Get your game on for 2021

Guest Column: Girish Balachandran, Founder & Managing Partner at On Purpose, shares new habits and discoveries that the world has made during the pandemic and what they mean for brands

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Feb 5, 2021 4:45 PM

2020 was a year full of contradictions. We grappled with the Covid pandemic showing resilience while being vulnerable, feeling one with the world while practising self-preservation, adopting a mindset of scarcity while simultaneously desiring new adventures, and belonging together while self-isolating.

2021 will mark, in many ways, the rise of a new way of living and doing things. While we wait with hope and optimism for the vaccines, we’re also actively making choices about new habits and discoveries that we want to live with for the rest of our lives.

A new gratitude towards our health

Wellbeing is taking centrestage in our lives. Beyond flaky new year resolutions and attempts at weight-loss, we’re putting our physical and mental health and that of our loved ones first.

Re-prioritising what’s important

We’re looking at essentials with fresh appreciation. We’re also trying new things to treat ourselves as compensation for the monotony of living and working from home and the regulated socializing.

A renewed focus on ‘why.’

We’ve seen the world come to a standstill like never before. Our faith in government, institutions, and multilateral agencies – all the people we thought knew everything-- has been shaken. We’ve battled our instincts to hunker down and look out only for ourselves and sought solace only in the familiar boxes on our screens at work, letting the routine fight any thoughts of escapism. We’ll need more proof – to trust again.

What this means for brands

An increased emphasis on marrying empathy with analytics

Rule number one – be nice. While customers will look for value, we’re processing multiple emotions of safety, protection, durability and trust. The traditional purchase moments have changed, and brands will need data and analytics to understand what’s driving new moments of sale, while also comforting and reassuring consumers by aligning with their beliefs and value systems and making them feel part of something bigger than themselves. Emotional storytelling driven by basic human truths will inspire people to care again (and hopefully, also encourage them to share).

Get your CEO’s game face on

We need a new vulnerability from the C-suite to be able to connect better with stakeholders. This means an increased focus on the personal branding of CEOs as the human face of organisations and a stronger emphasis on wider social commentary on issues that matter to people, beyond just the business and sector. Trust comes from authenticity  – an ability to see a person in power as someone who also bleeds when cut and hurts when vulnerable, yet persists to deliver on the responsibility of providing for her or his people with the safety and security of steady incomes and the ability to keep the lights on at home.

Show, don’t tell

Growth at all cost – costs too much. Programmes like corporate social responsibility or carbon offsets are no longer enough. We all want to see brands put back more than they take out. And investors are acting on this. In 2021, we will see the rise and rise of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) standards being adopted to screen socially conscious organisations. Brands which can visually show their actions over simply good intent to their people, their customers, their communities and stakeholders will win disproportionate trust in the war for talent, mind and wallet share and goodwill.

But first, we need to get our house in order

All of this augurs well for communicators. To take advantage, we need to ensure we’ve got our game on in terms of the quality of work we’re delivering and our ability to speak the language of the boardroom – an audience that relies on data, hard facts, a correlation between x and y, not fluffy stuff like buzz, likes and AVEs. We also need our recruitment and culture to be inclusive of people from different backgrounds, educational qualifications, careers and not just be ‘people-like-us.’ We need to be more representative of the audiences our clients want us to reach.

2021 has something for everyone. It’s up to us to choose what matters and go after it with a razor-sharp focus to avoid being spread too thin.

 Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of

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