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Roundup 2020!

The annus horribilis 2020: no one expected it, no one wanted it, everyone hated it and tried to forget it as soon as it was over.

By general consensus, there was not a single good thing to say about the entire year. Right?

Well, things were pretty rough. All at once there was a pandemic, an economic downturn, and a fraught election—surely not anyone’s idea of a great time. But despite it all, for us at TopRight, 2020 came with some pretty incredible silver linings, things we don’t want to forget simply because so much else went south.

For example, something we were quite grateful for was the long list of global and national awards TopRight received. Last year, we were given an award for best B2B services in the world, just before we won a succession of other accolades for best in social media marketing, best in B2B in the city of Atlanta, an Inc. award for fastest-growing company in the nation, as well as best in Georgia, best in the nation, and best in sustained growth.

That’s a lot of awards! We’d be proud of those during any year.

But more important than awards is people. TopRight saw some critical staff change-ups. The revered Bill Fasig was made CEO in July, then the TopRight team welcomed two excellent new members—Partner Natalie Ross and Creative Director Karen Gold. We’ve been working with these folks since September and they’ve been truly fantastic beyond all expectation.

TopRight also put on three popular webinars last year: a Covid-19 leadership forum in May, a forum on the future of marketing in July, and a corporate social responsibility forum in October. Attendees enjoyed these so much that we’ve put together a full 2021 calendar of regular webinars, and the first will be February 24th at noon on the topic of “place branding.” (Details to come.)

If you missed any of this great stuff or you want to find out more of what we did at TopRight in 2020, check out our blog post roundup below. Read the full articles, follow the links, and drop us a line to tell us your thoughts.

But now the important question: what will TopRight focus on for 2021? It’s not as if the nation has exactly returned to the old normal. Things are still dicey out there with lots of brand categories that need attention—one of which, we believe, is place branding and place making. If you’re not sure what that is, stay tuned because we’re going to be writing about Place Branding: Crafting the Story of Where You Live for the next two months, right up to our February 24th webinar on the topic.

And if you haven’t yet, please do sign up for our blog. Or, give CEO Bill Fasig a shout on Twitter or LinkedIn.

TOPRIGHT’S 2020 ROUNDUP!

Chair Dave Sutton wrote about artificial intelligence, big data boom, and what major marketing failure looks like.

“The adoption of AI is right now bringing companies the benefits of real-time audience segmentation, personalized messaging, predictable customer value, and optimized media buys. It has ceased to be an abstract idea located at some distant point in the next decade. It is instead a tool that marketers need to equip themselves with now in order to stay effective and relevant for the near future.”

CEO Bill Fasig wrote about the future of TopRight and the best ways to lead an excellent creative team.

“We’ve seen a lot of change lately—and more is coming… As CEO, I’ve chosen to take a more nuanced approach. In TopRight’s 14 years of operation, we’ve had plenty of success, and it’s important that we not abandon our past in pursuit of a better future, but continue to honor the firm’s values and our achievements during this time under the leadership of TopRight Founder and Chairman, Dave Sutton. We will continue to be a source for world-class storytelling, in-depth research, and creative uniqueness, using this rich history as a launching pad to project ourselves into what I believe will be an exceptionally bright future.”

CMO Chris Weissman wrote about major post-covid shifts in consumer behavior, a new era of corporate social responsibility, and the Cheese Wars.

“In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests, brands have been reactively scrambling to add their voice to the race issue. Announcements of corporate support for BLM have become so common that AdAge actually built an online tracker to keep pace with it. But the question, of course, is whether consumers actually buy it—and why should they? A major brand that yesterday had little to say about race in America is now erecting banners in support of BLM. That’s fine, but for what reason would anyone think this isn’t purely about brand image, even in cases where it actually isn’t? Timing, strategy, thoughtfulness, and rigor matter here.”

Partner Judi Friedman wrote about discovering the why of place branding and how the health crisis impacted her marketing work.

“The public sector, by and large, does not think of itself as having “products”—not yet anyway. Small local parks and wildlife areas, for instance, tend to be viewed as idle public reserves that don’t require “selling” to residents. But unless you’re Yosemite National Park—which actually has an appreciable marketing budget—in order to encourage residents to see themselves as part of the “local wildlife story,” places have to start branding themselves in a way that speaks to people.”

Partner Natalie Ross write about the transformational 2020 Christmas season.

Business as usual is not a thing in 2020. A confluence of factors—a pandemic, a fraught election, and an economic downturn—have made this year a make-or-break moment for every business, not just the major players. That’s why every brand out there should be looking at this holiday season as a testing ground for their 2021 growth potential. There are three areas of concern that every brand should be investing in. If you’re not doing the legwork on these this holiday season, you need to start.”

Partner Brandon Palanker wrote about place branding during the holidays and how to reimagine where you live and work.

“We’re all about to witness a transformation in how and where we work. In the design world, there’s the old idea that oftentimes “the exception becomes the rule.” So, be prepared to see some current practices become more common and widespread, and to see home life alter accordingly. By 2021, some Covid-19 exceptions will have very much become the rule. Including a transition to more flexible work environments.”

Partner Bill Price wrote about applying AI to a premium gin brand and the benefits of cloud computing.

“Though the idea of “The Cloud” can feel almost celestial, as if data were flowing in a river above your head, it in reality refers to earth-bound centralized storage warehouses built for the safekeeping of huge amounts of data from remote devices. But these warehouses are exceedingly safe, accessible, high-tech, and responsive to consumer demand. … But the inherent capacity of Cloud computing has evolved a lot over the last few years. In light of its immense and growing capabilities to serve an ever-growing customer base, the Cloud has become extremely beneficial for business, including marketing firms. Here are the main 5 ways that the Cloud is helping marketers and business leaders succeed.”

There’s more!
Check out these fantastic supplementary essays and articles from around the web…

 

Harvard Business Review republished Chair Dave Sutton’s popular article on analytics in a new book of essays.

“When brothers Shep and Ian Murray cut their ties with Corporate America to start a little company on Martha’s Vineyard in 1998, their motivation was clear: ‘We’re making neck ties so we don’t have to wear them.””

Inc. magazine on the fastest-growing firms of 2020 (TopRight made the list!)

“Building a fast-growth business is like charging up Heartbreak Hill. At some point on the incline, founders make the Inc. 5000, our annual ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies, and pause to cry, “Yes!” Then they’re off and running again.”

Forbes on engaging Millennial and Gen Z audiences post-pandemic.

“Millennials and Gen Z’s express impressive resiliency and a resolve to improve the world. As we rebuild our economies and society, business should take a note from young people when helping shape the world that emerges.”

Thrive Global on organizational resilience and leadership.

“Organizations are living, breathing organisms and need to be treated as such. Just because an organization was built on a certain set of values, doesn’t mean the organization lives those values as well.”

The American Marketing Association on why brand storytelling moves us.

“Brands have stories that reveal and serve as signs of their deepest truth—the foundational legends and myths that they hold dear—just like people. It is our job to express those stories for brands in a way that honestly provides insight helping consumers and the employees at the company to understand the brand in a deeper and less ambiguous way.”

Sign up for our blog! Then follow Chair Dave Sutton , CEO Bill Fasig, and CMO Chris Weissman on Twitter. Visit us on LinkedIn. And if you still need another fix, grab a copy of one of Dave’s new books, Marketing, Interrupted or HBR’s Strategic Analytics.