The 1993 existential comedy has become a metaphor for this moment. I watched the movie again the other day and realised how dark it actually is before it moves to a happy ending. What struck me was how it suggests that the true source of Phil’s agonies isn’t repetition alone but rather that he endures the endless days not knowing how, or when the repetition will end. Uncertainty that then fuels anxiety are just a couple of the emotions he experiences as he wrestles to grasp his new reality, forcing him to deal with the short-term impact but also beginning to think about his future.
Similarly to Phil, many consumers are currently somewhere between confusion and resignation, knowing that their lives have changed forever and that this pandemic will colour their actions both during and afterwards, from retail fashion to concerns about their finances – everything will take on a new meaning. Covid-19 won’t necessarily invent new behaviours being formed out of thin air but could accelerate a number of pre-existing trends from the fringes to become the new norm. As their fear for the future grows, they will look to businesses and brand propositions to make them feel secure as they take a more meaningful perspective on what they consume while they self-isolate under the light of unrelenting digital acceleration. There are 5 broad human implications to expect from how people behave and each of these have deep experience implications.
The Erosion of Confidence
This makes trust far more important than ever before. It will necessitate a ‘multiplier’ action that rebuilds trust quickly and credibly to be effective. A brand’s focus needs to be on building confidence through every touchpoint – optimism that is justified will sell well and may just change the nature of what your consumers regard as premium products and services.
Cocooning at Home
Self-Isolation has brought with it radical change to our daily behaviours as consumers around the world have limited contact with each other which in turn has created opportunities for brands to accelerate the digitisation of products and services. Lockdown has introduced new habits and many of these patterns will endure with meaningfulness and comfort which carry a price premium.
Virtual comes into its own
The most controversial of the 5 implications by far with two camps emerging – on the one team of respected marketeers, the view that once this is all over, things will pretty much go back to normal as they were before – on the other, a hard-line view of ‘Anything that can be done virtually will be from now on’. One thing is true, for many businesses, the ability to go virtual and remote has been a lifeline during this period with some adapting better than others. Brands that win will be those that test and explore all the creative possibilities, in some cases opening up new strands of income through product or service augmentation that could persist in the long term.
All Businesses are in the Health Business
Health and well being will dominate now and in the future like never before with opportunities for all to plug into. Almost every experience, product and service will be reassessed by people according to the extent to which it either enhances or diminishes their health. This mental process may be overt or subconscious, but it will apply to everything. This will create opportunities for companies to move into spaces adjacent to their core business to deliver/be part of this ecosystem. Starbuck’s cups in-store being printed with positive messages like ‘Hang in there’ to inspire resilience is a small example of how a brand is showing up in times of crisis.
Authority but not as we know it
We all watch/read the news and have seen some spectacular successes and failures by governments across the world in their efforts or lack thereof to contain Covid-19. If governments get their handling of the crisis broadly right, expect top-down control to be back in fashion; if not, the reverse – geography dependant. Either way, this will have major implications for businesses – accelerating the trend towards corporate purpose made visible through experiences and standing out for something bigger than their core output. The challenge for many is to become experts in detecting human signals, learning from their customers so they can pivot to meet them. All audiences and the wonderful behavioural complexity they bring at an individual, family and social group level are all sources of creative innovation adept at hacking new ways to live. People are responding to this crisis by innovating for themselves. Watch that innovation closely and use it as a source of creativity to innovate.