Once upon a time, long, long ago (2001 to be exact), Mrs. Puff told Spongebob he could earn his boating license if he wrote a 10-word sentence that began with “what I learned in boating school is…” But, when all he needed was three more words to achieve a lifelong goal, he couldn’t do it.
The opportunity to learn something new and better himself (himsponge?) slipped through his fingers because he didn’t seize the moment when he had the chance. This got me thinking about what I would do if I “just had the opportunity.” And then I realized: I haven’t left the house in over two months and could have spent all that time learning a new language, sculpting a six-pack, or becoming TikTok famous.
Instead, I’ve spent quarantine losing grip on communication as a whole, erasing any prior gym progress, and watching other people get TikTok famous.
So what HAVE we learned during quarantine? I asked my fellow Elasticity co-workers how what they thought their quarantine would be like compared to how it actually panned out, and how we can take what we have learned (or haven’t learned) and use it moving forward:
I think I was more attuned than most to life in lockdown. I spent about eight months freelancing from home before I was hired full-time at Elasticity in February, so getting back in the WFH routine was practically second nature. There were still some adjustments, mostly around using Zoom and navigating the etiquette around video conferencing, but overall, I was very impressed by the entire team’s dedication to keep our workflow and stay engaged.
I have missed the lunches though. Whether with co-workers or friends, going out and sitting down to eat lunch was normally the highlight of my day. I look forward to when we can get back to that, but realize even when we return to our offices, that’s probably still a ways away.
Emily Ann Brown:
Sheltering in place ended up being the hardest thing I have ever done as a marketing professional, and as a mother. Our world got flipped upside down when we had to start sheltering in place, and the ramifications have impacted literally everyone. I have worked with clients to help brainstorm ideas to keep them relevant, update their business model or adapt their messaging to be relevant in these strange times we’re living in, all while also helping my 3-year-old daughter manage her very intense emotions about not being able to see her friends or her grandparents. It is literally impossible to work from home with kids, but I am eternally grateful to my coworkers and my husband who have been patient with me these last several weeks.
Other Things EA Learned:
- I now spend 24 hours/day with my cat and she has never been happier. She also makes a point to make an appearance for every single video call.
- My 3-year-old daughter is an incredible negotiator. She comes by it honestly with an attorney and media buyer as her parents. She now regularly makes deals with us to get what she wants, and she’s fierce AF.
- Working from home with a 3-year-old is nearly impossible to do. Even with as many snacks, TV shows, and toys that she could possibly want, the only thing my daughter actually wants is 100% undivided attention from me and my husband.
- It is possible to distract my daughter for about 15-20 minutes at a time with a FaceTime call with one of her aunts or grandmothers. I am eternally grateful for them taking the time to talk to her so I can crank out a few emails!
- Many of the vendors we work with are very hungry for business these days. I get several emails each week from vendors with TV show recommendations, COVID-19 research studies, and many offers for webinars or 30-minute zoom calls.
- All of us are very grateful to be sheltering in place with strong internet. Social media, video streaming, and overall website traffic have increased significantly since we’ve been sheltering in place. Can you imagine sheltering in place back in the 80s? What would we have done? Read books? No thanks.
- Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is literally the worst show ever made and it will be banned from this household when we are no longer working from home.
Pre-COVID, as marketers, we looked for ways to have multiple touchpoints with consumers. From digital communities to offline experiences, we gave people a variety of ways to interact with brands.
As COVID-19 began to spread, we saw the shift from multi-dimensional approaches to explicitly digital to keep up with the change in consumer behavior. This resulted in brands needing to not only think outside of the box but throwing the box away and starting from the ground up.
Moving into the future of marketing, I feel we’ll begin to see hybrid methods when it comes to marketing. Brands will need to reach those who are timid (or unable) to be in large groups/crowds and others who don’t mind.
What does it look like? Good question. We’re still testing that out. The brands who will succeed are going to be those who are willing to try new things, fail, and try again. They are the ones who won’t stop inventing new ways to connect with their patrons and are only looking forward, not back.
Going into quarantine, I was panicked. Prior to working at Elasticity, I worked remotely full-time. As that situation unfolded, my disconnect from the rest of society began to take a serious toll on my mental health. As extroverted as I am, I thrive on working in a team and collaborating on ideas to solve problems, as well as just needing that human interaction to stay sane. I was afraid that this time in quarantine would put me back into that headspace where my mental health was on a sharp mental decline.
What I found from isolation this time around was that my previous experience was not indicative of what this one held in store, but better prepared me to handle what was to come. Seeing as everyone else was isolating and it wasn’t just me, I didn’t feel so alone (even when the whole point was to be as alone as possible). It was also an enormous help that my fiance was quarantined with me so that when the scaries did begin to settle in, I had someone who could help bring me back.
So what did this teach me about marketing? Experience is everything. Not the “fresh out of college, entry-level job somehow asking for five years in the field” type of experience, but the experience to know the past does not necessarily dictate the future. Just because a campaign was successful in the past does not mean the idea will not be successful in the future. Just because your lead went nowhere the last time you followed up does not mean it never will. The future can be changed, and that is an exciting prospect for the future of marketing.
So what DID we learn?
Spongebob may not have earned his boating license, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t discover anything. He just didn’t learn what everybody expected him to learn. How people have spent their time in quarantine draws a lot of parallels to our favorite sea sponge’s boating school experience. Just because we haven’t changed the world yet doesn’t mean we didn’t learn anything.
What it means is that what we learned wasn’t what we expected to learn. But the mark of a good marketer is being able to take that information, no matter what it is, and find a way to use it to help our clients. All knowledge can be useful if you know how to use it. So the question is no longer “what did I learn” but instead “how can I use this?”