Over the past 12 months, entire industries have found themselves turned inside out by the pandemic. A proverbial Chinese burn, the pandemic has forced brands to take stock of what they do, how they do it, and even ask why it was they started it all in the first place.
So, at the end of the first month of this second Covid year, we sat down with industry experts and marketing aficionados to deliberate on what lies The Other Side of the pandemic: asking questions to professional, authoritative voices across sectors ranging from health to gaming to finance. Here are five key takeaways.
Covid as an accelerator
As many of us have already noticed, Covid fuelled several consumer and business trends brands were already having to come to terms with before the pandemic. From digitisation to the rise of the flexible workplace, last year forced a rapid change in how brands supply their demand and truly upended any chance of businesses being able to live ex-situ of the online world.
In this sense, the pandemic didn’t bring as many curveballs as expected. Instead, it is the catalysing of new trends rather than the emergence of new ones that is one of the most defining factors of the crisis. It is clear then that the changes which will remain post-pandemic are those which already preceded it. No surprises here, apart from Primark, which still refuses to go online despite a $1.4 billion loss in 2020.
Healthy state of mind
In the middle of a worldwide health crisis, it may seem a little reductive to announce that health is now more important to consumers than ever before. But health is a broad category, and it is not only the notion of health but the overall nature of health in the mind of the consumer that has changed.
For brands then, it is important to understand that the devil is now in the detail for consumers when it comes to health. With superficial, short term solutions superseded by long term solutions to mental and physical wellbeing.
This is largely down to the fact that, due to lockdowns the world over, people are struggling mentally as they are locked away from everyone else. In this sense, expect a rise in brands emphasising the importance of mental health over that of the body, as consumers see their health needs shift in face of lockdown.
Not only have brands discovered new audiences, but existing ones have also changed: lines between generations blurred, and many older consumers have begun sharing behaviours with their younger counterparts.
Who would have thought for example that just a year ago that a grandparent would be using the B2B communication platform Zoom on a regular basis? In this sense, the pandemic has shown what it is that makes us — all of us — tick. In times of crisis, needs become more fundamental, more human. As a result, the pandemic has almost clarified what brands must do for their consumers.
For when globally, cohorts of all shapes and sizes are undergoing the same experiment, what does it matter if your audience is sixty or sixteen? Outgoing or reserved? In short, not much, brands should continue to look to their guiding stars and first principles and work up from there.
In such strange times, brands have had to reflect on what they can and should be offering their customers. Whether it was a beer brand serving up hand wash instead of booze, or a furniture brand returning government loans it turned out it didn’t need, brands have managed to distil their modus operandi and emerge with a sense of clarity in the face of radical disruption. As a result of this, different parts of brands’ stories will now have added significance. The key question now is, how do you carry that renewed sense of purpose forward?
This is by no means a search for a Damascene conversion or the pulling of words out of a hat. Instead, it is about brands evangelising their beliefs even further, and galvanising around what matters most.
At the beginning of the pandemic, a Tesco worker told BBC News that, ‘I never thought I’d be so proud to sell bread and butter’, such a statement would be unthinkable in normal times, the trick now is to create an environment that fosters such purpose outside of adversity rather than in the face of it: turning pride-in-purpose into a brand’s bread and butter.
Consumers will be back
Denied basic wants, consumers will be back with a bang once the pandemic is over, just as the last pandemic of 1919 opened up to a decade of decadence, so too will this one, with brands having to choose the mindset they will navigate it with.
This is because what was clear across the board was a belief that the future will be better. Consumers will not just return to brands, but return with a new lease on life and an appetite for what’s on offer. It will be the brands that show consumers that they are ready to rise to the challenge of this brighter future – not shy away from it – who will be the biggest winners.
Ultimately, it is those brands that can take that renewed sense of purpose and make sure that the next decade is another roaring twenties rather than the boring kind who will see the most success.