We're on the road to recovery. We're re-opening, re-setting, re-inventing, navigating the new, emerging at the other side, un-pausing the pause button, writing the post-COVID playbook, re-discovering and probably re-pivoting too.
The challenging times are far from over, though. At least, that's what the flurry of articles and webinars and thought pieces and workshops on what brands should be doing now, in this "recovery phase," would have you believe.
I do hope that we as marketers won't make the same mistake twice. Only a few of weeks ago, marketing managers all over the world noticed that their carefully thought-out and quickly pulled-together "we're here for you, we'll get through this together" commercial was exactly the same as the next one. Especially when the internet wags pointed it out to them.
The mistake was that people were so desperate to demonstrate empathy with what people were going through in lockdown that they forgot (or were too nervous of being insensitive) to show how their brand, services and products could play a role.
I hope that brand communication coming out now will see a return to lighthouse brands - or maybe in the mobile day-and-age, Searchlight Brands. Instead of vague expressions of empathy, a bolder statement of how your brand inspires how people might like to live tomorrow.
Of course advertising should be based on empathy, but an empathy that comes from the brand:
What does your brand do for people, and why?
What's unique about your product/s and service/s?
What is your brand's particular voice, attitude and way of seeing the world?
And the litmus test is always: could this piece of communication come from any other brand?
Lockdown cliche that I am, I'm been listening in to a few seminars recently. To do with work and to do with my rather bedraggled attempt at being an author. This week's seminar from The Society of Authors promised to combine both - the topic was Marketing your Books.
I did pick up a few tips and once I'd got my head round the idea that the speaker was talking more about what I'd call sales, I was happy to listen in to learn what I should really be doing to sell my books - getting an email newsletter together.
I won't be doing that, though, for a simple reason. Sales is not the prime objective of my marketing. And it's for this reason that I found the tenor of the talk slightly depressing:
There are no new ideas in marketing
All marketing is a numbers game Just copy from those who are doing it well/properly
This flavour of marketing is something I've touched on before, in relation to creativity. Here, and here. The idea that with a mix of templates, frameworks, tools and algorithms, you can create by formula. And I've discovered a myriad of websites that can churn out content to promote your book, from Canva to BookBrush. And yes, I probably will give them a go, and stick it on Instagram to see what happens. Although I'm not sales-driven, I'm never going to say no if someone wants to buy my books. Of course not.
I am sure I could find a antique-looking map background and possibly some representation of a scorpion and create a nice little promo for my book. But I fear it would get lost amongst all the samey coffee cups, socks, flowers in vases and shabby-chic backgrounds that one sees in book promotion.
The map would not be the genuine article of the place that inspired the book, from the early 1960s, still encrusted with a hint of desert sand.
And the scorpion wouldn't be a fluffy one.
The thing is, there's more to marketing than numbers.
There is magic, mystery, creativity, novelty, authenticity, surprise.
And none of these things are available via a template.
Looking back over the last six or seven weeks, the main thing that's struck me is the rediscovery of the comforts of your own home. I'm talking about a particular group of people here, who may well have pooh-poohed their home in healthier days, or even denied that their home consisted of something as solid as four walls. The younger amongst this group like to think of themselves as Global Nomads, the older as International Business People or Liberal Elite Citizens of the World. Many of the Marketing and Advertising community belong (although belonging isn't really their thing) to this group of "Anywheres". It's a group who can, on occasion, have a slightly sneery and condescending view of those who are - let's say - more rooted.
A fascinating report came out last week from discover.ai, who have been chronicling the passage of lockdown and beyond more-or-less in real time. Last week's issue looked at enjoyment - how people are talking about pleasure, treats, joy and fun. And so much of what they found related back to home comforts, from TV binges to Burgeoning Booziness.
What discover.ai have termed Age of Nostalgia is only too apparent in a Facebook news stream cluttered with photos of dog-eared albums as yet another friend takes up the challenge (I would personally find running up Ben Nevis a challenge, or jumping into the North Sea on New Years Day, but there you go).
I listened to a webinar where Steve Challouma, the General Manager of Birds Eye talked about growth of 60% for Fish Fingers, and 120% for Chicken Nuggets - comfort food has leapt out from under the duvet to reclaim its place in our stomachs, and therefore hearts.
The booze story with all those Quadrantinis and Furlough Merlots is well-documented.
And, in a Society of Authors (virtual) Tea With ... event, author Joanne Harris admitted to reading Georgette Heyer in the bath.
In the UK at least, all of this cosy, nostalgic, naughty-but-nice, keep the home fires burning stuff will cumulate tomorrow in an outbreak of Stay at Home VE Day Street Parties.
And there will be no excuse from the (former) Global Nomads and Elite World Citizens not to join in with the jollity.
When I was little, I wanted to be a spy. I got off to a good start, studying Psychology at Trinity College, Cambridge but somehow got side-tracked into the wonderful world of advertising and marketing.
My children's books: