THAT UNFAMILIAR SMELL IS CHANGE

Blog posted on May 5, 2020 Marketing

As my family attended our second funeral over Zoom, I couldn’t help but think how strange it was. At a time we want to be present to comfort and care, we’re taking distance in our stride; as if this is how we have always consoled others – virtually. People have adapted incredibly quickly to life under lockdown, migrating to video meetings, scheduled wee breaks and kids interrupting a presentation with “Dad, I need to poo!”

It got me thinking about what else is changing about our behaviour; as humans, as consumers and what needs to change as brands and marketers. The global pandemic has altered life substantially; life after lockdown will certainly be too.

HUMANS NEED HUMAN INTERACTION

Social distancing (terrible branding) makes the heart grow fonder… or something like that. 

Separation has drawn us closer. It has allowed us to reflect on and revisit simpler inclinations. Since the ‘60s, we have been swept along as tech conveniently shortened distances between people. COVID-19 made me consider if we are actually further apart than ever before.

Our relationship with tech will be impacted; acute awareness of our surroundings and the longing to get out will influence how we use our devices and when.

The largest shift will be in family interaction; a long term adjustment towards a family-centred outlook, influencing attitudes and priorities. Prioritising shared experiences. Less time with our phones. During lockdown, my family has spent quality time sharing meals, exercising and playing. As a parent I have relearned patience and rediscovered imagination and remembered multiplication. It will have long term implications, and I believe similar can be said for many others.

MARKETERS, ADAPT OR DIE

With so much attention placed on consumers and their needs over the usual brand proposition, I wonder how they will expect to be treated and spoken to after lockdown. As marketers, how will we engage with our consumers and what types of content will our consumers WANT to engage with?

Humanity’s deceleration has caused changes; animals visit city streets, air is cleaner and noise levels have dropped. I mean the earth has literally stopped shaking (true story). The advertising industry is on shaky ground, facing its own set of changes, side-stepping through a series of challenges to brand relevance and share of voice. The entire world is talking about one topic. It’s no surprise that a few weeks into lockdown, I was quickly fatigued by social media feeds saying the same thing (The Same But Different). I doubt I am alone.

People appreciate authenticity. I suspect marketing-by-doing will become even more important. There are wonderful examples of businesses adapting their operation to help fight COVID. Consumer equity is going to reflect their actions. Guess what will happen to the brands whose care is revealed to be no more than skin deep?

Consumers are making changes quickly; brands must match their pace. Even if (big if, huge) life goes back to normal, consumers will move on, along with their attention. Screen time importance will increase as we continue doing things digitally we previously did analogue. But prioritisation given to non-screen time will rise substantially. Brands must look at how they are relevant to consumers’ lives and adapt accordingly rather than merely make products that superficially change behaviour. The pandemic didn’t create this scenario, but it will certainly exacerbate it. The Netflix and Amazon Primes of this world cannot sit back complacently; the couch potatoes of COVID-19 will leave them behind as they slip on their new running shoes, all thanks to the brands that have now got them moving at home.

If ever there was a need for marketers and brands to wear hearts on sleeves, show vulnerabilities and be real – it’s now. Or risk fading into irrelevance.

COVID is disastrous – I liken it to the beachball of death, spinning on my screen at the expense of my unsaved work. 

 We cannot go back, no matter how much we may yearn to. A reset is inevitable, and I believe we can make version two better – it has to be.