Staying Creative Amid the Challenges of 2020

The original plans we had for 2020 didn’t exactly pan out as we anticipated. Everyone has been affected. And, for creative folks working in the retail and consumer packaged goods industries, there have been some very specific challenges: studios have effectively shut down, production schedules have stalled or been canceled, creation of new content through photo and video shoots has all but disappeared, and teams have been scattered. So, what did we do about it?

We did what we do best. We got creative. Overcoming new challenges is where creative people excel and many stepped up to look at new ways to deliver content. Content is at the heart of defining the experience our customers have with our brands—even more so during the events of 2020, where the online experience has become more vital for everyday life with those in lockdown or working remotely.

The question we need to ask ourselves is, are we using our assets to deliver the right experiences? According to a recent Forrester report (The US Customer Experience Index, 2020), for the last few years, around 65% of consumers rate their online experiences as just “ok” while around 20% rate their experiences as “good.” In other words, no one believed they were getting an exceptional digital experience.

This gives us an opportunity to take a step back and look at what we deliver, how we do it, and change that for the better. If traditional methods haven’t been working, what will?

The companies that have continued to deliver and innovate are those that have taken a fresh approach to attracting and retaining engagement. The best ones have developed engagement to the point of building customer advocacy even during difficult times.

The key appears to be better utilization of existing rich-media assets. Instead of worrying that we can’t create anything new, many companies have taken to looking at what they already have. Traditionally, images and video are created, then stored and often forgotten. They rarely have the right metadata attached which makes them difficult to find and reuse, leading to expensive duplication efforts.

Smart companies have implemented new technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to systematically review and apply relevant business metadata to large image repositories at speed, enabling them to tag thousands of images in seconds and use remote subject-matter experts to verify the findings and help the machine learning get even more accurate and consistent. A well-tagged and organized asset repository can move from being archive material to valuable living assets that can be retrieved, combined and messaged in new ways.

This look-at-the-past approach also applies to video. Consider the recent example from Nike, who in conjunction with one of their agency partners, worked through 4,000 hours of footage featuring 24 different sports to create the on-brand inspirational You Can’t Stop Us piece that drew much media attention with 58M+ views since July.

Other techniques include increased use of 3D through 360-degree product spins or fully rendered 3D files, providing consumers with a degree of visibility online that was previously only achievable by handling the physical product in a store. Bringing the in-store experience online is a proven way to build engagement.

Yes, 2020 threw us some curve balls and we proved to have the creativity to look at things with a fresh perspective. 2021 represents an even-greater opportunity for the creative community to lead an organization's response to a changed world.

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