As we move into the New Year and we start turning attention to life living with and beyond the pandemic, one of the few consensus certainties is that 2021 brings a deepening recession as business adapt and re-imagine themselves in the new environment around us.
There are many words and case studies written about recessions and the trends that emerge from them. One of the most referenced is how times of recession bring opportunities for businesses and how some of the most successful companies were formed or emerged during downturns of the economy.
These examples are always the big bang birth of a soon to be enormously successful company. However, the opportunities and stories of many other companies are often lost in the fanfare of the headline story.
All too often the default strategy is to cut costs, hunker down and ride it out until we are in better times. This methodology not only misses the opportunities that can arise but, when uncertainty and instability is the everyday currency, has a high level of risk as end goals or upturns are both difficult to predict and have no strength in their longevity.
During the next 12 months, with the political, economic, and societal change it will bring, our customers will be looking to upskill and educate ourselves on the world we live in. The opportunity for marketing and communication teams is to position their brand side-by-side with their customer, joining them on this journey, rather than as a well-wisher on the side.
This brings the world of events to the forefront. Whether it’s a virtual platform, or an in-person event once lockdown measures start to be lifted, events provide a platform for education, they give an environment for connection and they create shared experiences which can bond individuals and companies beyond transactional relationships.
In the 21st Century, we understand the value of product placement, we witness the role of influencers in driving consumer behaviours and we know live events are part of the currency that we, as individuals, value in creating our identity. This is not about creating events that are about promotion of the company hosting the event, but about experiences which give the attendees a chance to experience something different, to educate in an area of interest or to help gain understanding or clarity of thought in the craziness of the world around us.
The positioning of the live event will move away from a promotional push by a company and instead towards engagement with customers at a time where experiences are valued at their premium. But, critically, these events can create long term memories and attachments which bind the customer to the company creating the holy grail for any marketer, that of a long term relationship and thus a sustained and high level on their Return on Investment (ROI).
During a time of recession, it is natural to retreat back to defensive positions, to see it through, to consider that the game is to stay in the game. However, whether we are talking the big success stories of Disney, AirBnB, Microsoft, IBM or General Electric that were born out of recession or we are talking about opportunities for businesses during these times to thrive, how we look at 2021 and the recession we are in, needs to be re-thought with purpose and strength.
Using the tools marketers have, there are opportunities for businesses to embed themselves with their customers and forge deeper, longer lasting relationships. With the widespread adoption of virtual events, and with a return to in-person events, we will continue to see the trend from brands using their events to create stories and form memories which indelibly bind together customers and companies both in the moment and for many years to come.