Disrupting the COVID-19 New Normal
Aaron Perlut | Partner

I have spoken and written perhaps too often about “disruption” in marketing and reputation building. My colleagues at Elasticity are most likely about as tired of hearing me discuss disruption as I am of hearing my mother tell people I was a “wonderful athlete” or “excellent student” (I was neither) while growing up.

This is my disruption mantra and has been since about 2002: Technology created an ADHD economy. No one pays attention to any source of information for an extended period of time because we are inundated with messages. Human beings are now like the weak kid in the dodgeball game, getting rubber balls hurled at them in a continuum — Facebook, Netflix, traditional TV, Twitter, billboards, urinal ads, Snapchat, ads on soccer uniforms, programmatic, Instagram, ads while waiting on hold from Uberconference and on outfield walls, TikTok and the list goes on and on.

Feel like you just got hit in the face with about 30 big red balls? You’re not alone.

For a brand or organization to break through this information clutter and stand out — to have your message be heard — marketers must disrupt. We need to look at business challenges and address them differently, uniquely, we must stand out and give intended audiences a reason to pay attention.

And this was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the midst of this pandemic, not only must brands and organizations seek to find relevance — as I wrote on in Bulldog Reporter recently — but we must take it a step further and stand out as every brand is trying as hard as they can to make themselves relevant in this new normal created by the novel coronavirus.

It’s all, of course, much easier said than done. Here’s some theoretical examples:

  • KBQME: Applebee’s launches a new Korean barbecue chicken wing offering unlike anything it has ever served. Great, you’re doing this now? But wait — there’s more! Applebee’s has created a new app called KBQME where you can customize your order, watch videos of their new process for making the wings, and have them delivered to your doorstep — which the restaurant chain has never done.
  • MOMoMA: The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York is bringing art to the public as it’s being made. While the MoMA remains closed, it will livestream one contemporary artist per day working on the museum’s facebook page. Once the MoMA reopens to the public, there will be no admission charged during the first week while 5 artists will work inside the museum and create art in real time each day that will be streamed on Facebook. Additionally, the first 200 annual memberships will be given out for free beginning the day of reopening.
  • NFLVR: Like all professional football teams in preparation for the 2020 NFL draft, the Denver Broncos are relying on video interviews and streaming workouts to evaluate potential draft picks. Yawner, right? But the Broncos have added a never-before-used virtual reality tool for the workouts and are allowing fans to view after the draft.
  • I’ll Drink to That: Now more than ever, it’s important for brands to go to market with empathy and goodwill. Anheuser-Busch InBev-owned Natural Light — a perennial favorite for cash-poor college students — is bringing a virtual graduation ceremony to the nation’s graduating students. Headlined by Mark Cuban, Jane Lynch and Stephen A. Smith, they are positioning it as a way for the Class of 2020 from every and any university to get a commencement of epic proportions.
  • #DistanceDance: You probably remember the viral video of the rather ill informed Spring Breakers who were determined not to let the global pandemic stop them from partying. Procter & Gamble wanted to do something to help get Gen Z to abide by social-distancing recommendations. Working with a 15-year old influencer, Charli D’Amelio, they produced a made for TikTok video that’s generated 8.7 billion views to date. For every #PGpartner tagged video, the company donates essential items to Feeding America or Matthew 25:Ministries.

While being brilliant ideas, ahem, these are more farcical concepts than anything else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More than anything — along with this photo of Chuck Norris — hopefully the concepts illustrate a point: If you want your brand to survive and thrive, in today’s information landscape you must disrupt.

So in this current pandemic landscape and beyond, move past what’s right in front of your face, step out of your comfort zone, stretch into unfamiliar territory. Think about how your brand or organization can differentiate itself and win the hearts and minds of your audience. Endeavor to be disruptive.

And now this clip from the epic film Breakin’ featuring a then-little known Jean Claude Van Damme carelessly dancing in the background.

Aaron Perlut

Aaron Perlut is a cofounding partner of Elasticity with some 25 years of diverse experience in journalism, public relations and digital marketing. He is a former senior reputation management counselor at Omnicom company FleishmanHillard, as well as a communications executive for two of the nation's largest energy companies. Throughout his career, Perlut has counseled a range of organizations – Fortune 500s, state governments, professional sports franchises, economic development authorities, well-funded startups and large non-profits – helping manage reputation and market brands across a diverse channels in an evolving media environment.

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