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    • We had an e-coffee with Gerland van Ackere, BU Managing Director at Sopexa USA

    We had an e-coffee with Gerland van Ackere, BU Managing Director at Sopexa USA

    Gerland van Ackere, BU Managing Director at Sopexa U.S.A., shared an overview of the situation in the USA, communication trends and the REAL concept.

    What are the significant changes in communication trends in the USA? What do we need to know?


    We have witnessed a real identity crisis in the U.S over the past year. COVID quickly became a divisive political issue and this did not help people to come together in the fight against the virus but rather pit people, families and friends against each other for the sake of who was more right. In the midst of the health crisis, the Black Lives Matter movement shook and awoke the country to its problem of racism, out West unprecedented fires ravaged the West Coast, the Capitol was attacked after a record-breaking election cycle mired in information blurring the lines between facts and opinions. These events seriously touched our cultural nerve and challenged the American way of life for many. Our priorities were questioned and all of this had real repercussions in the world of communication.


    On the technology side of things, we talk about the “Great Digitalization” of 2020. From our stand point, it has been a digital acceleration of events and promotional programs with new partners, new 3D virtual technologies, and deeper and richer relationships with influencers. We talk about acceleration because for a while now we have been enriching physical experiences with digital components for our clients. Acceleration also comes with a sense of speed because in just a few months we have probably made a two-year  leap in terms of data, feedback gathering and digital implementations. 


    You recently presented your get REAL concept in front of 400 members of the U.S Agricultural Export Development Council (USAEDC) who warmly welcomed it, what is it ?


    Get REAL is our secret sauce for this famous Great Digitalization. As a preamble, I would say that all the brands were forced to make the mighty jump to digital last year, they all did it at the same time and with similar tools, far too often with little strategic insights and experience in the rush to get things out there. More generally, let’s review some insights from 2020:


    1. The disappearance of the commute time. We took this for granted pre-pandemic but this time was used as a moment of personal reflection. Overnight it got taken away from us giving way to more screen time instead. More work but somehow not necessarily more productive days.
    2. “Multi-focus” has become the new “multi-task”. Behind a screen at home is a whole other world with countless distractions. The ability to concentrate becomes more limited, impacting the way we communicate and work. Our focus-bandwidth is more stretched than ever forcing different and often time more succinct messaging and creative solutions.
    3. The rise of Outlook’s “little monsters”.  The little calendar monsters are those very small 10-minute meetings devoted to quick follow-ups, which used to take place in the office’s hallways. A few of those and our days get significantly impacted.
    4. The loss of stimulation from the outside world. With fewer outings affecting our social interactions, our lives and ultimately our exchanges with others has been reduced to basically binging shows, the subject of mental well-being has become very important this year and the less we experience on the day to day the smaller our stimulation and inspiration becomes.


    Get REAL, takes all these insights into consideration. These 4 letters serve as a checklist when creating content or virtual gatherings that stand out: REVELANT, ENGAGING, ACTIONABLE and LASTING IMPRESSION. Our audiences, whether consumers or professionals, are increasingly solicited on tools which lack of human warmth. This secret sauce is as much as a stress test for any ideas and programs we create for our clients leading to striking and engaging strategies. Our USDEC client, who spoke just after me to the USAEDC about our global program together emphasized this need to the USAEDC as well, I think it rang true for many people.


    What about tomorrow? What are the REAL projects to come?


    2021 will still be a hybrid world. The best digital solutions developed in 2020 will enrich physical events as they slowly come back. Audiences however will be more selective in their travel after doing so much from home, so we will have to ensure that we produce events that offer a real added value and a unique experience. We anticipate more personalized and qualitative experiences in the world of Trade for example. American consumers will keep elevating expectations regarding the values of the brands, products and services they buy and we definitely saw big players upping their game during the pandemic.


    I was asked a technological and concrete example of get REAL after my speech at the USAEDC. I picked the QR code. A technology widely used in 2020 that will keep growing as we open back up. Indeed, the QR code is a technology that has been around for years but has never really found its place in our daily lives. Since the pandemic, all restaurants have been using it for the digital version of their menus as they reopened. Overnight, QR codes have become a reflex for consumers. It’s easy to imagine QR codes downloaded in record numbers at trade shows where customized brochures can be accessed at any time from the code on a goodie, or leave behind for example.


    For more information, please contact us .