateline on that article was Kirkland, Wash., an affluent suburb of Seattle just five miles from where my teenage daughter and her mom live. Within weeks, my daughter would attend her last day of school in a classroom for her junior year. This month, she began her senior year the same way, at home, on her computer, along with millions of other students and workers across the U.S. and the world.

Perhaps when this all began, you started to think about how you would respond as a marketer. What might you have to do differently as an advertiser? How would you rearrange your business priorities in the weeks ahead? Weeks, maybe months, of some degree of uncertainty seemed assured. Certainly, this virus was something, like our somewhat dim memories of H1N1 or Ebola, that would be handled and then we would be back to business as usual.

Now, midway through September, we realize that this was not business as usual at all. This crisis is truly something different, something far more fundamental. This is a distinct change, an inflection point, a shift from one time to another.

This is “The Reset.”

What has emerged from the ongoing crises—the pandemic, economic uncertainty, global political tensions, impending U.S. elections, social unrest—is something unprecedented in our lifetime; something that fundamentally rewrites many of the rules and beliefs that have carried us to this point. The Reset impacts every sector of society, every individual, every business and institution, and every nation. Some will emerge with newfound strengths and capabilities; some will not emerge at all.

For marketers, The Reset manifests itself in several important ways: trust, values and action. Understanding each is a requirement as we build our plans. Marketers must move from an endless reactive stance to a definitive proactive one.

The successful marketer in the future will keep a close eye on rapid change as well as the newly establishing social norms—all of which are intertwined with the three key elements of The Reset:

  • The Trust Reset represents the lens through which marketers must think about every engagement they create, from digital to physical. Consumers around the globe have been at the center of an unprecedented and unexpected shift in how they live, work and play. Trust in brands, governments, public institutions and even other people has evaporated.
  • The Values Reset is the other side of trust. As consumers and businesses have their trust eroded, they also are having their values rewritten. Months of isolation have created an opportunity for individuals and families to evaluate things they have long valued. From questioning the need for certain types of clothing (who really wants to wear a jacket and tie on a video call?) to realizing that they can bake their own bread, simple values are shifting.
  • The Action Reset, finally, is the structure under which we begin to write our playbook for the future. Action here means the mechanisms, tools and protocols of engagement among people, businesses and social institutions. It is ultimately where marketing must lead in creating and embracing new channels, new tempos and new ideals.

The Reset presents significant challenges and opportunities for marketers to review and rewrite their playbooks. Winning in the world after ongoing crises and seismic shifts in consumer expectations requires careful planning, deep understanding of customers and revolutionary thinking in the use of digital marketing tools. Marketers must step up now and build new best practices quickly if they want their brands to survive and thrive in the new world.