my 2020 mixtape.

a gift from me to you.

Am I giving away too much about my age to say that when I was growing up, there was no greater way to show your affection for someone than to make them a mixtape? Carefully selecting every song—some that you taped off the radio because you didn’t have enough money to buy the single—and then putting them in the perfect order to accurately convey the range of emotions you had for that person.

Well, I’m here to share my feelings for you in one of the truest ways possible. Yes, I made you a mixtape. Not just any mixtape. This mixtape will sum up what we’ve learned this year and see if we could provide you with some planning inspiration.

Now, in putting this together my main goal is to share some trending topics that I think are important for companies to keep top-of-mind. But… the real benefit to you is I looked back on the year so you wouldn’t have to.

Yes, I was brave—and reflected on those things in 2020 that have possibly shaped not only how we live, but how we do business. Should you find them helpful—well, that’s just a bonus.

Let’s get started.

Track One: Right Place Wrong Time (by Dr. John)

Why it’s on this mixtape: Timing is everything.

Was there anyone not talking about Tiger King when it came out? Think about the first month of the pandemic and it’s hard not to think about the Netflix instant hit. What about Hamilton? How many times did you listen to or watch that? Nice job Disney+.

I think we as marketers faced the biggest challenge we’ve ever faced with timing this year. How are you supposed to know the best time to post on social, when all of a sudden everyone is on social? Or the best way to get people to your digital channels when the only way people want to do… anything… is digitally?

We have learned a lot in 2020 about the art of timing—and the importance of knowing what your audience wants, when they want it and the best way to get it to them. The most important thing now is to make sure you’ve invested in understanding how to apply that, specifically through a buyer’s journey strategy.

Track Two: Photograph (by Nickelback)

Why it’s on this mixtape: Sometimes visual communication is the only form of communication.

Every aspect of your branding and communication strategy should have a visual component. Do I even need to quote the stats (90% of information sent to the brain is visual; 10% of what is heard is retained; 65% of what is seen is retained; 65% of us are visual learners). But beyond that, just look at how people are communicating on a regular basis – emojis, bitmojis and memes. 55% of the 13–35 age group are sending memes on a weekly basis.

This is a consumer trend that has spilled over into every aspect of communications. Please—consider that visual comms strategy. Don’t make me have featured Photograph for nothing.

(Side note: Isn’t this such a polarizing song? I found out at a recent driveway party that this song is growing in popularity (again?) as Gen Z likes it. What? How? Whatever. Fact is, the opening line is one we need to remember: “Look at this photograph!”)

Track Three: Virtual Insanity (by Jamiroquai)

Why it’s on this mixtape: I mean…

We’ve been working remote for a bit. And things are going… ok. Fact is, we know a lot more now than we did eight months ago. The big takeaway so far is employees are struggling with the solitude and how to manage their workday, now that it’s free from the small interruptions, chit chat and distractions that helped build team comradery.

Some companies are having so much success, from an efficiency and cost standpoint, that they are considering it permanently. Others already have taken that step. This has put tremendous pressure on your internal communications plan to step up and lead employees in this new virtual environment.

Track Four: Keeping the Faith (by Billy Joel)

Why it’s on this mixtape: Nostalgia never goes out of style.

Admit it. You did a jigsaw puzzle. Played Yahtzee. Made some bread. Put the Christmas lights up early. Watched old sitcoms. You did these things during the pandemic—why? Because nostalgia is a comfortable place.

Same thing with marketing. Remember the old days when people just sent emails? Or called instead of Zoom’d? All this is to say, customers have a greater appetite for that personalized communication. Understanding the role that personal touch plays in your sales and marketing mix will be critical when considering what to say and where to say it. “Tell me a story” may be the preference over “just send me the info.”

Track Five: My Way (by Frank Sinatra)

Why it’s on this mixtape: Establish your brand… and stay on your brand.

Come on now. You didn’t think I’d make a mixtape without a song from the greatest ever, did you?

We all know branding matters by now, correct? But what everyone might not know is just how much work your brand can do for you when it comes to sales and marketing, specifically speeding people through the buyer’s journey. Customers care about the role you play in their lives—and the values you have. 78% of consumers want a brand that cares about helping them in their day-to-day lives. Have you polished your brand in terms of social and global standings? Does your customer know where you stand on the things that matter most to them? Are you a values-driven company? 2020 is the year “who” you are became table stakes.

Track Six: Simple Man (by Lynyrd Skynyrd)

Why it’s on this mixtape: KISS.

Hmmm. Maybe I should’ve had a KISS song on here? Nah. Simple Man is much better. 2020 caused us to focus. Period. That’s a trend that I see continuing in 2021, especially with your marketing plan.

Don’t abandon the big picture and the business metrics. But know that you will have to make progress on a quarterly basis, with the intent and goal to refine. Escalation of commitment is no longer acceptable. Plus, as we said earlier—things are changing a lot faster. Why risk committing to a program that may not have the shelf life it used to? Speed. Flexibility. Resourceful. These are the skills that will drive the new normal.


Bonus tracks! What’s a mixtape without a few bonus tracks?

Time (by Hootie & the Blowfish) – “You ain’t no friend of mine.”

A Long December (by Counting Crows) – Please no.

Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) (by Green Day) – To 2020.

Knee Deep (by Zac Brown Band) – My wish for all of you in 2021.


Written By

ben brugler

ceo, president

More communication essentials

akhia communications — an Ohio public relations agency