Human beings are quite adaptable. We have opposable thumbs, we can communicate in multiple dialects, we worked out complex cognition and we’ve reached the top of our food chain with room to spare. However, in the biological Champions League of Resilience, we must bow down and worship at the eight knobbly feet of the humble tardigrade, also known as the ‘water bear’.
From the heights of Everest to the depths of the Mariana Trench, these cuddly little suckers can be found lurking, getting on with their own (apparently rewarding) lives with the minimum of fuss. At a maximum length of 1.5mm, they aren’t going to take over the planet anytime soon but when the sun does explode, these wee chaps will be reclining on a deck chair with mini piña coladas watching the world burn.
They can enter an almost zen-like state to deal with environments so extreme they’d make Bear Grylls piss himself. When things get scary, they expel the water in their bodies and reversibly suspend their metabolism, thus entering a state called ‘cryptobiosis’. Their only weakness is they can’t handle mechanical injury, so you can squeeze them to death.
Pressure gets to all of us, eventually.
It’s this level of resilience that marketers have had to evolve in recent months as, right now, it’s a bit of a shit time to be one – and not a great time to be working in anything, really. There are a huge number of my friends, contacts and former clients on furlough or being made redundant, which is not only sickening for them, but has also flooded the job market – sadly bereft of enough opportunities to go around.
LinkedIn, already a last resort for marketing job-seekers, is now the Wild West, with 200-plus applicants for every decent position and as much chance of standing out as an Ewok at a furry convention.
Readjust your approach, hone your skills through education, and reposition how you present yourself to the market.
Global recession is now looking like a ‘when’ not ‘if’ eventuality, as businesses follow the tried and frequently disproven strategy of slashing marketing budgets in order to save pennies – and themselves. For marketers, the next 12 months hold about as much anticipatory joy as a dose of crabs.
Luckily, marketing is a career which requires ingenuity, an inquisitive mind and graft – traits ideally suited to navigating the Covid crap cloud we’re flying through right now.
Three ways to pivot
Adjusting and optimising yourself to your circumstances has become known as ‘pivoting’ and can take one of three forms. In its simplest and most obvious guise, you’ll realign your four P’s of product, place, price and promotion.
In my personal circumstances, as a marketing consultant who tends to get embedded within businesses for projects or periods, I’ve focused exclusively on PR and crisis management. Bite-sized projects that answer specific client needs and could be packaged small, sold over a Zoom call and completed quickly so the fee would be easy to sign off.
I promoted the repackaged offering to clients and my network and went big on my own PR. The business might not be growing to any extent, but the leaks have at least been plugged.
For the purposes of transparency, it’s worth noting that not all of my pivotal moves panned out so well – namely my Zoom stage play script, esports affiliate website and, most gut wrenchingly, my children’s book ‘Oink, Moo, Twit Twoo’.
‘You miss all the shots you don’t take’ is a mantra that’s meant to make you feel better at times of such failure. TL;DR – it doesn’t.
More impressive on the success matrix was the Covid pivot enacted by Greg Anderson, managing director of Blue Parrot Events Group, which shifted its business to the production of personal protective equipment.
He explains: “For a number of years we’ve supported the Brightest Star charity and had always sponsored their events. Arlene Smith, who founded the charity, heard of an appeal by Glasgow Children’s Hospital charity for acetate and visors. Knowing we had the ability to produce these, she wanted to pay for us to make these and in turn donate them to the hospital.”
This pivot saved the company, leading to a new line of business producing safety screens for offices, restaurants and beauticians, as well as a range of sanitiser units. But it’s not as simple as it sounds.
“We very quickly had to establish a production line with extremely limited staff – two, down from 12 initially – and work out a way that we could fulfil orders and dispatch on time. It sounds easy but when the majority required orders for 15 July for reopening, there was a huge amount of pressure and a number of late nights to be able to get through orders in time.”
Not everyone has the opportunity or capability to make such an impressive and inspiring change at such speed. But an alternative is you can simply pivot yourself. Readjust your approach, hone your skills through education, and reposition how you present yourself to the market. This was comprehensively covered by Colin Lewis’s excellent Marketing Week article.
Finally, you can pivot away – taking the negatives of the current circumstances that you can’t control and looking for complementary work (or even a charitable or creative sideline) that may not pay as well as what you’re used to but instead ticks many more boxes around your emotional needs. Your pleasure centres tend to be forgotten over a lengthy career, as a result of the search for more praise, more money and more power (all things, it’s worth noting, that rarely bring happiness).
What you can’t afford to do is bury your head in the sand. If the world’s best scientists aren’t able to forecast what’ll happen with Covid next week, then you’ve no chance. It’s more manageable (and way better for your sanity) to set small goals, relish the new freedoms you’ve reacquired and enjoy the process of pivoting in whichever direction and degree feels most comfortable.
The best thing about marketing as a discipline (and also its Achilles’ heel) is that there’s never a ‘right’ answer – opinion is far from binary and results are the only true measure. This freedom of movement makes everyone an expert in a debate with no winners. The same goes for your pivot – there is no right answer so nobody will haul you over the coals for trying something different, especially now.
It doesn’t have to be a life-changing move – just something to get the blood flowing, keep your brain engaged, and add some much-needed excitement to power us through the soup of mundanity we’ve all been swimming through.
By pivoting into new and untested waters you’ll become more resilient – and likely happier – by default.
Harry Lang is the founder of Brand Architects, a UK-based brand and marketing consultancy specialising in digital brands, online gaming and esports. He’s available to take on brand, marketing strategy, copywriting and PR briefs. You can contact him at Harry@BrandArchitects.co.uk or connect on LinkedIn.