Out with the old, in with the whatever works
I can only speak to the industry and environment I've been exposed to, but I think it could be applied to other industries. I've been in the oil & gas industry for over 16 years, I've enjoyed every minute of it, from working offshore pulling pipe back in a derrick over 90' in the air, to living in Saudi meeting some great people and friends (and food), to our industry events, and the lifelong friends I've made. One thing I was sure of: The industry was stuck in a rut the it marketed and communicated its services and products, that way was boring as hell. Old school, stale, informative, robotic.
Historically it was white papers, boring laid out graphics not letting the casual user understand the benefit or application of a product, bold text with paragraphs of research (it's an industry that loves/loved data and facts over moving stories and God forbid I say it: feelings), every company posting their "record runs" (so many records beat it diluted the achievements of the company or event the term “record run”), and pics of equipment on location. Very rarely would you actually see a person in the picture as the company was it's product, even though everyone boasted it was "all about the people".
Then something changed drastically.
Covid and lockdowns hit, forcing everyone to belly up next to their computer and start plowing through content online. *For this post I will primarily focus on company content shifting, I will cover personal content at a later date*. I'm not sure about most people or other industries, but I did notice a huge increase in social media activity not only as a way to connect, but as a way to generate sales/revenue. Either it was company content fatigue, or management not having the ability to micromanage their employees, or companies empowering their employees to utilize social media effectively, or social media presence not being a focus or priority during the lockdown (in my opinion this would be a huge mistake for many companies, as well as being one of the most important things to focus on during this time). It could have been a combination of all the above, or something I'm not even considering. Regardless, the industry went from "yesterday" in its digital content to where it should be "today" almost overnight. From a product and descriptive focus, to a people/personnel focus.
Suddenly, you were seeing companies take chances in content they were putting out. Which before was a boring small picture, with a short story sized in size 10 font on the rest of the page, to something new all together. Companies were suddenly beginning to take chances and what some people seem as "risks" and push the envelope on what they would let get posted. Photoshopped products on blockbuster movie posters, pictures of field personnel dirty, hot, tired, and happy and showing gratitude that they were still working, employees posting skits and clips of them doing things not related to work at all (but they were funny, and people talked about them). This content allowed the consumer to get a “feel” about the people at the company, which if the content was genuine, established trust with the company. After all, a company is only as good as its people.
Now, companies are putting (and should be putting) greater focuses on their employees to put out personal and genuine digital content. They realize when people are behind the computer and in lockdown, they weren't connecting with the company's social media page, they were connecting with the employee (that represented the company). This meant that companies had a chance to stand by their words of them being "all about their people". Some did, and it worked out tremendously! Letting their personnel be advocates of their company and put out creative genuine content had people talking, and in a time where conversation levels were at a historic low, talk was cheap but also talk was priceless.
Many company's took the time to begin rebranding, updating their logo, changing color schemes, overhauling their websites, and these are the companies that stand out in my mind and in conversations with buddies. When the companies did post material about their product or service, it had a new look and a new feel. The digital content exploded during this time, with companies no longer having boring ads or websites, instead it looked like something out of a Ridley Scott sci-fi movie. Sleek pictures and colors, modern rebranding that honored the past yet was something new, moving graphics, and minimalist websites began to pop up. Companies got creative and started using humor. Best part was, people were talking about it and commenting on it. When people are talking thats’s staying relevant during a time when you needed it the most.
If it was a pull or a push by executive management (or middle management most likely) to let this happen, I will never know...that is way above my pay grade. But one thing is certain: companies who aren't empowering their employees to express their creativeness and be advocates for the company need to realize that is free advertising (obviously following some common sense guidelines, but still allowing the envelope to be pushed and new things to be tried). The rebranding, new websites, sleek looking graphics surely makes it feel like a new, younger, and hip industry.
Curious how many other industries saw something similar?