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I'm STUMPED What to Write...

Updated: Aug 14, 2020

These are crazy times. What I think doesn't change anything. What I do can change something. What can WE do?

Many are numb from the COVID pandemic, and now we face another challenge with the social justice issues gripping our country. As troubling as this all is, I believe we as a country and industry will come out stronger, but it will come with a cost.

This life-changing season is bringing many changes. Some businesses will not survive; people will die; friendships will be broken; families will be divided. Emotions are high.

Social media, which is a useful communication tool, can be very hurtful. It's a sounding board for all viewpoints, and when there is no tolerance, relationships can be destroyed. That's a high price to be paid. Consider the impact of what you post online and evaluate if it's worth the cost.

When the pandemic hit, we all were stunned as life as we knew it stopped. Our industry has been marketing the same way for so long many had no clue as to how to proceed. It's understandable. I hate to use the now word of the season…but here it is, "unprecedented." We are living in unprecedented times. How many times have you heard that? Yet some suppliers continued to fire off product promos as if it was business as usual. Of course, it wasn't business as usual in those early days of the global pandemic, and it's still not now. It will take some time before we see anything close to business as usual.

As the advertising moved forward, next came the flood of e-mails from companies I've never done business with thanking me for doing business with our company. Followed by the obligatory, "We're here for you." Really? Are they here for me? What does that even mean? Will you pay our bills? Walk our dog?

Companies are struggling with how to proceed. We saw that allowing the opportunity for suppliers and distributors to share what was really on their hearts would be positive for this season. And that is how PromoGoodNews was created. It has become something special.

PromoGoodNews videos are authentic thoughts and feelings from our industry colleagues. They have enabled our significant audience to make a more personal connection with others. It's a virtual connection, but still valuable, especially now.

Reach and online engagement for #PromoGoodNews has been strong. You can see the videos posted so far, here:

We also can't overlook what's happening around us. Our country is polarized politically. There now is a long-overdue conversation happening on racial disparity. We realize that there is not much diversity in the promo products industry. What's positive is that NOW we are talking about that. PPAI and ASI are addressing the topic, which is a good thing, but change doesn't just happen. This is a process, and we all have to be a part of it.

For those who may interested, I recommend listening to this eye-opening podcast from PromoKitchen on Racism in America. I cried during parts of it. I'm a white guy continuing to process a pivotal moment in history and what impact I can have. This discussion is quite thought-provoking and I encourage you to spend some time reflecting on it.

From a business perspective, this unprecedented time allows us to re-invent how we choose to move forward. It gives us an exciting opportunity to innovate how business will be done. Companies will need to adjust their communication style and company positioning to survive.

Current events have reduced the promo industry's volume significantly. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is a term most of us never heard of prior to the coronavirus outbreak. Now it is a large part of many people's business. Some in our industry were able to quickly pivot and provide PPE products when the need was great. That has helped our industry volume number for the moment.

Going forward, however, sales of blank medical supplies, like the classic blue blank 3-ply mask that most any supplier with a China connection is selling, will dry up. The ecological impact of these products is devastating. We are in the branded products business. There are plenty of opportunities for us to provide branded products and additional services in this new marketplace. I'm eager to see what new products and programs we will see in the marketplace now that our world has changed.

The so-called "NEW Normal" will offer less personal connection opportunities. Trade shows will be reduced in size. Relationship building in our online world and communicating your value proposition will require a fresh approach. Businesses with socially responsible, eco-conscious values will make a positive impact. These companies will drive change, and I believe it will represent how good business is done. This thinking will impact purchasing decisions in this marketplace.

We all should be rethinking old school advertising and marketing strategies. Our focus needs to be on creating and maintaining meaningful relationships with the quality companies that are prospering in these changing business times.

My good friend Jay Busselle and I lamented the insincere, ineffective marketing that was being done as the pandemic started. We think that this season is a perfect opportunity for the businesses that will make it to reset. Companies should consider what their brand will represent as our country, and the business landscape has changed radically. We are not going back to the way business WAS done.

NOW is the perfect time to evaluate your company's transition to the new market. Part of Jay's brand is TACOS, and he holds the esteemed position as Chief Taco officer at OMT (Oh. My. Tacos!) Using that theme, we created TACOS with Jay and Jeff. This video content series is not about any business wisdom we think we have; it's putting a spotlight on epic branding and marketing strategies from our guests that will inspire you. You can see these sessions here:

I believe ultimately, positive things will come from what's happening in 2020. NOW is the time for businesses to pivot in ways that make sense in this marketplace.

FreePromoTips is a PPAI Award-Winning communication vehicle. We've been sharing relevant business-building content since 2006. Now is OUR time to adjust as well. We are working on some things you may find useful in this season. Take advantage of the content we are sharing and watch for some new stuff.

The truth is that I was not stumped on what to write. I have something to say, and you have something to say, too. In our personal lives and our business messaging, we need to rethink the dialog. What will you do with the opportunities available in 2020? Consider that. I am.

Keyboard drop.

© 2020 Jeff Solomon, MAS


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