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How do you prepare when you don’t know exactly what you’re preparing for?

Most of the marketing world is based on precedents. We base our metrics and budgets on prior years’ results. We schedule the same way — peak season and off-season, planning time, production time, media buying — it’s mostly based on what we did last year.

Obviously, 2021 isn’t going to work that way. 2020 threw all our schedules into disarray, and many of us are starting 2021 in a state of hopeful limbo. What do we know in the year of “who knows?”

  1. Being nimble will be key. Things could move quickly — and backtrack just as quickly. Given the uncertainties surrounding COVID and vaccinations and the pressure on the economy to return to normal, don’t expect a lot of lead time in either positive or negative directions.
  2. You’re unlikely to have the usual budget. 2020 wasn’t a good year for most of us, so doing more with less (a constant refrain) will become an even greater priority this year.
  3. Production is going to be hard to plan. Winter and early spring aren’t ideal months to shoot footage in normal times, but this year there are uncertainties beyond things like weather. How do you show people if you don’t know if we’ll all still be wearing masks come summer?

Keeping the above in mind, here are a few things we suggest when asked:

  1. Make creative use of your image library. With reduced budgets and what will be short lead times, let’s assume your initial marketing will rely on what you already have on hand. Rather than dig out old creative efforts — which may not answer the needs of the current moment anyway — you may want to look at reusing elements from prior seasons in fresh new ways. Techniques like cinemagraphs add life to stills, for example, and might be useful.Play the video

    Through the cinemagraph technique, short video snippets can become captivating half-still, half-moving images — drawing attention to both foreground and background elements.
  1. Short of imagery? Paint a picture without them. We’ve utilized a number of techniques that rely on graphics or other techniques to obviate the need for photos, like showing dialogue embellished with stills as “text stories.” And while fewer people may be driving at present, that may change later in the year, so radio could be an option.
    View the video
    Text stories are inexpensive to execute and work best in 15-second social media formats. Short but carefully crafted dialogue can draw attention to specific stills, both telling a story and framing “hero” shots.
  1. Incentivize your loyal base. When the COVID clouds lift, the first stop for many people will likely be their old haunts – the places they miss most and where they may feel safer to return. You may want to consider commemorating their bravery with aCroix De Candlestick. Veni Vidi Vixi. souvenir — maybe something similar to the famed Croix de Candlestick button that San Francisco Giants fans used to receive for freezing in the stands during extra innings games. (Remember, too, that email marketing is quick and inexpensive — so advertising to your base is a logical first step.) Though most examples we show come from our own collection of past work, we also reference examples we admire. From 1983 until 1999 (when Candlestick Park stopped being their home), the San Francisco Giants awarded fans who braved the chilly San Francisco night air to the end of extra-inning games a ceremonial pin, known as the Croix de Candlestick. It couldn’t be bought, so it became a measure of fan devotion — distinguishing the diehard fan from the more fair-weather variety.
  1. Don’t lose faith. While certain segments of the population have been adversely affected by COVID, others have been sitting at home, waiting to return to normal activities. When the all-clear sounds, there may be considerable pent-up demand — fueled both by a desire to make up for lost time and by the savings stay-at-homers have realized by saving on entertainment and commuting expenses for a year. 2021 could shortly become one of your best years ever.

Care for an informal chat?
Everyone’s situation is unique, so the above advice may not apply to you — or you may need help applying it. If you’d care to reach out, it costs nothing to get to know us. Contact Steve at

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