BAU 2020: Business As Unusual
BAU is one of my favourite acronyms. It assumes we're all experiencing some kind of usual rhythm or natural routine to the work that we do in a world that is forever evolving & changing.
BAU, defined as "Business As Usual," is sooooooooo 2019 though. The best way to define our new, new normal in 2020? BUSINESS
As a cohort, we creative/advertising/marketing/insights/strategy people love nothing more than gathering IRL or online & speaking to each other through a fog of acronyms. We love getting back to each other by EOP or, at the very least, ASAP (I mean, we're busy & we're dealing with a goddamn global pandemic... but we're not heathens! We will aim to reply in due time.)
Which brings me to some recent conversations, deep dives, & client opportunities of late. Because, here we are & here we go, New Zealand.
What a wild ride of a last 8 months we’ve had together. Yeah, I’ll admit it - I was that person.
When we heard the three most magical words in the English language in 2020 “No community transmission” my heart felt lighter, my mind focussed more, & I started to dream & plan again.
For about 90 of our 102 days of “freedom” between Lockdown-Round-One & Lockdown-Round-Two, I walked with the swagger of a complacent dreamer. But, underpinning my swagger & seeming complacence was a tickle in the back of my mind that said “Oh heeeeeeeey gal, you know this is temporary right?” Man alive, that tickle - I’ve got to learn to listen to her better in the future.
I think we all knew that there’d be a time when Covid-19 would make its way back through the borders of our beloved New Zealand. We hoped against hope that it wouldn’t. But, science & experience both always leaned us towards a “when” over “if” way to looking forward when it comes to humanity, holistic well-being, & the future of business & economic stability.
Right now, the virus is back & we’re going to have to remember what it’s like to move forward whilst carrying that sinking-feeling-in-our-guts-that-slows-us-down-beacuse-ohmygawd-we-have-never-lived-through-a-time-like-this-before.
We’re also asking different questions to the ones we asked last time.
Questions that allow us as individuals, brands, & teams to move forward together moment by moment. As a starting point, over the past week I’ve noticed that many of my clients & colleagues in New Zealand have been finding routine & the rhythm set (however wobbly) in our last national lockdown.
Instead of focussing on working from home & how to do so - we’re looking at how we better engage with each other. Instead of technology adaption & adoption - we’re diving deeper into the connective power of communications across multiple touch points. We’re agile AF!
The focus on life & business “as we knew it” going back to a time & place that is now pretty far behind us has been replaced with a deep knowing that change is ever-moving & business as usual is now “Business as unusual”.
I for one am homesick to my bones. No, scratch that.
I am homesick to a cellular/soul level.
It’s been 14 months since I’ve set foot in my homeland of the USA.
Even longer since I’ve wrapped my three small nieces up in big cuddles & whispered into their ears that I love them. The pull towards them, towards home, towards a freedom that I once took for granted is strong. Stronger than any I’ve ever known before as an expat.
So, where to now for business & brands when it comes to navigating our new, new normal?
Creativity, surprise & familiarity As creatives, marketers & business people who are trying to decipher next steps for business comms & conversations, now is the best time to take a moment to stop & reassess what you’re putting out into the world & why. Are you spending time & budgets on one-trick-ponies of an older generation? Are you a TVC badass who is scare shitless of presenting a creative idea that exists only as conversations through brand social media channels? In 2020, creativity should be applied to platform & to conversation more than ever. BIG CHATS > BIG ADS. This strategy might not feel safe or secure, but we’re creatives… get uncomfortable. Help your clients & teams feel joy in discomfort. When we surprise the world with a genuine idea that sparks fires within people - we become brands that go the distance. Surprise people, help them feel familiar in new channels - make space for true creativity. The rest feels beige right now. Make meaningful memories by becoming a part of cultural, personal, or industry narrative. Also, check out this TED Talk on the subject of "selling & familiarity" - it's a ripper of a goodie. Test, learn, iterate… do. Test, learn, iterate… do. Test, learn, iterate… do.
Innovation & opportunity How do you define innovation? Is it a hulking business strategy built on a foundation & an obsession with mystical untanglings of new & old? Are you spending a huge part of your budget on soothsayers & crystal-ball watchers who forget to take into account the importance of right now? If so, business as usual will mean brand as usual. There’s only so much “innovation” that is meaningful for humanity. There’s also only so much “innovation” that is meaningful for consumers of your brand. First & foremost, if you’re looking to innovate consistently, look beyond technology & look instead to opportunity. As above, if you can take data & insight - then turn it into a creative solution & conversation for your customers, you’re truly innovative. Don’t try to be cool, do. Test, learn, iterate… do. Test, learn, iterate… do. Test, learn, iterate… do.
Content At the Speed Of Culture Temperature check. Pulse of culture. Content at speed. Ready, unsteady… go! Right now we’re living through a tie of hyper-awareness & hyper-consumption of content. Moving forward, my belief is that the brands who understand inherently how to create on emerging platforms with speed & care will be the brands who grow & remain relevant. I’ve said it a thousand times & will say it until my voice works no more: if you’re creating for TV commercials as the pinnacle of a creative campaign & then template the shit out of your communications on platforms that are inherently creative & connective, you’re already irrelevant. You don’t have to be a digital native to create & iterate well, you need only flex your curiosity muscles to become digital locals. Go on, be a novice again. Test, learn, iterate… do. Test, learn, iterate… do. Test, learn, iterate… do.
More than anything, BAU is anything & everything that sits alongside the idea of "usual" right now. I'm here for it, my team are here for it, & some of our brave clients are here for it too!
In the coming days, weeks, months - I'd love for all of us to embrace the unusual & take note of what the people around you & beyond your sphere of influence are taking note of. When you reach the edge of cutting edge you’ll know it because it feels uncomfortable.
Go there anyways.
I’ll be right there beside you. Ahem, we will be right there beside you. Creating, interacting, listening, adjusting.
Testing... learning... iterating... doing.
Post Script + Gentle Nudge: If your business or agency is looking for specialist advice or consulting on brand storytelling, social media & comms strategies, & modern marketing creative iteration - holler out! We're here & would love to get to know you & your team. Get in touch here.