Marketing Through The Pandemic – Forbes

As the weather slowly warms and the snow begins to fade from the mountains I see from my home office in Switzerland, I’m reminded of how much our lives have shifted over the past 12 months. These and other visual cues—from Facebook’s daily reminders of our lives pre-2020 to this year’s Super Bowl commercials that reflected on current events while showcasing a slew of new pandemic-friendly technologies—color our collective experience.

I have lived through some fundamental business changes in my time, but none as momentous as the COVID-19 pandemic. Life as we knew it in the world of marketing has been suspended or pared back until further notice: travel, face-to-face meetings, business meals and drinks, conferences, store and showroom visits—anything that involves people moving around or coming together. It has been like one of those creativity workshops where the leader spells out a challenge, everybody comes up with a solution, and the leader says: “Toss those solutions; you’re not allowed to use them. You have to come up with something else.”

Consider event photographers and videographers, who would normally be busy capturing every smile and smoldering look at weddings, parties, shows, and product launches. What is there for them to do when the pandemic has kyboshed most in-person events? While some may be using the downtime to maintain their gear and tidy up their hard drives, others have pivoted to serve clients’ new needs, including for more visually compelling online presentations and mailings. Businesses are using rich visuals and virtual experiences to sell to customers who are no longer willing to venture into stores, trade shows, or showrooms. When Isaac Rodriguez of Austin, Texas, switched from weddings and portraiture to photographing food and consumer products, he found he was booking 40 shoots a month compared with 15 a month prior to the pandemic.

Much the same has applied to trainers and speakers—people who used to rely on filling seats to make their living. In the “before times,” best-selling British author Jeremy Cassell was booked months in advance to deliver training events to high-level law firms all over the world. In an instant, his bookings vanished. Realizing his clients were even less comfortable presenting online than in person, Cassell created a suite of assets to support virtual presentations, which he recognizes are here to stay.

In the Netherlands, events director Jennifer van der Schaaf was a month out from a major fashion show, her biggest event of the year, when the COVID call came. “Cancel the show.” And a bunch of other shows. Then came possible salvation with a call from the committee of the Topvrouw van het Jaar (translated: Successful Woman of the Year) awards show. They wanted to make it a virtual event. Pre-pandemic, Jennifer had scorned online events for their lack of contact, connection, and emotions, but she saw the Topvrouw as her chance to show that dreary online events could be transformed into compelling TV. She blended the feel of a live event, the speed of TV, and the emotional impact of theater, laying the foundations of her new work-from-home (WFH) business. (Something similar happened in the U.S. in August 2020, when the Democratic National Convention became the first virtual political convention in history—to wide acclaim.)

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Not all lockdown-driven reinvention has involved thinking up new business ideas. Let’s face it: Most people have been too busy getting on with whatever work they have (WFH or in-person) and trying to maintain some semblance of sanity as the pandemic drags on. But we have seen a strong appetite for upskilling via online classes and other learning resources. People are learning languages courtesy of Duolingo and italki; cooking with Larks, kitchen skills specialist Rouxbe, and Yukiskitchen; and taking guitar lessons on JamPlay and keyboard lessons with Yousician. Those looking for career-related upskilling are spoiled for choice: business management courses through EDX, coding with Codecademy and developer skills with Google, design skills with Parsons, and cybersecurity with leading providers. Whether your ambition involves puppeteering, belly dancing, or even sheepdog training, you are in luck.

The shift into the virtual sphere opens up enormous potential for marketers, including opportunities involving sponsorships, partnerships, and advertising. Marketing is about finding appropriate audiences, connecting with them in meaningful ways, and creating mutually beneficial relationships. And the pandemic has created a whole new ecosystem in which we can play.

What’s stopping you?