In 1909, E.M Forster released a short story called The Machine Stops. In it, humanity resides locked away underground with each and every whim catered for: people communicate via screens, food is delivered at the tap of a button and people are aghast at the thought of physical social interaction. The story occurs when the machine that provides all of this suddenly stops, and humanity is forced once again to return to their old normal.

It is a pessimistic tale, and although ultimately it is a critique of becoming too reliant on technology, Forster’s short story serves as a good jumping-off point for pondering what comes next after Covid.

For once the dust has settled, will consumers bounce back with a lust for what was or will they hold on tight to their newfound lockdown behaviours? Will brands shy away from engaging with these old friends, or will they be dancing in the street alongside them? Will the next decade be one of decadence or decay? Boom or bust? The roaring or boring twenties?

If the last decade of austerity was anything to go by, it could well be the latter. Some reports have put the cost of lockdown at some £2.4 billion a day, which means that, per month, it has cost the UK roughly £72 billion to lockdown. To put that in perspective, after nine years of austerity in 2019, the government clawed back £30 billion in cuts to services.

The effect of this will be, to say the least, negative. As we saw with austerity, many consumers ended up with much less money in their pockets — use of food banks almost doubled between 2013 and 2017, and overall, austerity leads to a lower demand all around.

Viewed in this light, the prognosis is that we are entering a dismal decade. Even if you disagree, the fact that recruitment company Indeed held its first Super Bowl spot this year doesn’t instil the most confidence.

The question for brands then is how do you safeguard in a period of recession? How do you ensure that, in face of diminishing demand, it is your brand that will be most attractive to consumers who by and large will be facing budget restraints and a multitude of new pain points? How can you help them?

Or is that really the question? For, as much as there is plenty of doom and gloom to forecast, there is a tendency to often assume the worst. There will be several key differences between the coming recession and those which came before. First and foremost, the British government has repeatedly denied a return to austerity. Secondly, both supply-side and demand-side have been suppressed through legislation, not through financial ruin or war. Indeed — and thirdly — many of the banks are much better prepared to weather the storm than they were in prior to the financial crisis. So mapping past happenings onto the next decade is still haphazard at best.

Even after 2008, brands that had continued to invest in advertising during the crisis were found to have recovered nine times faster following it, according to Kantar’s BrandZ database. Instead of ‘going dark’, which Kantar has found to have a dire impact on sales and saliency, it seems that brands should instead be looking at the brighter side of life following the pandemic.

Fortunately for some, they are already there. For although the coronavirus pandemic has been a calamitous event, for many it has been something of a revelation, with some brands coalescing around their purpose, reinvigorating themselves, and rediscovering why it was they started in the first place.

It will be an exciting time as consumers return with a vengeance: a renewed appetite and a lust for living life to the fullest. This confluence of brands and consumers once again coming together will be an opportunity for success, and the brands who have galvanised themselves during the pandemic and added more significance to their relationship with their consumers will be the ones to watch.

It is these brands, the ones who responded to the virus with a firebrand sense of responsibility, who will continue to navigate the years ahead on a positive note. Those who do will be met with a populace ready and waiting, and although in many ways it will be a consumer class transformed, brands that understand the rejoicing mood post-Covid will be the ones that resonate most.

As the old saying goes, if a lion could talk we still would be unable to understand it. But over the next decade, if brands decide to roar alongside them, they might just have a chance.