When you’re in survival mode, says Byron John, Managing Director of Vizeum, the basic instinct of human beings is to stay alive, but hope is what brands really should be selling
As a consumer during a pandemic, this is where I’m at…
You can’t navigate through any online platform right now without seeing something about COVID-19 and its impact. Every human being on the planet is aware of this ‘invisible’ enemy and how it has taken over their lives. There is simply no part of our existence that hasn’t been impacted. But how are individuals really coping, and how can we, as marketers, better understand the current consumer psychology?
While I’m not a psychologist, like you, I have first-hand experience of how this pandemic has disrupted my ‘world’, and I am writing from that perspective. These are just my musings on what we’re going through and how, as a consumer, I view the way the world is moving towards the ‘new normal’.
If someone had said to me on 1 January 2020, ‘Hey, guess what? The entire world is going to be held hostage by a new deadly and highly contagious virus, forcing one third of the planet into a global “lockdown”, where everyone will be unable to work, travel or even leave their homes for months…’ I would have replied, ‘I’m sure I’ve seen that movie before.’ Sadly, we’re all now part of the documentary and the credits aren’t even rolling yet. And while there are thousands of articles online telling us what the future looks like, let me give you a current view from my perspective as a father, husband, colleague and consumer.
When survival mode kicks in…
My primal instinct to survive has placed my family at the centre of this pandemic, and it has shifted my focus towards doing everything I can to protect them and keep them safe. And while I’m blown away by how resilient, adaptable and optimistic my kids have been, I’ve noticed that this type of disruption has definitely affected their subconscious. My eldest son (9) has had nightmares about COVID-19 chasing him in a car, and my daughter (6) is getting fed up that she can’t play with her school friends. Even my wife is feeling the effects of the extended lockdown – just desperate to see her friends again and share a bottle of wine.
Technology is helping us cope a little better, but it’s not the answer to how my family and I feel about our freedom, comfort, security and connection… the things that make us human. But we are all in ‘survival mode’ and if brands want to make an emotional connection and lasting impact on consumers, they need to understand this fundamental truth. Perhaps a great starting point for brands during a crisis like this is to ask: ‘How can we make our consumers survive a little better today?’
As a consumer, I’ll definitely be more receptive to advertising that’s helping me (and my family) survive better, for example supermarkets dropping the price of essential goods; insurance companies offering a reduced rate until this nightmare ends; automotive brands readjusting their financing model to buy now and pay later, and offering the interest rate at prime minus five; opening up more data bandwidth for consumers at no extra costs; and free delivery for online orders. These are the campaigns that really get to the heart of where I’m at. Help me survive better during this nightmare and I’ll return the favour with the most valuable exchange between brand and consumer: trust.
As a consumer, I don’t have a problem with advertising during this time either. Whether you’re selling luxuries or essentials, brands can make a difference, and some have done so really well. I think it’s the perfect time for brands to be vulnerable, to let consumers see the ‘humanness’ of the people working behind the brands, to be authentic and uplifting, to make me laugh or cry. We know brands need to sell, so why not sell hope? Is there anything more powerful during a time like this?
What the future looks like for me…
As we come to realise that life is forever altered, the world’s reliance on technology continues to ramp up. I’m part of the very small (and privileged) minority that can comfortably work from home, so the hearth of the home has become the internet router and I suspect many future purchases will begin and end in my browser.
Every generation will have a different take on how to cope, what to prioritise and how to survive. Boomers born into post-war optimism might take it all in their stride, while Generation Xers feel torn between caring for their parents and their kids. Millennials and Generation Z, while least at risk of contracting the virus, feel more suffocated by lockdown and isolation, though they are less challenged by the heavy reliance on technology to keep us all connected. And let’s spare a thought for all the babies born into a COVID-19 world – sanitised, isolated and economically deficient.
It won’t be business as usual for my family or yours as we start to emerge from this crisis, and brands and marketers would do well to tap into the psychology of survival, which is always underpinned by hope. We want to survive because we believe in tomorrow – that’s a brand message consumers can trust and believe in. Hope has longevity and potential. I’d say that’s something to look forward to.