Happy new year! To say the world changed in 2020 is obvious. And it’s clear that 2021 is off to a similarly wild and turbulent start. But while the science isn’t conclusive about how long it takes to develop a new habit, we have lived through the pandemic and this transformative period long enough to shed old habits and develop new patterns and routines—good, bad or ugly. So, like any strategist, I chatted with teammates to reflect on what’s truly changed from last calendar year and what might stick to shape the new one for individuals, brands and organizations.
TL;DR: In a year that seemed to stand still for many, the most notable shifts weren’t new, but rather existing trends that accelerated at warp speed.
Brands have long drawn a distinction between digital and physical worlds. And individuals have often curated a version of our online selves that may not completely reflect the offline reality. While these lines have been blurring for some time, they completely collapsed once the world went into lockdown and we collapsed onto our couches. In 2020, we changed how we lived: we brought bosses and teachers into our homes via video chat, we shopped for groceries online that were delivered to our doors, we worked out in our homes with others across the country. No experience worked without the true integration of digital and physical.
Now, expectations are that winning experiences are truly integrated, adaptive and convenient. Even when it will be safe to socialize less than six feet apart, our hunch is the home will remain a critical hub that connects every aspect of our lives: Warner Bros. is eschewing theaters to premiere new movies at home through HBO Max, dating apps are connecting people from afar and virtual events offer greater accessibility than traditional, in-person counterparts. To continue to deliver on these new expectations of service, brands and platforms must adapt and rethink how, when and where consumers make decisions across increasingly nonlinear journeys—what Google calls “the messy middle.”
Naomi Heckroth is Director, Strategy at Firewood. This article contains contributions by Sarah Higbee, Senior Director, Strategy and John O’Rourke, Senior Director, Strategy at Firewood and Joseph Sutton, Senior Copywriter at MediaMonks.