What started as a new decade supercharged with infinite possibilities and roaring 20s throwbacks quickly transformed into one of the most challenging times for businesses since the Great Depression.
Now we find ourselves ringing in a very different kind of fall -- one marked less by pumpkin-spiced lattes, holiday window displays and movie theater blockbusters, and increasingly by a new normal of takeout windows, curbside pickup, and movie releases streaming on AppleTV and Disney+.
Despite shelter-in-place restrictions lifting, most consumers are still opting to stay home, moving the highest traffic shopping days from brick-and-mortar to online.
Meanwhile, streaming and gaming have found record audiences, as production has stalled, fall TV lineups have been postponed and live awards shows and sporting events are just starting to find their stride.
This fall will also give way to a contentious election season, creating competition up and down the ballot while driving high demand for digital ad inventory both locally and nationally.
Through it all, tech companies are pushing forward with new product releases and 5G adoption, rolling back measurement capabilities in favor of transparency and privacy, and carrying the stock market to record highs despite an otherwise dismal economic outlook.
As digital becomes the new battleground for brand-building, performance and political marketing alike, here is how marketers can prepare for the most competitive three-month stretch in digital marketing and media.
Beyond scenario planning, build agility and flexibility into your forecast.
Consider an operating model that gives teams the headroom to flex in the moment, responding to signals from your sites, your customers and the competitive cost environment.
With trust in your team's expertise and judgement, building a model that establishes clear guardrails and “flexible reserves” will ensure you don't leave a single sale on the table -- or expose yourself to waste.
Establish a constant flow of indicators, information and outside perspective.
The pandemic era has been a boon for content, research and insight at digital speed.
Build a feedback loop for consumption, processing and the ability to react to owned and external signals. For brands looking to capitalize on end-of-year, leading indicators are always important, and this year more than ever.
Shore up decisioning and tighten the chain of command.
For marketing leadership, having fingers directly on the pulse will be more important than ever, as well as trusted partnership with internal stakeholders. Establish a model to quickly coalesce and make decisions informed by agile forecasts and leading indicators.
Without execution -- the ability to optimize, rebalance spend and derive channel-by-channel insights in real-time -- strong internal decisioning, scenario planning and adaptive strategy will only get you so far.
These next few weeks are the time to test your day-to-day (and hour-by-hour) executional approach.
If you are in retail, for example, build this year's Holiday War Room for three months so the team, strategy and execution is pressure tested well before the three-day cyber weekend.
There is plenty of opportunity left on the table.
Finally, take strength in the fact that you've had six months of training for this moment. During this new normal, many of us have built stronger marketing muscle using some of the approaches described above.
Now formalize what you have tried informally, look to what has helped get you this far and use the coming month to plug any gaps.
While no marketer could have prepared for 2020, there is no better time to create fresh advantages in digital that keep your brand and business goals in sight and on track.
Meet this moment by adapting to new consumer behaviors, and by looking across the ecosystem to mine audiences and opportunities that align with your goals, ultimately transforming disruption into opportunity.