Well, here we are at the end of the 9th week (more or less) of The Great Pause, otherwise known as the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020. I’m one of the fortunate ones who have been able to continue working and collecting a paycheck. Today’s headlines included the terrible news that unemployment in the US is now at a level not seen since the Great Depression.
As we roared into the 2020s, barely over four months ago, who could have imagined such a state of affairs? Not me. Not anyone. I’ve seen compilations of headlines from January and February urging us to not panic and suggesting that this would not be such a big deal.
That’s one of the reasons I think it’s a little unfair to look for scapegoats. I think this whole thing caught most everyone with their guard down until we started seeing the obvious and realized immediate action was needed to stop the spread. I’m willing to give all public officials the benefit of the doubt and assume they were acting in good faith. If we’re looking to blame anyone, I think a good place to start would be the Chinese government. But that’s a topic for another place and another day!
Like many, I am consumed by this problem and want to read as much as I can. While I think there’s some merit to staying well-informed, especially on a topic that is so all-consuming, I have come to realize that much of what I’m reading is based on speculation. While it can be interesting, it’s now obvious that what we don’t know about this virus far exceeds what we know. Just one example: we were told not that long ago that wearing masks would do little or nothing to stop human transmission. People in positions of authority said that only medical personnel in direct contact with patients should wear them. Now of course they are ubiquitous and, in many cases, mandatory. The voracious need of the 24/7 news cycle requires a steady stream of information and things change fast. I would simply caution; reader beware!
My personal speculation has been focused on where our industry is headed especially in the near-term when things are just starting to open (hopefully!) but not nearly back to normal. I believe we’re facing a sort of Business Limbo; where regaining previous sales will be slow and fitful. One of the things that might save us is that companies will need to promote heavily in order to win back reluctant customers. Many will be nervous to do things like fly, travel, stay in a hotel, attend an event or even just shop. Businesses will have to assure people they have taken the steps necessary for a positive, relatively risk-free customer experience. This will take a lot of communication, repeating the same message over and over. Much of that will be printed and mailed.
Conversely, the reluctance of folks to get out of the house and shop will mean more packages being delivered to homes with purchased goods. Many of these will be transported with things like printed bubble mailers and other types of custom printed mailers. Those should be a growth area for many of us who produce or supply them.
When I was attending parochial school many years ago, we were taught that “limbo” was a place you went after dying that wasn’t as bad as hell but not as good as heaven. It’s also that fun party dance where you have bend way over to avoid knocking the bar over while the DJ asks, “how LOW can you GO?”
If we stay smart and agile, I think we can avoid spending too much time in “limbo”. But there may well be many more contortions we face before getting to the end of this dance.