When stacked up against history, there are certainly at least a few moments we can point to as antecedents to our current era. But for most of us alive today, especially those out in the workforce, we have had no frame of reference for the kinds of radical changes our lives and businesses have had to go through over the past nine months. We may not all be in the same boat, but we are certainly in the same storm — and that storm has made our paths forward unclear.
So — as individuals and as businesses — we have had to become agile. Since the future became less predictable than ever, we’ve had to learn how to let each moment guide our choices. With our understanding of the novel coronavirus changing almost daily, with constantly shifting regulations and recommendations from national, state, and local authorities; with the needs and concerns of customers constantly getting rearranged — we have been standing on sand at high tide. We’ve had to learn to find new footing, repeatedly. We’ve had to learn to think in all directions at once, to be ready to choose the right course as it became clear.
In short, we’ve had to learn to pivot.
The Association of National Advertisers (ANA), in its annual members poll, chose pivot as its Marketing Word of the Year for 2020. Having watched their choices over the last couple of years, and having watched marketing trends this year closely, I would have been shocked if they had chosen anything else.
Prior to 2020, when I thought of the word pivot, it was always in a context of athleticism and grace. It was a dog swiveling to catch a stick in midair; a dancer’s pirouette; a hockey player running drills. There is an inherent rigor to the word—to pivot is to have practiced. And friends, over the course of 2020, we have practiced. Throughout the promotional products industry, our minds have been exercised in this skill.
Early on, manufacturers rose to the occasion and pivoted to produce masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE). Our own in-house promotional graphics team led the charge locally in pivoting to offer stock and customized signage, from floor decals to yard signs and so much more. Our in-house mailing program, previously specializing in drop-shipping calendars and creating custom mailers, pivoted to excel in kitting projects for clients suddenly needing to send gifts to people’s homes.
In the promotional products industry, our specialty is communication, and the COVID-19 pandemic that has dominated most of 2020 has made essential the need to communicate tangibly — for businesses to offer things that people could touch, see, smell, hear, and even taste, in order to stay front-of-mind when they couldn’t engage their customers in person. So, in a way, we have done what we have always been best at.
But we have had to think of our relationships with customers and with each other in new ways. There has been more emphasis on reaching out and interacting via phone, video conferencing, and email, as we’re sure there has been for you as well. From all of our customers, the constant refrain has been that you have had to change the way you do business in order to survive.
In short, we have all learned to pivot.
And as is always the case when the ANA chooses their word of the year, pivot is more than just a word that defines the experience of the current year that’s almost done: It’s a word that we carry with us into the year to come, and beyond. This agile thinking, this graceful discipline, is a skill that will make us all better at all our endeavors going forward, no matter what the future holds.
- It makes clients trust us more
- It makes it easier to rebound from disappointment
- It makes us more capable of seeing solutions where others see obstacles
- It keeps us quick and it keeps us aware
- It allows us to get out of our own way
I’m not usually a lemons-into-lemonade kind of thinker, and it seems unseemly to consider what we have gained in a season when so many have lost. But we can honestly and gratefully examine the impact that pivoting has had on our lives, and we can commit to staying in practice.
What ways have you had to learn to pivot in 2020? Have your messaging and marketing approach had to shift? We’re here to help! Contact us for ideas for successfully continuing your pivot into the new year.