July 28, 2020
These are unbelievably crazy times. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed and afraid. We wouldn’t be human otherwise.
For better or worse, I always see the upside in any situation. Maybe it’s because I’m an entrepreneur, but I can’t help but see the opportunity in every situation.
Like all of us, I was shocked and paralyzed with fear at the onset of the coronavirus crisis. However, I quickly moved from fear to opportunity. Two perspectives helped me make that mental shift.
Two Perspectives Helped Me Chart a Positive Path Forward
Like other business owners, I worry about the ripple effect this economic seizure could have on the families of my employees and the clients we serve. I don’t want to see anyone suffer, and seeing what’s happening reminds me a lot of the pain I lived through during the recession in 2007 and 2008.
Remembering the past was the first perspective that helped me chart a positive path forward.
Thirteen years ago, I lingered. I didn’t want anyone to know my business was hit by the recession that was overtaking us all. My waiting nearly wrecked my company. I wasn’t going to let that happen again. I set my ego aside and made the moves I needed to secure the future of my business.
After looking back, I shifted my focus forward. This future-oriented mindset is the second perspective that helped me chart a positive path forward.
The instant I looked forward, I remembered that necessity is the mother of invention.
The social distancing and quarantine forced upon us will force the hand of something larger and more long-lasting. The technologies that were playing at the periphery of our lives have moved front and center.
Telemedicine and telecommuting are suddenly necessities. No longer choices, food delivery, virtual payments, digital currencies and video conferencing are what we rely on to work, live and play. As they shut down the beaches, trails, bars and parks around us, we are finding new ways to explore, connect and refresh.
The people who have now been forced into a corner will use these circumstances to invent something that will change the way we live for the better. These inventions will make life easier, which will give us time back, which will lead to further innovation.
The Crisis Is Changing Advertising
Just as consumers are learning to adopt new technologies (think of all the grandmothers out there using Zoom, Skype and Facebook Live for the first time), advertisers are learning to leverage the power of new platforms to continue to connect with their audiences.
We know that consumers want to hear from brands right now. Advertising has always involved finding connection points with audiences and delivering relevant, motivating messages at those points. Today, those points are changing.
More conservative brands and their marketers are learning to advertise on streaming platforms and in gaming, since that is where people are spending their time these days.
While this can be scary for some, it’s a great thing for our industry because it will propel us forward. Progress involves strategic risk and innovation. Thankfully that’s something that marketers excel at.
How to Innovate Right Now
During this time of crisis, it’s easy to go to a dark place mentally. If you are a business owner, leader, entrepreneur or marketer, this is your time to shine. The responsibility is ours to be a ray of light that reveals new paths forward for business and community.
Do you operate a manufacturing company? What can you make right now that people need? How can you contribute in a way that moves our country and our world forward? Facilities that made fiber four weeks ago could churn out masks tomorrow that will help our healthcare workers treat us safely through this storm.
Now is not the time to cower in the dark, clinging tightly to what is slipping through our fingers. We are lateral thinkers and can’t let coronavirus change the way we innovate.
Those who emerge successful on the other side of this crisis will be the business leaders, brands and marketers who didn’t give up. Who, when faced with layoffs and loss of revenue or staying silent instead of developing retooled messaging and creative, kept moving forward until a new opportunity for profit presented itself.
At my company, OBI Creative, we’re giving away resources right now.
Resources that we would normally charge clients for. Those resources are helping other companies communicate better and have a better chance of surviving this crisis intact. This act of generosity is for the good of our larger community and I’m happy we’re doing it. Also, I understand that crisis is the time for brands and businesses to build trust with clients by showing their true colors.
Helping Hard-Hit Clients
As marketers, we understand that while everyone is hurting, some of our clients have been harder hit than others. Restaurateurs and those in the travel industry are among the hardest hit. Companies with strong contingency plans couldn’t have anticipated the complete economic seizure we’ve seen unfold.
One of our clients, Travel and Transport, just launched a global rebrand based on a year’s worth of research and creative effort. Its brand is strong because it is:
- Grounded in research.
- Aligned with business strategy.
It is a global travel management company that has weathered change in the travel industry for 73 years and this crisis is bringing it, as it has the entire travel industry, to its knees. No strangers to adaptation and evolution, Travel and Transport knows how to survive. I have no doubt it will emerge from this crisis stronger and even more successful.
It’s going above and beyond to help travel managers and travelers get home safely, rebook travel plans and adjust travel policies. While it would have been easy to slash its marketing budget right now, it continues to invest and we continue to help with retooled campaigns and relevant content.
Trust Will Win Out in the End
When the world does start turning at full speed again, brands like Travel and Transport, who built trust and kept talking, will be the first ones people turn to with their business. The seeds of innovation, diligence and generosity we plant now will bear the fruit of increased opportunity when this is all over.
Mary Ann O’Brien is the CEO and Founder of OBI Creative, a research-based, innovation-driven advertising agency based in Omaha, Nebraska. OBI starts and finishes each and every marketing plan and advertising campaign with the customer at the center - determining motivations, behaviors and key consideration drivers.