Here’s What 2020 Taught Me So Far

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2020, are you finished yet?

2020 has been an enlightening year. Not because it was hard or frightening. Because it makes so much sense. Let me tell you why.  

Unlike any other year, crises this year were not exclusive to a specific country or a region. They weren’t a US-coalitions fighting off ISIS, or a revolution erupting somewhere around the world. Crises were not empathized with through individual one-timer posts, or highlighted on Twitter for us to theoretically think about and reshare sympathetically. Crises this year were lived, experienced and broadcasted, from our POV.

All of us can over-read situations sometimes

As a single “dude” living in Dubai, in the prime of his life, quarantine was not good news. Staying home 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, was not a cause of celebration. When I first witnessed people standing on their balconies, whistling and cheering every evening at 8 PM for more than two weeks, I thought people went completely coco. “Who celebrates imprisonment and isolation?” I thought. I remember feeling anxious. Upset even.

I went to social media to check what people were saying about this alien behavior that made no sense whatsoever to me, but everyone was documenting the occurrence, and nobody was justifying it.

And then I dug deeper on a story I saw a week back on Italians doing the same. Italians at that time were also standing on their balconies whistling, cheering, chanting and singing as a “Grazie” to the front-liners who were working round-the-clock to save lives. I was still critical. Why do we have to copy every single thing we see online? It makes sense in Italy. Why does it have to imitated here too?

I called a friend to talk about it, and to express my frustrations, expecting agreement and mutual venting. She sighed, took a deep breath and said “Maybe people are not copying what the Italians are doing just because it’s fun. Maybe they found cheering and whistling, as convenient and expressive ways to communicate their well-being and gratitude. Maybe it’s not them jumping on the trend. Perhaps it’s them appreciating the trend’s underlying premise. The fuller picture you’re not capable of seeing right now because you’re preoccupied with emotion.”

Her words were concise, yet sharp and to the point.  I took a minute to think about them, and went silent in the process.

She giggled and continued “Dani, sometimes you can be a complete idiot.”

I totally believed her. Yes, I was an idiot.

Keep an Open Mind  

Philip Zimbardo, in his masterpiece “The Lucifer Effect”, opened his book with this picture:

M.C. Escher, Circle Limit IV (1960) The angels and devils (Heaven and Hell) motif was also the only one that Escher realized in each of the classical geometries: Euclidean, spherical, and hyperbolic.

He wrote: “Look at this remarkable image for a moment. Now close your eyes and conjure it in your memory.

Does your mind’s eye see the many white angels dancing about the dark heavens?”

Philip was referring in this passage to good and evil, and how they always intertwine. There’s no good without evil, and vice versa.

This concept bulb-ed another one in my brain. The famous good old Yin and Yang. Not the restaurant. Ha .. ha.

Yin and Yang - Ancient History Encyclopedia

The overarching idea I always derive from Yin and Yang, that my friend reminded me of, is that nothing in life is absolute. They are no 100% accurate truths. Even when it comes to the basics of physics: water boils at 100 degrees is not completely true if you’re boiling it on mount Everest. Every fact is interchangeable. And that definitely applies on everything else in our little private worlds.

Maybe what we deem as an obnoxious trending dance on Tiktok, is helping someone cope with their anxieties or insecurities. Maybe chanting on rooftops, whilst we think is a frivolous behavior, can be encouraging a doctor to stay sane and diligent. 

2020 has been an enlightening year is an understatement. 2020 is what every year should be. I’m not referring to the pandemics, fires and racism. I’m referring to the empowerment of our critical thinking. The ability to distinguish what might be of value, regardless of how much it alters our original thinking process, or how ridiculous it looks in the beginning.

2020 has taught me never to underestimate the power of any word, action or behavior. There are always convictions operating in the background that I need to expose myself to. To keep an open mind to them, because someday they might come in-handy, or even right now.

Getting stuck in a rigid one-dimensional world where our opinions dominate is definitely not the answer. Getting stuck in a 4-dimensional world is. It’s exciting even, especially if you’re someone who’s talking to mass audiences every day!

Which takes me to my next point.

The Customer Journey

There’s an unspoken collective conviction that segregates our personal lives from our professional ones. But what we don’t realize, that often, they are fiercely attached, like fire and gasoline. Sometimes, they’re inseparable. 

One of the most basic customer journeys that I base my marketing strategies on is:

Awareness – Interest – Conversion.

But at time it’s done backwards, where we look at the products at hand and say: this is definitely targeted towards mothers. Let’s create a cute campaign based on showcasing products that help moms with their essential needs. While this can be a great execution from an e-commerce point of view, the actual sentimental connection is lacking, which is essential to the awareness phase.  

The first thing anybody needs to think of in this position is: Where can I find moms to talk to? The second thing is: What did moms think of our latest campaigns? And finally think: now that I acquired all of that information from my target audience, what would it take for me to think like a mom given the mental, psychological and sociological aspects of it? Don’t worry if you’re a man. You can still do it.  

Empathize & Conquer

My recipe for a great campaign strategy is:

Empathy = Relatability

Relatability = Customer Emotional Connection

Emotional reflection = Brand Affinity

Brand Affinity + Product offering = Purchases

Purchases = Your Salary at the End of the Month

Your Salary at the End of the Month = More Empathy 😀

Amarit ya’ll?

Dani Akkwi

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