These have been challenging times, except for those that profited from it

Luglio 11, 20204 Minuti

I’ve had trouble doing these articles lately because writing about marketing in the age of Covid has felt a bit like commenting on the wallpaper while the house is burning down. Whatever your view might be, there is no denying that we are living through an epic moment. I’ve found the past few months very challenging. My children all live abroad and I didn’t know when I’d ever see them again. Alone in my Milan apartment the silence outside at night was surreal. I can only thank nature for its wisdom in waiting until mankind had developed Netflix, Amazon, and Zoom before she unleashed this pandemic on us. Italy was hit first and hit hard. It led to the implementation of some drastic measures. I was proud of the way Italians responded. Panic buying lasted a day or two but generally people displayed an enormous sense of social responsibility and solidarity. Of course there are those who claim it was an overreaction. They didn’t get sick so they affirm that the lockdown was pointless. But that is backwards logic, the same as saying after a long drive “we didn’t have an accident so it was a stupid waste of time to wear seatbelts”. No one could have foreseen how much our world would change. I think about the words of Baz Luhrman,“worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing Bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind. The kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday”. Covid-19 is a tragedy like nothing humanity has seen in generations and conspiracy theorists aside, I think that most people recognise that it is far from over. But there is a silver lining. First of all it is an awareness that the world knows no boundaries. It might just be the wake up call we needed to face other global issues like social inequality and climate change. We have been forced into more efficient ways of doing business. In the past I flew as many as 200 flights a year believing that face to face meetings were indispensable. The business traveller has now learned that they can handle most of their affairs from the comfort of their home. My company has weathered the storm in an exceptional way. I never would have believed that my people could work so well collectively, in isolation. Besides a few Covid babies being conceived, smart working has worked very well for Smith Lumen. Which leads me to my final consideration. I have always respected the laws of this country that govern my employees, often to my own detriment.

I could write several articles about the absurd financial burden the Italian government places on companies for their employees but that’s the way it is. I talked before about my admiration towards fellow Italians during this crises but unfortunately that doesn’t extend to many of my competitors. In this extraordinary moment companies are allowed to lay off workers with the state covering 80% of their wages. Many agencies have done so but continue to have those same employees working from home. Exploiting a situation while so many people are suffering is disgusting and represents all that is wrong with Italy today. It is hard to compete with someone whose costs are a fifth of yours but I believe that especially in times like these values are more important than profits.

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Drew Smith

An award winning designer and an expert in consumer brand management, NPD and packaging design with over twenty years of experience. Canadian by birth, he has been the Creative Director of several leading international consultancies and is a graduate of Art Center College of Design and Sheridan College, School of Visual Arts.