As I start to take a look at what the landscape of what the communications industry might look like going forward in 2021, I’m reminded of—now bear with me here because this is going to get a little weird—a Snickers ad from the early days of 2020 pandemic marketing.
In the commercial, a man wearing a polo shirt and no pants proudly struts out to his back patio for a virtual hangout with another couple, only to find them waiting for him on the patio in the flesh as his own wife stares in horror and he sheepishly says, “Sorry, I thought we were doing the Zoom thing.”
It was a light-hearted sign of the times, but looking back at it now (it still comes on from time to time as well), it oddly managed to be about the past, present and future all at the same time
It reminds us of the adjustments we are still struggling to make, but it also showed us a future we’re all looking forward to—one in which we can all sit on the patio with our friends again. And most important, it’s reflective of a present where we’d all be best served to draw from both past experiences and future aspirations to make sure we don’t get caught with our pants down.
The COVID-19 pandemic—and all the new trappings of life that came with it—certainly aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but as communication professionals, it’s time to start moving forward in terms of the way we work and the messages we try to convey on behalf of ourselves and our clients. It’s an old cliché, but the future really is now, and the practices and principles we’ve adopted as a means of maintaining our lives are quickly becoming the norm, and we should seize the opportunity to draw from those advances to create even more.
We’ve just completed the first-ever all-digital Consumer Electronics Show, which featured a rousing keynote address from Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg. Hans talked about the many ways 5G is going to improve and enrich our lives, but it was about much more than just speed and bandwidth—it was about how the pandemic has essentially transformed “the future is now” from that tired old cliché we all know to a technological call to action:
“The future of productivity is now the current reality of work. The future of learning is now the current reality of school. The future of mobile payment is now the current reality of banking. And the future of streaming is now the current reality of entertainment.”
Of course, this type of messaging is the stock in trade of the tech industry, especially during CES, but it feels different this time
When technology rises to directly meet people’s needs in a time of crisis, it has the power to create real and lasting change that goes well beyond creating the latest and greatest shiny objects. In this case, that change is a lot like that quirky TV ad—it feels like the past, the present and the future are all coming together as sports, art, history, education, music, business and more are forever changed. As Hans also said, it feels like each innovation opens the door to another innovation, and each answer creates new questions. As communications professionals, we should see this as an opportunity to create our own lasting change.
When it comes to these innovations, technological or otherwise, the mindset we’ve been using to survive should become the one we use to thrive. We’ve accepted these new ways of doing things, but it’s time to fully embrace them in a way that will similarly bridge the past, present and future of communication. Today’s cute faux pas could be tomorrow’s dealbreaker, so comb your hair, put the dog outside and get ready to tackle whatever comes next.
And don’t forget to wear pants.