This time of year always feels like a headlong rush to the finish line.
The holiday season descends, projects need to be finished and out the door before Christmas, social calendars explode, and we all have a tendency to get swept up in the festive whirlwind.
It’s why, in recent years, I’ve always found it incredibly beneficial to stop, catch a breath, and reflect on the events of the past 12 months.
Now, it’s difficult to think of 2021 in isolation given it has been shaped so heavily by the events of 2020, which was a year unlike anything any of us have ever experienced. It had enormous challenges for all industries yet, looking past those challenges, it was a year marked by traits like unity, innovation, togetherness, and a shared experience of all being in it together. There was goodwill, empathy and understanding from all quarters.
While this goodwill hasn’t completely evaporated, 2021 - especially the first half of it - has been rife with divisions, uncertainty, and fear from both consumers and businesses. It’s against this backdrop that businesses have been trying to operate - and most have done a brilliant job navigating these ever-changing circumstances.
A year of two halves
At the start of the year, it felt like all bets were off. Trying to anticipate what would come next and how markets would respond was a fool’s errand. There was caution and a lack of confidence in the market, with some businesses still closed and business decisions put on ice.
Little did anyone know that a whole new set of challenges were on their way.
The biggest issues for the first half of the year were a demand that was impossible to predict and in some cases, a severe lack of cashflow for businesses that had been closed for large swathes of the pandemic. With the big reopening in early summer, this all changed.
Life went from a sedate, snail’s pace to a million miles an hour in a matter of weeks (even days for some!). Cash started flowing again but businesses began to struggle. Demand far exceeded expectations - especially in sectors like hospitality - and operational capacity was stretched to the limit. Businesses were having to cope with reopening while at the same time complying with a raft of new legislation and rules as a result of COVID.
It quickly led to an ‘all hands to the pump’ mentality. This problem was compounded by global supply chain issues and the ‘pingdemic’ during the height of summer where thousands of workers across the country were forced to isolate.
With so much firefighting going on, we saw a stifling of brand communication planning but a huge uptick in tactical comms and reactive messaging. Lessons had been learnt from 2020 and timely, accurate communication took on paramount importance.
Thankfully, the dust started to settle and, with it, confidence returned. September saw the ‘back to school mentality’ kick in and assurances from the Government that we weren’t going to have to face another lockdown.
This brought with it an acceleration in marketing planning for Q4 and into 2022. Lots of projects that had previously been mothballed were suddenly given the green light and, all of a sudden, in many industries there were more jobs than candidates.
Normal, or a least as close to it as we could get, returned. From packed out sports stadiums through to busy bars and throngs of shoppers, the world became much closer to something we all recognise. This lit a fire underneath confidence in the market and 2022 is already looking strong for businesses given the current investment we’re seeing in marketing projects.
The future is bright
Again, following in the footsteps of 2020, this year has been defined by working smarter, not harder.
Business and working operations have advanced 10 years in the past two years, redefining the way we work. People have embraced working from home and flexible working - many realising that (despite widespread popular beliefs) that it actually improves productivity and morale. The way we work - and our relationship to work - will never be the same again. Hybrid working is here to stay and, for many businesses, is proving to be far more efficient and cost-effective than before.
For a number of years, the way we use technology in our business lives has lagged behind the way we use tech in our day-to-day personal lives. This gap has been significantly reduced with many businesses turning to different technology solutions to drive efficiency forward and reduce labour-intensive tasks (think HR or financial admin) which for years had been simply accepted as the way things are done.
What’s more, industries like retail have been forced to accelerate their use of digital technology to facilitate everything from curbside pickup to unifying their physical and online stores - with those businesses who failed to do so swiftly being left behind by the competition.
Of course, things like AI, automation and the widespread use of tech will bring with them new challenges we haven’t foreseen but the past year has given us a glimpse of the potential the future holds.
Rising to the challenge
So, what have we learnt from all this? At Jarrang we’ve had challenges too but our team have risen to them with aplomb.
For us it was a case of “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…” and we made sure we kept showing up, day in and day out, with smiles on our faces and a desire to help. We kept serving our clients and helped many of them navigate their way through some turbulent times.
In a world of automation and AI, it’s the human touch and the attention to detail which makes all the difference and they are two things we take a huge amount of pride in.
And we’ve reached the end of the year in good health and buzzing with excitement for what the future holds. We have a fantastic team committed to pushing the boundaries and raising the bar of what’s possible with email marketing.
The industry itself is in excellent shape and email marketing continues to demonstrate, time and time again, why it’s the most powerful and effective marketing channel there is.
Underpinning all of this is the value we place on relationships. The ones we have between ourselves, with our peers, and with our customers. It’s the strength of these relationships which allow us to create our best work and I look forward to seeing them flourish even further in 2022.
My final thought is this; as we reach the year’s end, pause and take that breath, look back on where you’ve been, on what you’ve done, and the journey you’re on. Soak it all in and then look to the future, to that bright light on the horizon. As you step towards it, do it with hope, with courage, and with the belief in yourself.
- Stafford Sumner