In this guest post, 72andSunny Sydney Head of Strategy Ross Berthinussen shares his thoughts on what the next normal might bring, when we come out the other side of Covid-19…
“Yes, the storm will pass, humankind will survive… but we will inhabit a different world” – Yuval Noah Harari, Historian.
It’s hard to predict what life will look like post lock down and, ultimately post COVID-19, but we have to if we’re to be ready.
Looking at how our behaviours and attitudes have shifted in the last month provides some directional data. These are our thoughts on how we will wake up culturally. Things are moving fast so some may be right, some will likely be wrong. In the spirit of openness and stimulating debate, and as we all learn, we thought we’d share.
Without downplaying the tragedy, we believe there’s cause for optimism.
Post lock down release
As lock down measures are lifted there will be moments of huge cultural release. People will flock to the parks, public spaces, cafes and restaurants, cinemas, malls. Everyday occurrences, once taken for granted, will take enormous significance.
There will be a race for brands to steal market share and to enhance important emotional milestones, like reunions with family or your first drink or meal out with friends.
Tempered Optimism A softening of measures will brighten the cultural mood, especially as things like sporting events start up again. But until there’s a vaccine, anxiety and uncertainty will remain. And the economy will dampen our spirits. Recovery will take years not months. Learnings from past recessions are helpful.
Consumers will cut back on discretionary spending, apart from small distractions and pleasures. Categories like home improvement will thrive as people choose to improve vs move. The brands who invest, and play the long game, will come out stronger.
Me to We
We will have a deeper appreciation of friends and family, and a renewed sense of community. We will have a newfound respect and appreciation for essential workers. Perhaps we will see a shift to a more socialist world. With more investment in public services and greater traction for ideas like a Universal Basic Income. In this world, themes like Connection and Belonging will be solid ground for brands, over areas like Status. Companies will be more mindful of how they contribute to communities and consumers more demanding of action.
COVID-19 is and will drive digital transformation faster than any CTO or CMO. As many areas of our lives shift online, these new behaviours will become ingrained.
Video-calling and live-streaming, working from home, working out from home. An upside of the crisis is how we reclaimed the internet as a community tool. A downside may be that a newfound wariness of social contact could have us question not, why do this online, but why do this in IRL?
As the world gears back up again we will approach it with a new sense of pace. We will have a renewed appreciation of nature and the outdoors. We will continue to spend more time cooking. Perhaps the lockdown book reading resurgence will continue. Consumption will be more considered, as we re-evaluate what we need along with what we can now afford. Even more we will prioritise experiences over ownership.
Trust in Experts
Experts will have a new standing in shaping opinion. We will be more demanding of our political leaders and likely see a rise in technocratic governments around the world. We will be more wary of fake news. We will have more faith in science and medicine. As a result we will take more urgent action on climate change. We will be more demanding of the expertise and credibility of brands.
The Gap Widens
One of the tragedies of the virus is how it deepens the consequences of inequality. Studies from the American Sociological Association find that those in lower economic strata are likelier to catch the disease and die from it. And, they are more likely to suffer loss of income. Also the poorest countries of the world are the least equipped to deal with it and where the greatest tragedy will play out. As brand custodians and business leaders, what could help look like at home or, for international companies, overseas?
Nationalism and Xenophobia
Xenophobic sentiment will be stoked by populist politicians and incubated by the economic environment. The closing of borders and the shift to local supply chain and industry, exacerbating the issue. Brands and marketing will need to take an active stance in championing a more inclusive world. A good example of this is 3M’s battle this week with President Trump around their supply of respirators to non US countries.
The rise of Big Government
Lastly, big government is needed to fight the pandemic. But how will it shrink afterwards? Governments will have taken more of an active role and control in our day to day lives to manage the spread of the virus. What kind of measures, from tracking to surveillance, will be in place by the time this lifts? And how many of these measures will become the new normal?
Lockdown is a global moment for individuals, leaders, companies and nations to pause and reflect. Our hope is that some of the more optimistic predictions above will be an example of positive cultural and societal pivots. The only thing that can be certain is that the world is going to be very different. It’s down to all of us to use this time wisely and be ready for it.