Forget the "New Normal." There's No Normal in Marketing.

Over the past 18 months, companies navigating the pandemic have dealt with numerous changes to seemingly every facet of work. Beyond shifts in daily routines, work lives, and social behavior, we’ve also experienced a different kind of shift: a language shift.

Phrases like “unprecedented” and “new normal” are everywhere you look, in both our personal and professional lives. But as the CEO of a marketing automation company who speaks to marketers daily, I believe these click-bait buzzwords are too often used to describe the industry. The majority of events are still virtual? It’s the new normal. Google bans third-party cookies? New normal. Apple prevents marketers from accessing email open rates? New normal!

The very concept of a “new normal” to marketing departments is a foreign concept. As most marketing pros will tell you, marketing has never been “normal” to begin with, so the idea of a new normal is nonsensical. It’s all about capitalizing on industry and societal shifts to maximize brand engagement. Adjusting to sweeping change is just the name of the game.

Marketers pivot like it’s their business, because it is their business

Marketing professionals have been pivoting since the dawn of, well, marketing. What we think of today as “marketing” first started during the Industrial Revolution, when production skyrocketed and consumers purchased goods like never before. Fledgling manufacturers needed a way to ensure consumers purchased their products over competing alternatives, and voila! Marketing as we know it was born.

Since that time, marketers have been riding the waves of industry and technological developments, while engaging buyers through emerging channels and leveraging their creativity to its fullest extent. They successfully navigated seismic shifts like the advent of radio and television ads, the nightmare of telemarketing, the age of spam emails, the dot-com bubble burst, the introduction of SEO, the dawn of social media, and the ubiquity of mobile devices — to name just a few. And through it all, marketers smoothly and confidently found new and exciting ways to get the job done. What other choice did they have?

To describe today’s marketing landscape as the “new normal” suggests that there used to be an “old normal,” but marketers know better than that. To borrow an apt phrase from the philosopher Heraclitus, change is the only constant — and this holds true for marketing. The marketing profession has lasted hundreds of years because its professionals have successfully pivoted time and time again. In my experience leading a company focused on enabling marketing to be more efficient and effective, I know that good marketers do more than merely survive sweeping industry shifts — they anticipate them and take them in stride.

To anticipate trends, marketers must anticipate needs

Another reason to reject the notion of “normal” in marketing is that marketers are constantly looking ahead to the future, whether in the short-term as a means of anticipating customer needs or in the long-term as they prepare for shifts in industry trends. 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned after working many years within the marketing industry, it’s that you can never count on the status quo; successful marketers constantly scan the horizon and consider the ramifications of what’s coming down the pike. As an example, consider the current crisis. There are likely very few people who could’ve anticipated the pandemic itself. But as for the ripple effect that began in March 2020, savvy marketers would’ve understood that the short-term need for virtual meetings would lead to a long-term trend around hybrid and digital events. 

If marketers are invested in their ability to forecast tomorrow’s industry-wide trends, it is crucial that they anticipate today’s customer needs — because short-term consumer needs compound, evolve, and ultimately lead to large-scale changes in the ways brands engage with their audiences. If marketers get too comfortable in what they perceive is “normal,” they risk falling behind and compromising their ability to serve customers.

Rejecting “normal” leads to a more fulfilling career

On a final, lighter note, marketers should reject the idea of “new normal” and evangelize “never normal” because pivoting is exciting and makes the job worthwhile. In fact, agility and adaptability are an essential tool in a marketer’s toolbox, and a quality that leaders and entrepreneurs should always seek when building their marketing teams. While it may be dreamy to imagine a campaign working perfectly on the first go around, the reality is that unforeseen obstacles arise constantly, and the best marketers are able to pivot creatively and adeptly.

The regular cadence of game-plan adjustments isn’t a bug, but rather a feature. Marketers get to experience a fast-paced career that constantly keeps them on their toes, which means regular flexing of their creative muscles. With no two workdays alike, marketers can rest assured knowing their job will keep them mentally stimulated and agile from day one.

With one eye on the horizon, business leaders should encourage marketers to leverage all their wiles and insight to stay ahead of the latest trends in technology and customer engagement. Plus, marketers can tap into their competitive side as they try to outpace their peers and reap the benefits of forecasting correctly. 

New normal? More like never normal

Using the phrase “new normal” to describe the marketing landscape is inaccurate, as its very nature is defined by constant change. Through leading teams of marketers, I’ve seen first-hand how agile and proactive they must constantly be. Marketing professionals have successfully pivoted for hundreds of years — through industry shifts and technological developments — and their ability to do so is why they’re adept at anticipating customer needs. The next time you read about the “new normal” of marketing, you’ll know there’s no such thing. With marketing, nothing is ever normal.

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