The COVID-19 pandemic has, so far, consisted of four clear stages. We’ve moved from preparation, to confinement, to restricted recovery – and are now on the cusp of the fourth stage: the new normal. Each phase has seen people feeling and reacting in a different way, but predicting how we, as a society, will approach the ‘new normal’ is even more difficult when it feels impossible to consider what the world will look like next week, let alone next year.
The pandemic has a way of drowning out foresight. Yet behavioural science, history and context from the crisis so far can help hypothesise which trends we will see as we emerge from COVID-19. In two short blogs we explore ten themes in total, split into consumer lifestyle trends (and how they will affect brands and their communications) and business trends (and how communications can bolster them).
(1) Straight to the maker
In hero-ing the local, could global retailers become extinct?
Lockdown generated an overwhelming affection for our immediate surroundings. Pair this with a likely reluctance to use public transport, and we have a movement centered around loving the local hero, for example your local pub-turned-deli. We predict consumers will continue to go direct to the maker and favour smaller brands, to ensure their money is going to the right place. Therefore, multinational corporations will need community connection and more emotive, resonant campaigns fuelled by brand purpose to survive.
(2) Not WFH: WFA (Working from Anywhere)
Whether it’s from their bedroom, the bus or Bali – employees will expect, and demand, flexibility.
Twitter has already announced that its employees can work from home ‘forever’. Organisations will face pressure to embrace home working, and experiment with different ways of working as we emerge from the crisis. But this will no longer be about just working from home – it will be about working from everywhere and anywhere. Barbados anyone?
Companies that empower employees to work from their preferred location will be more agile, save money and attract the best talent. At the same time, in-person connections will be more appreciated than ever – meaning the office will become a destination. To keep morale up, leaders need to keep culture front of mind, using effective employee engagement tools and comms to keep connections going.
(3) The big smoke(s)
A new fear of density could see cities – long the epicentres of culture and business – become deserted.
Now that so many of us have created new routines working remotely, we may start to see an exodus from the world’s cities to more rural environments. However, it is possible that the opposite will happen. The crisis provides a window for cities to reset and re-energise, giving urban planners and entrepreneurs the chance to build back better. Certain aspects of cities will certainly be reshaped to match new trends and a desire for safer surroundings. Brands need to take this into consideration: how will in-person activations be received? What forums do they operate in that might alter in the ‘new’ city? Is there anything they can do to contribute to rebuilding cities better?
(4) Mental health mission
If mind doesn’t matter to you, you won’t matter to your employees.
The pandemic is leaving in its wake increased domestic violence and abuse and exacerbated mental health concerns. Mental health will be a top priority for many countries around the globe. It’s a time for brands to help consumers feel in control of their health – be that mental, physical or both. Brands that collaborate on programmes that provide tools, guidance or materials on this global mental health mission will win employee and consumer love.
(5) Ethics over aesthetics
Having a product that is just pretty is no longer enough.
The post-aspirational mind-set of consumers is set to continue, prioritising sustainability, social issues and purposeful brands. People are putting ethics above aesthetics, and will make purchase choices based on this approach. Brands need to be more human than ever in their tone of voice, using personal check-ins instead of one-size-fits-all comms templates. This is a major opportunity for brands to emotionally connect with the aim to inform and inspire.
Are any of these trends affecting you and your industry? If so, let’s continue the discussion. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.