Back in January I wrote the following: “We want to get back out. To see people in person. To be part of a crowd. To check the morning news without anxiety. Americans are ready to smile again. We’re ready to live again. We’re ready for an explosion of joy and for a celebration of life.” I still believe that’s true. So does our inclusive marketing agency as a whole. And with vaccinations running way ahead of schedule, it seems like we’re in great shape to see those hopes answered.
For starters, the latest economic predictions for the rest of the year are pretty rosy. The Federal Reserve expects GDP growth of 6.5% in 2021, and Goldman Sachs has forecast it at 8% – if they’re right, 2021 would see the fastest economic expansion in 80 years. That’s a pretty big deal.
It’s not just about the numbers though. With the good news about vaccines and businesses, people can see a light at the end of the tunnel. We see coming prosperity and a return to normal around the corner, with the chance to do all those things I mentioned above. It doesn’t mean everything will be the way it was before, but we can at least get on with our lives.
Marketers are certainly responding. The spending floodgates have opened, and folks are rightly salivating over what promises to be an incredible holiday season thanks to the combination of more money in people’s pockets and a renewed dedication to celebrating with loved ones. Add the prospect of travel into the mix, and a battered hospitality sector should see a much-needed rebound that kicks off a couple of months before the caroling starts.
So why am I still a bit edgy? Is it because after the last few years, I’m reflexively a bit cautious and still not sure we can have nice things? Maybe. But there is a danger – the chance for a big mismatch between expectations and reality. Here’s what the CDC has to say about how to act in public after you get vaccinated: “You should keep taking precautions in public places like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces until we know more.” That sounds…well, basically like what we’re doing now. It sounds nothing like getting back to normal.
Will that advice change once a majority of people get vaccinated? Hopefully. Research indicates that folks who’ve been vaccinated don’t spread COVID, so the masks may prove unnecessary. But the CDC (and businesses) may drag their feet about letting folks with vaccines go without masks. And that’s before we consider all the people who refuse to get vaccines – people who are also the least patient with mask mandates. Will Americans have to carry vaccine passports in order to get back to normal? It seems sensible, but we can’t count on everybody to play along.
As marketers, we want to see that pent-up energy channeled into enthusiasm that fuels a decade-long boom. This year’s Super Bowl ads teemed with nostalgia for the `90s – the last time most Americans felt truly happy about how things were going for a long stretch of time. If things work smoothly over the next few months, we should expect to see it again. But recovering from trauma is a tricky thing, so if people wind up disappointed with the new normal, we’re looking at a very different kind of “Roaring `20s”.
So what does this all mean for marketers? Well, as I said in January – help bring that explosion of joy to your customers’ lives. Be a part of that recovery from the traumas of 2020, but have a plan B…just in case things go sour. Be ready to acknowledge that we didn’t just hit a reset button. Acknowledge the folks who don’t share in the good fortune right off the bat. Give me a shout; I’m ready to talk about how your brand can prepare for both the best of times and the rest of times.