As we round out what has been a very strange year indeedCEO Nicole Webb asked her team if there were any noteworthy communications lessons to be learnt from and if there were any campaigns worth mentioning. There are some recurring themes… 

For Katie and Leah, the campaign that gave them goosebumps, and continues to make them smile today, was a collection of campaigns encouraging Australians to buy local.  

It started with ‘Buy from the Bush’ to support drought-stricken communities and grew to Empty Esky’ and ‘Spend With Them to supporbusinesses affected by the devastating bushfires  

Individuals, organisations and governments all worked together to make a movement. And this idea of mateship, to support each other, continued throughout the pandemic when many small businesses were stung again. We hope it continues to evolve through whatever challenges 2021 has for us. 

On a similar theme, Victoria says the year has challenged many organisations and individuals to rethink their approach to communications; putting the needs of their customers, clients, stakeholders, citizens and staff first. IMPACT has long believed that a ‘people first’ approach is best, and if empathy continues to be seen as an essential business strategy relationships can only strengthen from here! 

For my trusty podcasting sidekick, Frances, it was the “we are all in this together” that struck a chord for herWhile we may have all been in it togetherin reality everyone’s experiences were so very different. She says leaning into better understanding our audience’s context, behaviours and mindsets; and the breadth of experience, ensures brands and organisations can be more personal, empathetic and impactful in their connections. 

Not sure if you saw the discussion around Toohey’s ‘Proudly Ordinary’ campaign on ABC’s Gruen Transfer, but our Olivia is bravely going against the panel and says this campaign is courageous and brazen. She says it has ignited a conversation around products not needing to be the best, or the fanciest, or make people excited to try it… they can just be ordinary. As a non-beer drinker, she says the campaign doesn’t encourage her to buy but thinks it will appeal to those who like their beer unfussy. 

Our new recruiRyan is on the same page as me (or perhaps he has been listening to our podcast?) 2020 was the year it was ok to say “I don’t know”He says pre-pandemic, and in the age of instant communication through digital channels, it wasn’t good enough for a brand to say “I don’t know”. Customers, media and the public demanded answers immediately.  

The extreme uncertainty that came with COVID was a great leveller. Customers and the general public were more concerned with hearing from brands than hearing exact answers, and the sheer speed of change meant it was ok for a brand to quickly say “we don’t know” and then find an appropriate answer.  

Whether audiences are still accepting of this approach in 2021 remains to be seen, but it is a great learning for the industry; that it’s possible for audiences to have a personable connection to a brand and be understanding of the people behind it.  

So wise for her age, Caroline says the most important lesson that companies learnt in 2020 is the significance of leading with purpose. With bushfires, a pandemic, protests and more, it’s the brands who lead with purpose that have come out the other side stronger. She says it’s no longer enough to take a backseat and not have a say on the issues that matter to your customers. Customers place their trust in brands who they believe are standing up for what’s right and supporting their community.  Brands like PayPal and its sponsorship of the Buy From the Bush campaign shows what happens when you put people and community at the heart of your communications strategy. 

Casey agrees. She says if 2020 has taught us anything, it is that there is a true power in brands pulling together for a common purpose. From supermarket competitors Coles, Woolworths, Aldi and IGA collaborating for a joint print ad in a bid to calm the panic around COVID-19, to the brilliant ‘Let’s Melbourne Again’ campaign which saw multiple brands and agencies band together to reinvigorate the city after lockdown ended. Collaborative marketing was a key empathy-based approach in 2020 that focused less on profits and more on purpose. 

And the final word comes from Lucia. She says the most important lesson learnt by companies and brands this year was personability. During lockdown having a genuine and personal interest in how someone was doing really meant a lot.