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Good Lessons Marketers Learned From a Bad 2020

Although it's safe to say 2021 can't come soon enough, and while the coronavirus pandemic brought tough repercussions for many marketers, there were some positive lessons as well.

As early as May, Forrester researchers reported that 2020 would see a loss of 469,000 marketing jobs. Marketers who were lucky enough to hold onto their roles had to quickly adjust plans and tactics amidst budget cuts, shifts in media consumption, event cancellations and production shutdowns. There simply was no playbook for what we were going through.

We've had months to reframe our thinking and reset our values, so let's not forget the hardships we had last year but also move forward and learn from them. Read on to see BabbleBoxx's unique insights and hopefully it will encourage anyone who saw 2020 as a complete disaster to view things in a fresh, new way.


We Saw Humanization in the Workplace

Resource shortages, financial and political fragility and massive dislocations forced us to have difficult conversations, handle crisis situations and witness embarrassing Work From Home moments. This allowed us to connect with our peers on a deeper, more personal level and has given us a greater appreciation of their lives as individuals. The intersection of work and home has caused us to be more tolerant and accepting in all areas of business.

Empathy among professionals extended to the influencer marketing space in several ways: (1) agencies and brands alike checked in with influencers to see how they were dealing during the crisis via email, virtual events and livestreams, (2) they were more lenient with campaigns and helped to adjust deliverable timelines to help influencers if/when they were struggling at home and unable to complete an assignment, and (3) they adjusted tone and messaging for campaigns to further humanize content shared by influencers to ensure it was sensitive to current realities. According to BabbleBoxx, there was a palpable shift in messaging from "I am living my best life" to "I am doing my best at life.”

We Saw Kindness in the Time of Corona

The kindness we saw over the last few months was recently reinforced by the sudden passing of Tony Hsieh, former CEO of Zappos, whose philosophy and book "Delivering Happiness" focused on engagement, inclusion and empathy in business. Individuals are increasingly reaching out to offer support to at-risk colleagues, organizing fundraisers to support local charities and taking measures to show appreciation.  As early as March, Amazon, UPS and Sam's Club released videos to show appreciation to their retail heroes, delivery people and warehouse specialists for their services.  Many companies turned outward to support community. MGA Entertainment launched Operation Pac-Man to raise money and provide supplies to health care workers. They are also committing $5 million from its children's brand L.O.L Surprise to get more Personal Protective Equipment to donate.

Just as brands showed compassion, influencers also stepped up. Earlier this month, YouTuber Melea Johnson, creator of  "The Melea Show," turned to her followers asking them to help support For The Kids, a Utah-based charity that provides meals for underserved children when they are not in school. Within 24 hours donations were at $30,000.

Diana Brandt, a Phoenix based food blogger also known as the AZFoodie, helped raise money to aid local restaurant workers. Brandt raised about $2,000 in August and then appeared on the Drew Barrymore show, which brought the total up to $65,000.

Brands and influencers in all areas reached out to help those in need.

We Learned How to Adapt to Pauses and Pivots

As marketers we were faced with layoffs, budget cuts, health concerns, racial and political upheaval. As a result, plans were canceled, delayed or adjusted. BabbleBoxx, for one,  quickly responded to client’s needs.

GLAAD's plans to celebrate included Pride Unboxed, a gift set to be sent out for Gay Pride Month in lieu of festivals and events, which were postponed from the beginning to the end of June. The organization's leaders internally took measures to change messaging to address Black Lives Matter in all 500 gifting boxes.

And changing an early Spring campaign to an end of school year effort to show appreciation for teachers, Quaker Oats found a meaningful way to express gratitude to educators by sending in-house kits to influencers who were asked to create signs, gifts, cards and other tokens of appreciation and share them on social media channels.

Avon, which was set to open Studio 1886 - its first immersive beauty center, paused plans for their influencer activation until the beginning of September. Plans for their on-location influencer marketing activation were altered to ensure safety came first. Influencers were welcomed to go in-store for one-one-one tours and those who did not feel comfortable visiting the premises could do so virtually via Zoom.

In each case, for our clients GLAAD, Quaker Oats and Avon, Babbleboxx quickly worked to communicate with influencers regarding their availability, adjusted their deadlines, tweaked inserts with up-to-date messaging, introduced and pivoted with new approaches and ensured product fulfillment was handled efficiently.

We Embraced Technology (and it's a good thing)

We were forced to quickly adopt Zoom and embraced digital technology as an enabler versus a distancing disabler. This rapid digitalization has brought massive benefits including immense cost savings to brands realized by doing virtual events and not in-person productions or trade shows, and changed output that led to better quality content. People have more tools at their fingertips---Instagram launched Reels and shoppable content and Zoom now enables influencers to sell to pods of their followers in a private environment.  And there is better engagement and conversion, as the pandemic amplified the impact that influencers have on driving product sales due to restricted ability to shop in person.


To sum it up, there is always a silver lining. Let’s look forward to 2021 confidently as we overcome adversity and embrace challenges, learning from both as we have done in this past year.