3 Ways Brands and Marketers Will Be Forever Changed by 2020

They’re acting more human—and taking concrete action

These Brand Genius honorees say brands have to be more human now. Adweek
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Key Insights

We still have a little over three months to go in 2020, but the year has already become synonymous with unprecedented challenges and changes following a global pandemic and ongoing calls for social justice.

“It doesn’t matter what business you’re in. None of our plans that we made as of Q4 last year for 2020 are relevant anymore,” said Kofi Amoo-Gottfried, vice president of marketing at DoorDash, in a session on the New World Order during the first day of Brandweek on Monday.

Here’s a closer look at what brand leaders like Amoo-Gottfried have learned so far this year, along with the three primary ways they say business as usual has been forever upended by a moment that has changed us personally and professionally:

The new normal is the norm

For starters, consumers have embraced digital like never before and so, brands need to look forward instead of backward.

According to Andrea Brimmer, chief marketing and public relations officer at Ally, the migration to digital during the pandemic has yielded an influx of new customers for Ally.

“I think that’s probably something that will persist for a long time just because people have found that frictionless experience and they’re now questioning, ‘Why did I ever do it the old way?’” she said.

Amoo-Gottfried said the shift to ecommerce and the convenience economy is here to stay—although it may not remain as elevated as it is now across all categories.

“I don’t see that going back,” he said.

The key is to embrace the new normal as if you chose it instead of questioning when we’ll get back to the way things were, added Sadira Furlow, vice president of marketing at Frito-Lay. (Furlow, like Amoo-Gottfried and Brimmer, are among Adweek’s Brand Genius honorees this year.)

“Look at what you’ve been able to accomplish over the past six months that you haven’t been able to do before,” Furlow said. “How do you codify that and make that as a part of your business continuity plan and take those lessons with you versus trying to get back to a time that is long gone?”

Marketers have to think with their hearts

Brands have also become more human in the past six months—and part of that means being better listeners, Furlow said.

“I think more than ever, this time required us as brands to really put the consumer first to have them at the table and be much better at listening to them and then delivering on what they needed,” she said.

In fact, Brimmer said, marketers should think like human beings instead of, well, marketers.

“We have to recognize that if you don’t think about the way that your customers are feeling and the mood of the country, then you’re just being completely tone deaf,” she said. “I think you can only behave in that manner when you really think with your heart and you think like a human being and [you’re] not trying to think like a marketer.”

Similarly, Amoo-Gottfried said the most important thing for brands to do is to lead with generosity and focus on what consumers need.

“Empathy for your consumers, your customers, your peers, your colleagues, just showing up [as] more human and bringing what I [call] grace to that—I think it allows us to focus on the right actions and to just be able to navigate it together versus some of the pressure of being perfect,” Furlow added.

@lisalacy lisa.lacy@adweek.com Lisa Lacy is a senior writer at Adweek, where she focuses on retail and the growing reach of Amazon.