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What I Learned as a Marketing Intern During a Pandemic

Hey, my name is Gunnar. I was the intern at Drive Brand Studio this summer, and boy what a time it was to be an intern during a pandemic. There was no shortage of unpredictable curveballs, but that made my experience at Drive that much more meaningful. I learned a lot this summer, a lot of which was unique to the times. I learned a whole lot about marketing in general, but I also learned some very valuable lessons that I wouldn't have learned during a normal year.

Before I head into my senior year at St. Lawrence University, I wanted to share my perspective of interning at Drive during a pandemic and specifically two key big-picture ideas I learned. And who knows, maybe there will be some nuggets in here that offer some insight for other would-be interns and perhaps even some business owners.  

One of the major things I learned this summer is the importance of giving your own brand some love every once in a while. Just like how many people took advantage of quarantine to learn a new hobby, work on their fitness or practice self-care in other ways, the pandemic offered an opportunity for businesses to give themselves some much-needed TLC. 

With a global pandemic, economic downturn and civil unrest, it was natural for the overall business world to slow down, and Drive is no exception. Drive is still very fortunate to be in full operation during a time when so many people are out of work. But life around here is expectedly a little slower than it would be during a normal year. 

Drive took advantage of this by developing a new content strategy and focusing more than ever on creating original content and positioning itself as a thought leader. Since the pandemic started, Drive has developed GPS (Guidance, Problems and Solutions), a blog to share ideas, trends and tips for businesses to navigate the turbulent waters of 2020. Drive has also started to utilize audio and video more than ever, as well as maximizing its email newsletter (which you can subscribe to here). 

The pinnacle of this Drive makeover is a new website set to come out this fall along with a whole slew of other higher-production content you’ve never seen before from Drive. (Wait, am I allowed to mention that?) 

This summer I also got to witness first-hand how businesses pivot during a crisis, and how businesses that were able to adapt quickly were impacted less than others. Every company, Drive included, had to pivot somehow this year to adapt to life in a pandemic. 

Drive pivoted in a couple ways. First of all the Drive team had to work from home for a while, as did so many others. During this time they began offering free one-hour consultations for anyone needing help with their business. While I happened to join the team just as they went back into the office full time (with appropriate safety measures), they were still offering free consultations, meeting clients online, and it was obvious that the Drive mindset had shifted to being more community-minded than ever, to be helpful and supportive for any business in our valley. 

I also got to witness how some of Drive’s clients pivoted this year. The most notable of these was Cherry Hill Programs. A company that, in a normal year, puts on in-mall Christmas experiences such as pictures with Santa, obviously had to change something this year. 

What they came up with was brilliant. A new product named Create Holiday Magic, a box that came with everything from a letter from Mrs. Claus to cookie recipes to invitations to meet Santa virtually. Cherry Hill was hit hard by the pandemic (a lot of their Easter events had to be canceled), but they were able to adapt quickly and come up with a completely new product suited for the times. Watching this change and witnessing Drive assist Cherry Hill in designing this new product was really cool to see. 

Other clients had to pivot as well. I got an inside look into how schools like North Yarmouth Academy and Evergreen Country Day School had to shift their marketing focus to show a focus on safety and remote learning for the coming school year. And similarly, I witnessed Cannon and Telluride planning for how to manage guests this coming winter. 

Not only did Drive and its clients have to shift the way they operated, the pandemic, combined with recent social justice issues, forced companies to change the way they thought too, and this made things even more interesting. The focus on advertising was less about the product and more about goodwill and thoughtfulness.

While I learned a lot about writing this summer, advanced my video editing skills, and gained a deeper understanding of marketing strategy and the branding process, I feel that I learned two very valuable lessons that I likely would not have learned during a typical summer. 

My time at Drive showed me the importance of taking care of your brand even when your focus may be on helping others take care of theirs, as well as the importance of adaptability.

For this reason, I feel that being an intern during a global pandemic was actually an extremely fortunate experience. I also learned that having a small team of genuine and passionate individuals can make the tough times a lot easier. 

Drive’s small size allowed me to be a more integral part of the team than I would be at a larger agency. I didn’t spend my summer making copies and going on coffee runs (I did offer, but they wouldn’t let me), but rather creating content that actually got published and working with the team on larger projects such as new marketing strategies and branding initiatives. I also got to play a lot of ping pong. Lots of ping pong. They love ping pong. 

All of this combined to make my internship this summer an invaluable experience, even if it was a little outside-of-the-box. But, hey, that’s Drive for ya.