By Ivy Cohen, President and CEO, Ivy Cohen Corporate Communications

Early in the first wave of the pandemic and the resulting quarantine, it became clear that many of us were not going to see close family and friends in person for some time. As the weeks and months passed, some became overwhelmed with juggling work and raising children. Some felt increasingly isolated, and others struggled with unhealthy work environments. The situation has been much the same the world over. Young children have tended to be less satisfied with virtual relationships while elders were learning to adapt to new technology platforms.

And then along came Scary BINGO* into our family's life! This version is much like your ordinary BINGO game, but instead of columns marked with letters and filled with numbers, Scary BINGO has adorable monsters in each square, each with a silly name.

Every few weeks we Zoom together with several households and members of our immediate family spanning four generations for the big match up. Shipping packages of prizes to the households with toddlers has proven a winner to entice little ones to enthusiastically participate. Parents hand out prizes to each of the children when they complete a row for BINGO. There are giggles when I call out "Seymour," the 6-legged monster, as one of the boxes to cover with a token.

To me, Scary BINGO offers a window into the next year of marketing. It has all of the key elements: Something unpredictable. Something predictable. Engagement. Rewards. It's a hybrid: physical and remote .

Something unpredictable  - The limitations of social life, work-life and personal connection has become mundane over the past several months. Numbing, perhaps. Sad and depressing for many. Boring for sure! Consumers and business customers want something unexpected from brands to fulfill what we used to call "surprise and delight." Who knew that a goofy monster version of a traditional BINGO game could make people laugh across thousands of miles and multiple time zones. It represents a change of pace, a new promotion, something that is NOT about the virus. A new purpose or something that makes people feel passionate about your brand will provide unpredictability in a way that is satisfying and not off-putting.

Something predictable  - Dull? Maybe not. Humans thrive on routine. We are all creatures of habit. By offering your customers information, services or perks on a routine basis, you make yourself a valued part of their day and week. They look forward to hearing from you. In this climate, you can fill a void or become a new good habit. Every few weeks we play with the same Scary BINGO cards. The same family members participate. We pace it so that it is a joy each time we play. For the children, each time is a wonder as they vie for prizes.

Fostering engagement  - Everybody participates! While we are all hunkered down in front of our devices at home or somewhere other than our usual workplaces, we want to feel relevant. We don't just want emails talking about the pandemic pushed to us. We want someone to ask our opinion, offer us a connection, a place to share ideas and solve problems. We want to fill our BINGO card and shout out when we win. And, we want someone to cheer us on when we do. Marketers in 2021 should be doubling down on engagement strategies. Just encouraging people to share and like comments on social media, or sending emails with special offers is not enough. Find ways to bring your brand to life and invite your customers and prospects to interact with the industry, your product, the aspects of life that your company enriches.

Prioritizing rewards  - While an important part of the marketing mix for a long time, the dynamic around rewards has changed. GenZ is motivated by rewards ranging from physical prizes, discounts and special offers, as well as points, online stickers, recognition for participating or responding and more. Customers of all ages are stressed, tired, or depressed. They may be isolated, out of work, juggling work and childcare, caring for loved ones, or just experiencing COVID-19 fatigue. Finding ways to share some love and acknowledgment is a winning way to build goodwill and strengthen bonds between customers and brands. Creating rewards that have repeat potential is a great motivator to ensure full participation in your next Scary BINGO game!

It's hybrid: physical and remote  - We are in a time of great flux. While much of our lives will be virtual as we head into winter and perhaps beyond, consumer polls reveal that many of us are longing to return to in-person routines and activities at home, at work and socially. We don't know when or how that shift will evolve or which changes will become part of the "new normal," so marketers need to be nimble, and accelerate their thinking along multiple paths for 2021. We need to create experiences and communications that project empathy, purpose, passion, engagement or whatever is needed to retain customers and strengthen our brand across multiple platforms and channels - essentially wherever our customers want to connect.

Be it your version of virtual Scary BINGO or in-person with distance and elbow greetings, marketing in 2021 doesn't have to be scary, but it should be honest, engaging and attuned to the context we live in. It should offer predictability, surprise, and rewards. And perhaps most importantly, it should be agile enough to meet customers however and wherever they're most comfortable meeting.


*Scary BINGO is a property of Laurence King Publishing, LTD.

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Ivy Cohen Corporate Communications helps companies build reputations and differentiate in a challenging and competitive market through thought leadership, public education, issues management, content strategy, and strategic communications.

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