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Reflecting Upon the Year’s Experiences

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At Junction Creative Solutions (Junction), we believe that communication is the most fundamental aspect of any marketing strategy. Content is how we communicate, and smart and strategic content differentiates a good brand from the most respected brands. Building trust and confidence with authentic content is the gold standard when developing an effective message. Our Team has more than 40+ years of experience in content strategy and writing for both traditional and digital solutions. Our content has been published by media outlets such as Health News, PR Week, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Yahoo!, and USA Today. We continuously strive to discover the right words that tell a story in the areas that matter most to us, our clients, and our partners. The Junction Notebook has become a popular outlet for articles on trends, insights, and perspectives on a wide range of marketing topics and current industry news. Every year around this time, we review our library of articles to reflect upon the past year’s experiences and to anticipate coming trends.

Entrepreneurs are, by nature, an optimistic lot. It is a required trait if endless obstructions and roadblocks are to be overcome and success is to be achieved. No matter how comprehensive the planning, change lies just around the corner. The entrepreneur’s journey is always an exhausting one; it’s just the way of the game. As 2020 was about to start, we predicted that the time ahead was certain to be a typical year that promised to be full of dynamic challenges and uncertainty. The solution was to lessen the impact of the negatives of uncertainty by planning for it and focus on the market, no matter the drama running nonstop in the background. Set specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely objectives for the marketing plan and prepare to adjust original assumptions whenever necessary. Then came COVID-19.

Each new year undoubtedly produces a whole new set of communication follies that will entertain and educate us about the importance of forming messages that connect effectively with our intended audiences. But in 2020 there would be little time or effort expended to rehash the trivial. It would become a time that demanded intricate discussions on how we and our businesses could survive the most impactful health crisis in over a century. Mandated business and industry shut-downs and sequestrations of entire populations across the world’s marketplaces made even the most insightful marketing strategy useless. As revenues came to a halt, budgets were trimmed to reflect the new reality while marketing plans, that anticipated tweaking, were completely revised and modified to deal with changes in consumer behaviors and overall market dynamics brought on by the pandemic.

The isolation of consumers expedited an ongoing shift in direction to eCommerce resulting in once-iconic brick-and-mortar retailers announcing the closure of hundreds of store locations across the United States (US). Sears Roebuck and J. C. Penny, once thought to be invulnerable, saw the reign atop the retail revenue charts evaporate because of a failure to transition distribution models to the new eCommerce era. The emergence of temporary stores by online retailers appear to have been shelved until after the passing of the pandemic. While it may be true that many large and iconic companies were borne in challenging times, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the marketplace has not been experienced in any of our lifetimes. The transition back to something that appears to be normal for most retailers will not be instantaneous but rather a measured reigniting of a much-changed marketplace.

Consumer concern, fear, and uncertainty are at unprecedented levels as businesses across the industry spectrum are impacted by a slowing of the economy. There is a certain truth to the saying that “none of us have been here before”, so all the positive proponents of venturing out on a new journey now may be drawing upon an untested quiver of advice.

2020 also saw a postponement of the iconic Olympic Games due to the pandemic. Since it all began way back in 776 BC, the International Olympic Games become a staple of entertainment worldwide every four years. The postponement of the Games would have a significant impact on all concerned, including sponsors and advertisers who completed preparing advertising budgets and campaigns as early as Fall 2019.

Before the pandemic, the sports marketing and broadcasting arena was beginning to shift to online, cable, and social media channels like Facebook and YouTube. The migration will likely escalate, leaving many unprepared brands behind a relatively sharp learning curve. The new rules of the marketing game will see new adaptations of virtual and immersive technologies and media platforms that mimic a real-venue experience for fans. With a 30% reduction in sports advertising so far this season, brands playing to win the championship or just survive until next season will need to reallocate marketing spend away from traditional mediums to new and innovative digital marketing opportunities.

Few businesses will openly champion how they benefited from the shelter-in-place orders across America, but video streaming may just be one entertainment industry segment that will quietly relish being in the right place at the right time. Early returns showed that one-third of the world’s population huddled together at home and turned to streaming devices for entertainment. Theater owners and other entertainment venues were hoping to reopen by mid-year, but theatergoers seemed to be unwilling to quickly abandon the convenience and safety of home viewing and reenter the free-flowing lifestyle of pre-pandemic times. The financial ramifications for the entire cinema industry may take years to offset.

The state of our society is unimaginable without the existence of virtual technologies. Virtual communication apps like Zoom made the disruptions to normalcy bearable and possible. As millions of workers transitioned to work from home programs, online meeting apps became the bridge to the office and the school for millions of children. Companies realizing the convenience of permitting many employees to work virtually from home and the cost savings from reduced travel and face to face conferences are expected to continue to embrace the use of video conferencing. Connecting and reading others’ social clues over virtual tools, however, can be difficult for people who are generally more social. Facial expressions and physical mannerisms can be lost, even to the most proficient online users. Face to face engagement is in our DNA, but many organizations effectively use virtual technology to connect with consumers and employees. Imagine, for just a moment, experiencing a world pandemic without the digital and virtual communication tools we enjoy today.

During the pandemic, causal marketing became a fundamental element of marketing strategy. Now, more than ever before, if a brand doesn’t stand for a cause, consumers will look to a competitor who does. The altruistic response from brands and businesses across the country during the COVID-19 crisis is indicative of something far more important than good business practices and profits. It is a demonstration of the true character of all those who dream to achieve in a free market society.

Going forward into 2021, an effective marketing strategy will focus on keeping the customer front and center. Be prepared to realign your original strategy to match the new reality. Every entity is going to continue to experience significant changes, whether positive or negative; savvy marketers will need to exercise agility and be willing to adjust tactics on the fly. Perhaps the only predictable marketing trend for the new year is one that is closely aligned with the progress of the COVID-19 pandemic. Junction is committed to remaining vigilant and responsive to changing factors in the marketplace and prepared to provide our clients and partners with timely and relevant information about our industry.