When the unexpected changes your plan, plan to change

As S&A marks our 40th year in business, this was going to be a reflective article. A look back on insights we’ve gained by helping to build remarkable brands. We were going to hit the highlights of what we’ve learned through working partnerships with so many stellar clients. Share some of the many changes we’ve witnessed during four decades of work for the animal health, healthcare, agriculture, and financial service industries.

That’s the direction we were going to take until, abruptly, a novel virus turned life and business upside down. Along with the rest of the world, our S&A team is experiencing something we’ve never seen or expected in our lifetime.

On March 17th, we sent our S&A team home with the equipment and technology they need to continue making an impact for our clients’ business, advance their brands, and keep their communications on course. That has been our mission since the day our door opened in 1980 and it remains our mission now, with an even greater sense of dedication.

We realized this is not the time to look back, it’s time to meet change head on, revise plans and go forward. This unexpected crisis raises new questions and challenges for our clients every day. How is the current environment changing customer behaviors? What will the new “normal” look like in the marketplace? As updates emerge daily about the coronavirus, it’s critical for businesses, particularly those in the animal health, healthcare and financial service sectors, to respond quickly to their distributors, providers and customers with messages that are relevant and meaningful across a variety of media.

No one can predict when the drastic health threats of COVID-19 will recede and what long-term ramifications it will impose on the economy. As the country gradually begins to enter phases of recovery, it’s unlikely we’ll simply return to business as usual. There will be a need for innovative thinking to reimagine business practices that genuinely meet the new needs of wary customers. Strong, confident brand messages and effective communications will be more vital than ever as we all work together to rebuild on the way back to health on all fronts.

We’ve learned a lot in 40 years but, within a short span of weeks, a virus has taught us the most important lesson of all: When an unforeseen change occurs, particularly one of such magnitude and beyond your control, it’s imperative to change your approach. Now and going forward, brands that thrive need to shelve previous 2020 plans and be prepared to:  

  • Change strategic course and revise plans quickly as circumstances continue to evolve
  • Respond rapidly and consistently with clear, relevant messages
  • Gain a deeper understanding of their clients or consumers, who have new concerns and face unexpected pressures of their own
  • Communicate with greater empathy and recognize the importance of tone
  • Stay flexible and open to pivoting toward unexpected opportunities   

While engagement and connection have become the cornerstones of marketing in a digital age, this crisis has reminded us there’s more to it than that. We are all profoundly interconnected. Brands and companies generate jobs and hire employees who funnel wages back into business, which keeps the economy turning. We keep hearing and it’s true, we are all in this together.

Despite the coronavirus, S&A intends to celebrate our 40th year with a renewed commitment of partnership with our clients to help build and fortify brands that improve the lives of animals, people and the planet. Some of our plans have changed and will need to keep changing. But we are going to keep focusing our collective experience and energy on helping our clients successfully (and creatively) protect their brands, reposition, reinvent and emerge strong.

For us, that’s something worth celebrating.