2020 sucks. That was going to be my entire write-up. Just two words. Post it to LinkedIn and watch the "I agrees" role in.
But then the NFL put out their schedule for the 2020 season, and I realized that at some point I’m going to see my first major sporting event. Sure, it might be fanless and sure Tom Brady will be wearing a weird uniform, but it provided me with my first sense of optimism in a while.
After I was done feeling all the feels I started thinking about what brand was going to be the first to welcome back sports in a way that tapped into the emotion I was experiencing. Who is going to be first with a spine-tingling film or Cannes award winning digital activation or earned media act that captures the spirit of the moment? Whatever brand does it first in the most compelling way, will be celebrated. Will it be your brand?
Maybe a first sporting event doesn’t make sense for your business, but there will be a bunch of firsts in the upcoming months in which brands can help celebrate or ease the transition into some version of normalcy. Eventually, there will be a first day back at school. A first non-virtual Hinge date. A first zoom-less beer at a bar. A first professional haircut. And sadly, a first day we leave our pets alone for more than 10 minutes.
These firsts bring hope and a sense of normalcy to some. And anxiety and trepidation to others. But either way, people are more than ready for the pandemic to be behind us. And that’s exactly the reason why brands have the opportunity to act NOW if they want to be first and do it right. Much like brands were recognized for how they acted in the heart of the COVID-19 crisis (check out didtheyhelp.com) they will be judged on how they help everyone adjust to the recovery.
Here are a few creative tips on how brands can do that best:
- Be First. In the words of the great Ricky Bobby, "If you ain’t first you’re last." Brands who act first get the most credit. It takes a lot of marketing guts to be the first at anything especially when everything is uncertain, but no one wants to watch the 27th brand celebrating your first non-quarantine haircut.
- Be Exceptional. Of course, it’s not enough to just be first. You have to be first and do something special. You’re going to have the spotlight if you do something first, make sure it’s worthy of that moment. Don’t just be first to be first.
- Be a Friend. Brands during this crisis have been better about being your friend. They’ve given out their Netflix passwords, provided puzzles to keep us entertained and more importantly been front and center helping the frontline workers who have kept everyone safe. That friendship level of understanding and doing good needs to continue.
There are of course a couple watch outs to being the first with firsts:
- Don’t force it. Don’t create fictional firsts. Your first oil change isn’t something that needs to be recognized. Find firsts that tap into honest, human connection that make sense with your brand.
- Don’t be opportunistic. If your brand is trying to wedge its way into a conversation that it doesn’t belong it will fall flat. For example, there’s a lot of brands that want to ride the welcome back to sports train but only a few that have the legitimacy to do so in a way that will resonate.
- Don’t just say you understand. Show that you do. Doing is always greater than saying. Brand actions will always be greater than brand ads, especially right now.
If you have question or are seeking creative counsel on how to be the first with firsts, email Ron D’Innocenzo, chief creative officer of North America at Golin, at RD’Innocenzo@golin.com.