Consumer Thinking Is Changed Forever.

91% of Brits don’t want life to return to ‘normal’ after the Coronavirus pandemic is over.

We’ve all read the word ‘unprecedented’ more times in the last few months of lockdown than the entirety of our lifetimes combined. The scale of change is so great and significant that it confidently warrants that over-usage, to some extent at least. Our perceptions of the world have been rocked and shaken. The pandemic has had an earthquake-like effect on society, to our daily lives and our attitudes.

It has also forced us, in many ways, to see the other side of the coin and, if Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp and Facetime experiences are anything to go by, our attitudes and behaviours are likely to be very different post lockdown. The fear and experience of loss is a powerful driver.

What is absolutely fascinating is how that change is generally greeted warmly, with friends and family equally appreciating many aspects of these enforced changes. Whilst there have been so many frustrating and worrying challenges arising from this situation, there have also been many positives many are seeing as opportunities to find a better way forwards.

In a bit to understand the impact of Coronavirus on food behaviours and attitudes, a recent poll conducted for The Royal Society of Arts and Food Foundation threw up a remarkable statistic: 91% of Brits don’t want life to return to ‘normal’ after the pandemic crisis is over. What is most remarkable is that only 9% of Brits actually want to go back to how things were before!

Being now months into the crisis, we are beginning to see through the fog. For me, it is clear that marketing strategies have very much been divided into the categories: ‘during the crisis’ and ‘after the crisis’. Just as data has been so important in guiding the science and political decision-making, wider, new data can help us build learning as we start to shape our post-Covid response.

Change Brings Opportunities

As in all change, the terrible impact of the Covid-19 pandemic will create opportunities that marketers can grasp and service. Helpfully, there is a swathe of trustworthy insights emerging that marketers can learn from and use to help us rethink strategies.

We’ve spent time working with fast-moving clients looking to adapt their working models, marketing strategies and customer approach. We feel like we’ve learned a lot, and anyone who says they’re a Covid-19 expert in this field is lying. We’re still all learning on the job together.

Today, we’re at a point where even fast conclusions might still be a stretch, but I believe we can start to make reasoned judgements as we all plan to the new ‘normal’ as we move forwards.

It is common sense to say no empirical evidence is needed to assert that the traditional drivers of value have been shaken. But, looking at emerging data, there are compelling points to consider and bear in mind as you think about, or rethink, your strategies. These hopefully may offer you some high-altitude thinking to help you start the process.

1. Our value in ‘tribes’ will change

The same RSA poll showed how we are seeing social bonds becoming stronger – with 40% feeling a stronger sense of local community and 39% more are in touch with friends and family.

Even the slight early British awkwardness has given rise to a remarkable change across the country, with more acts of communal and individual altruism. Neighbours are meeting for the first time and becoming extended parts of our personal tribes. ‘Community’, arguably lost in my opinion since the financial crisis in 2008, is back.

2. Brand purpose will become a major buying value

I have talked a little about Sports Direct in a couple of articles (Time To Think About Your Brand Purpose and A Sudden Need To think Differently), with the case striking me as a pivotal marketing moment. An interesting follow-up to this, and proof of this change, is to show that during the first week of lockdown, Sports Direct’s UK Index score – a measure of overall brand health that takes the average of Impression, Quality, Value, Satisfaction, Recommendation and Reputation – feel from 1.1 to -18.4. That could equate to millions in lost revenues and impact parent company’s, Frazers Group PLC’s, share price and market value.

Consumers appear to now be looking beyond the label and want to see companies consciously, conscientiously even, giving back to society and the physical environment from where they are taking from.

3. There will be an accelerated move to eco values

Economic analysts have estimated the pandemic may have reduced global emissions by 200 megatonnes of carbon dioxide to date, caused by the reduction of air travel, the closure of factories and a dramatic reduction in car usage from energy demand falls.

In just a short period of time since the pandemic began and we were resigned to our homes, the sky is bluer, the seas are clearer, the coastline is cleaner and the air is healthier.

As cause-and-effect would have it, there is strong evidence to suggest Covid-19 has given us all pause for thought about the environment and how we value it. In fact, 51% say they have noticed cleaner air and 27% more wildlife since the outbreak began.

Believing this effect will be lasting, scientists are predicting a phenomenon of de-growth, with a proposed slowing of growth in sectors that damage the environment.

4. We will value well-being more

Our concern over wellbeing has increased markedly in recent years. According to the ONS, life satisfaction scores have been falling consistently over the last decade. When last surveyed, in Quarter 3 (July to Sept) 2019, they fell again compared with the year before; in this case as concerns about future employment prospects grew.

Of course, recently this belief has disrupted in a new way, with just over half of adults (53.1%) saying Coronavirus is affecting their well-being.

It strikes me that well-being has grown beyond physical and mental health and that the recently shared sense of the fear of loss, of liberty, or even life, is making us all reconsider what’s important.

On a wider scale, as a society and global community, we are asking big questions about the cost of progress without caring for what’s around us. We are factoring in wider issues to how we perceive well-being, such as; the impact of globalisation, democracy, privacy and inequality.

The pandemic crisis could accelerate that change and what we value most surrounding our well-being. If my family is anything to go by, it is health, happiness, safety, family time and social interactions that mean the most.

5. Trust in big data is rising

I think, if we hadn’t grasped this before, we have realised how all important decisions that govern our lives, society and government, revolve around big data. Let’s face it – once considered the ‘big evil’, without it now we would not be able to navigate out of this as every day we are paraded with fresh data sets sowing ‘fact’ and the accepted national narrative.

Against a paused backdrop of growing concerns over civil liberties, privacy, and the globally impacting scandals around personal data misuse (and its political and economic power – think Cambridge Analytica), there is an awakening to the fact that data can be a power for good.

GDPR implications and boundaries notwithstanding, in my professional life I have always upheld that people will give away personal data if the incentive is big enough. Ask yourself: would you complete a 10-minute online survey and pass on your personal data, expecting to start receiving marketing gumpf almost immediately, to be entered into a prize draw for £25? No? Ask yourself would you complete that very same survey instead for the chance to win £2500? Or even just £250?

If you’re still waiting to see how this all pans out, you’re in danger of getting left behind and eroding any market position you’ve gained in the past. It’s still high-stakes right now, but there are people willing to help you Think through the changes you need to make.

I’m always about for a Zoom call if you want to bounce some ideas off me.

Some recommended articles here:

There is a great article by BBC Future I would recommend called: How will coronavirus change the world?

There is also this very sobering, very important article by Andrew Glikson, Earth and paleoclimate scientist at the Australian National University: While we fixate on Coronavirus, Earth is hurtling towards a catastrophe far worse than the dinosaur extinction.

NB: This article was originally written in May 2020, but so much still resonates with the situation we are in today.

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