2020 Isn’t Over Yet: What Marketers Can Expect in Q4

I recently saw a comedian admonishing people to stop asking, “How can it get worse?” because the universe keeps answering. Elsewhere, I saw that 2020 isn’t the worst year on record – apparently that honor goes to 536 A.D.

I won’t jinx us by querying the universe what else it has up its sleeve. Instead, let’s look at what we know is coming in the final quarter of 2020 and prepare to make the best of it.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

Entering the seventh month of pandemic restrictions, the only consistency is inconsistency. Social distance restrictions and mask mandates vary from state to state and city to city. Public opinion is just as varied with some Americans returning to arguably unadvised behaviors while high-risk individuals continue to shelter in place.

What to Anticipate

  • Uncertain consumers who are relearning the protocols for buying your product or service.
  • Shift from “unprecedented times” to the “new normal.”
  • Desire for experience in the continued suspension of major events and leisure travel.

What to Do

  • Digital is the new storefront – whether it’s your website or social following. Make sure it’s an attractive, relevant experience for new and existing customers.
  • Recommunicate how to do business with you because people genuinely don’t know what to expect.
  • Adopt a new business-as-usual tone – whatever that looks like for your company. Only acknowledge the pandemic when it’s relevant instead of using it as the lead to every story or point of communication.
Racial Injustice

Video exposing the uncharged February murder of Armaud Abrery in south Georgia ignited outrage in early May, and unrest erupted later that month in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in police custody. The call to dismantle systemic racism radiated across the country in the following weeks and reignited on June 12 with the police-related death of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta. Protests against racial injustice also took hold on social media with efforts like #BlackoutTuesday, though some prominent Black activists criticized the viral black square as being performative rather than meaningful action.

Additionally, the recent decision by the Louisville grand jury not to level charges against the officers involved in the March death of Breonna Taylor has proven that the movement is still necessary and energized.

What to Anticipate

  • Consumers and interest groups inquiring into your brand’s stance on racial justice and diversity, equity and inclusion policies.
  • Internal and external demand for transparency on the status of your brand’s plan for diversity, equity and inclusion in your workplace.
  • “Cancel culture” applied to companies and brands that exhibit tone-deaf behavior, including cultural appropriation.

What to Do

  • Avoid performative participation in social media activities.
  • Evaluate your company’s stance on racial injustice and prepare to address consumer concerns if they arise.
  • Measure and report any progress and/or next steps on diversity, equity and inclusion action plans to further demonstrate your organization’s commitment to be a catalyst for change.
Presidential Election

Expect the election to act like a tornado over the next 30 days, spinning through the news cycle and picking up everything in its path. Civil discourse will continue to deteriorate in this polarized climate, and misinformation will be rampant.

What to Anticipate

  • Messages on channels perceived to have partisan leanings may draw ire from the opposing side, making your brand a pawn in the contentious contest.
  • Potential boycott of Facebook for its unwillingness to take responsibility for misinformation spreading on its platform.
  • Increased politically oriented comments even on non-political social posts.

What to Do

  • Moderate your ad spend in the next 30 days when there will be insane competition for audience attention, increasing ad costs and diminishing efficiency.
  • Consider placement restrictions to lower the risk of ads appearing in or adjacent to controversial media.
  • Monitor social channels for politically charged comments and enforce your page or profile’s “code of conduct.”
The Grand Finale

Every year sees its share of best of and worst of round-ups in the weeks leading up to the new year. With all that’s happened this year, expect to see a proliferation of look-backs on what transpired.

What to Anticipate

  • The holiday season is often the high point for many brands, but this year might see the advent of the New Year’s campaign.
  • Potential rise in optimism with the approach of a new calendar year.
  • Consumer desire for the promise of a fresh start will lead to rejuvenation over resolution mindset.

What to Do

  • Consider the brand-appropriate way to bid farewell to 2020 – with humor or humanity.
  • Think about how your brand can support consumers in renewal rather than pushing the traditional “new year, new you.”

As you navigate the expected – and, who am I kidding, the unexpected – in the final months of 2020, don’t go dark. It’s a tough landscape, but brands that take (smart) risks, make authentic stands and stay in touch with how consumers are feeling have the opportunity to shine. Will you be one?