This time of year, as founders and CMOs are finalizing their campaign plans for the American market, take into consideration that, this year, you should expect the unexpected. There are numerous volatile factors at play in the coming weeks and chances for chaos are high. Anyone planning campaigns or announcements for the U.S. market must gain a solid grasp of these factors or ignore at their peril.
1) The U.S. Presidential election is slated for Nov. 3rd, but don’t expect to wake up Nov. 4 with a solid resolution. Political pundits have widely predicted that the results, thanks to a mix of mail-in voting, absentee ballots and an all but inevitable challenge on unfavorable results from incumbent President Trump, will force a final tally to be delayed by weeks or even months.
What does that mean for founders and marketing managers? Such a standoff will bring about uncertainty and instability, two things that Wall Street and businesses in general do not like. The trickle down could impact Israeli startups’ ability to attract funding (as VCs, already reacting to the pandemic, might further tighten the belt until they see election results finalized).
In addition, this election-to-end-all-elections is creating a massive attention deficit. In the days leading up to and immediately following the vote, you should expect Americans to be distracted and, depending on whether they perceive their candidate to be winning or losing, potentially depressed, angry and even in despair. Try not to compete with election news by planning major marketing initiatives until the results are determined -- your webinars and news announcements will be better served, and better attended, if you sit tight and wait.
Most importantly, understand that Americans prefer not to discuss politics in business situations. Doing so can be seen as unprofessional at best and potentially offensive. The country is deeply divided and you shouldn’t make the mistake of assuming that your audience agrees with your point of view. Keep the small talk friendly and steer clear.
2) The start of flu season
After seven months of a pandemic, the worst-case scenario is now a looming possibility: traditional flu season, which kills between 20,000 and 60,000 Americans each year, will overlap with the Covid-19 pandemic, and the media will focus on the impact across every possible angle.
What does that mean for founders and marketing managers? Reporters, who are already stretched thin, might be stretched even thinner in October and November. Many journalists have been pulled off of their regular beats to cover various aspects of the pandemic, and if the flu turns up the volume on the crisis, expect that situation to remain the case. And as Thanksgiving looms, the majority of Americans will take a break from work to be with family and friends, even in a year of social distancing. That means that inboxes will be fuller than ever and lag times on returning emails are only going to increase. As a founder or CMO, take this time to think before you hit send: is your news truly breaking and noteworthy? If not, consider if right now is the most appropriate time to announce. Reporters used to getting about 100 emails a day are now telling us they are receiving upwards of 200. Make sure that if you’re adding to that pile, it’s for a very good reason.
3) Preparing for Black Friday, Cyber Monday
Americans love to call Christmas “The most wonderful time of the year” but CMOs and marketers know that in reality, Black Friday and Cyber Monday -- the major shopping days leading into the Christmas season -- are actually the most wonderful time of the year for business / revenues...in a “normal” year.
But this year, we all need to be prepared for things to be unusual. America has been in a recession since June. Big family gatherings, too, likely to be tempered this year, and big family gift-giving, in turn, might also shift gears.
What does that mean for founders and marketing managers? If there’s one thing we know for sure about 2020, it’s that it’s a year that refuses to follow a script. Cyber Monday, with its optimum conditions for social distancing, could blow all predictions out of the water. The key here is that this year, there is no real playbook, so the most successful businesses this year will be those who think ahead and will have options available to pivot at a moment’s notice.
The bottom line:
Keep abreast of the news cycle in the U.S. and be ready to change your plans accordingly. This year has delivered an astounding amount of breaking news across all fifty states -- a pandemic, election controversies, protests, devastating fires, and more. In addition to reading up on news in the major national outlets, make sure to also keep up with local news if you are targeting specific cities/states. You need to be aware if your audience is preoccupied dealing with an earthquake, fire, tornado, pandemic surge, protests, etc. If you’re not careful, you might find that “nobody cares” about your news...or, worse yet, they think your company is insensitive.
This has been a year of stress and surprises, not just for CMOs and founders, but also for journalists. Remember that reporters are dealing with their own stress -- they are worried about their deadlines and their jobs, along with their health and their families, and likely doing it all while juggling working from home with kids, just like you.
And while you can’t predict the future, you can remember to be kind. Always treating everyone, including the reporters and journalists you encounter, with respect. In a year like this, it’s the most powerful currency on the market.