The pandemic touched all corners of the globe in 2020, changing the way people live and illuminating the weak points in our societies that business must remain aware of.

In the spring, the West largely buried its head in the sand as east Asian countries – hit early – brought in drastic countermeasures to the spread of COVID-19. It wasn’t until hospitalisations began to rocket in Europe and America for these regions to really begin taking notice.

Then for a few months in the spring and early summer, it felt like the whole world was locked down.

For brands and their agencies, it was crisis mode – but from home. Suddenly, as early pieces counselled, brands needed to review their roles in their customers’ lives, keep their ears to the ground.

Oddly, it was a crucial time for strategists, whose specialism at the nexus of sociology, creativity, and commerce brought a new prominence when decisions became as much about what to cut as where to spend. That concern remains key, as 68% of marketers brace for the significant impact of economic recession.

Early market research was concerned with how brands ought to respond, but later the industry began to think about the behaviours that would linger:

  • Increased interest in health and hygiene.
  • Physical retail remains important, though e-commerce begins to take a larger share.
  • Adoption of payments technology accelerated.

For brands, the concern was how much to adapt, given that no one knew how long we would have to wait before we went back to normal. Not long after, we started talking about ‘the new normal’.

Settling into life lived exclusively at home, our lives and purchases moved online, as chronicled in the WARC Guide to e-commerce, which outlined the implications for effectiveness in the new world.

In the summer, however, the pandemic’s effect was showing its uneven distribution. Across rich western countries, ethnic minorities were suffering and dying at a much greater rate than white people reflecting wealth, health, and housing disparities.

In this context, the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis ignited the Black Lives Matter movement and catapulted it into the mainstream around the world.

Advertising’s sorry record in diversity soon came under the microscope. WARC, which itself had work to do, explored what this meant to brands in a WARC Guide to brand activism in the Black Lives Matter era.

It that nobody was innocent, that much of the do-good diversity talk in the years preceding 2020 had been mere cant. There remains work to do in making our communities and places of work more equitable. The lessons of 2020 must remain clear in the future.

Sourced from WARC