Harvard x Coleman Parkes

Ellie Thompson

02 Feb 2021

To say 2020 was a challenging year for businesses would be an understatement. If we think back to March last year, few predicted how drastically our lives would change at the hands of Covid-19. But even fewer foresaw just how lasting the impacts would be – and still are.

It was with that in mind that we decided to partner with Coleman Parkes to once again explore the impact that this was having on business leaders. Almost 12 months in, what are the long-term effects we are starting to see on business priorities, the role of brands and the impact on the way we live and work?

To better understand this, we spoke with 450 business leaders across some of the most affected industries like travel and retail to find out what they thought.

Below is a little insight into the three key macro-trends that emerged, but we’d urge you to read the full report to find out as marketers what you might need to do now but also, think about for the future.

A new era of innovation

A lasting legacy of 2020 will be its impact on innovation. Snapped out of inertia by circumstance – and as a result fast-changing consumer behaviour, many organisations spent the first wave racing to implement the digital infrastructure they had spoken about for years. Others looked to digital tools to help them pivot their business and continue to serve customers.

But while these were intended as short-term measures, this accelerated rate of investment in tech has initiated a wave of new product and service offerings and supercharged industry innovation, with two-thirds of respondents saying that these advancements will remain in place as part of their business strategy.

The result for many is new business models, revenue streams, working processes or even whole new companies.

The demise of the 9 – 5

One thing that is unlikely to return is the 5-day office commute. According to the ONS, over 30% of us were working from home full-time in November – a number that is unlikely to decrease any time soon as lockdown continues.

That has led to two key challenges for organisations to overcome: implementing the tech infrastructure needed for hybrid working to succeed and retaining the culture that enables their teams to survive and thrive. And in a world where face-to-face interaction is minimal, you can’t achieve the latter without investing in the former.

Technology has become integral to both our happiness and our productivity at work. And it has offered a cultural lifeline. While many of us may never want to take part in another ‘zoom quiz’, online activities have had to become the norm, and business leaders have become increasingly inventive as they look to explore ways to engage with their teams.

A shift to a virtual world has also led to a refocus on wellbeing. And perhaps, for the first time, it feels like it might stick. Three-quarters of respondents reported an increased focus on employee wellbeing in our survey, a positive sign for a future where a better work-life balance can prevail.

A pivotal point for tech

The events of 2020 have put technology at the forefront of our lives once more. It’s offered many of us a lifeline – not just the opportunity to continue our work, but a chance to connect on an emotional level with friends and family.

That’s led to a resurgence in popularity for many tech brands as consumers – and business leaders – recognise them as the backbone of their personal and professional lives.

But as we know, reputation is hard fought for and easily lost. And while tech may be more powerful, prosperous, and influential than ever, it’s also under far greater scrutiny – both politically and socially.

Politicians have their sights set on regulating the industry. Other businesses, and millions of consumers, look to tech firms to set an example on everything from free speech to recruitment.

To maintain their status and be a force for good in their communities and beyond, tech brands need to understand this shift, and the example they set. More than that, they need to accept this opportunity for change and collaborate with those around them – Governments, academics, and consumers – to understand their wider role and be present in taking action.

So, what does that all mean for marketing and comms?

In short, a need to keep your finger on the pulse, be agile with your approach and sensitive to a fast-changing situation. Equally, there are definite trends that are here to stay for the long haul; no longer can businesses afford to talk the talk and not walk the walk, with both customers and employees ready and willing to vote with their feet if needed.

For more, you can read the full report below:

Harvard x Coleman Parkes Report