Research consultancy Faster Horses partnered with 16 other research agencies around the globe to analyse reaction to COVID-19 and the way forward for brands, globally. Managing Director Veronica Mayne reports.
In an initiative spearheaded by Beyond Research in Italy, 17 countries and the world’s best qualitative minds came together to analyse the human reaction to the pandemic, and to build practical advice for brands in the future.
As well as Beyond Research and Faster Horses, the report also includes contributions from: Why5, Arab Emirates; Gaston De Lazzari, Argentina; Why5, Belgium; Silvia Aquino, Brazil; Tapestry Works, China; Callua Marketing, France; Angelika Haas, Germany; Vox Populi, India; Mariya Bokarnikova, Russia; Why5, Saudi Arabia; Tapestry Works, Singapore; Big Band, Spain; Tapestry Works, Thailand; Greenlight International, UK; and Silvia Fassi Inc., USA.
Why was the report created?
The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented event for our modern world, which has created a new kind of fear amongst people. Worries about health, the economy and the future and the obligation to remain at home and/or avoid physical contact mean existing daily norms relating to time, space and personal identity have been upended all around the world. And there’s no going back: a ‘new normal’ is shaping up in front of us.
That’s why, now more than ever, brands must be ready to face the situation.
Consumers choose Fight or Flight
Consumers seek to manage this new-found fear in different ways through either acknowledging or denying, fighting or fleeing from it. These all lead to the emergence of several new consumer archetypes with a corresponding role for brands to meet their needs.
The Innocent Victim (Flight – negative)
Innocent Victims feel like they have no control over the situation. They tend to feel lonely and to be overwhelmed by worry. A brand aligning with this space can be a Caregiver, providing these people with comfort and protection, encouraging them to get through and placing a view of normality in place at the end of what is perceived to be a dark tunnel. Caregiver brands act top-down to consumers.
The Jester (Flight – positive)
Jesters try to make light of the situation, using comedy as a refuge. As they feel nothing can be done about it, we may as well find the funny side of it and keep alive the sense that we are all in this together. Jesters like brands that can be an Entertainer: brands that make people laugh, and also look on the lighter side of life. Especially at a later stage of the epidemic’s evolution, they provide relief from the seriousness of the situation. These brands often leave their customers to act bottom-up, leaving them the centre stage on social media.
The Warrior (Fight – negative)
Warriors need an enemy to cope with the situation. They take a strong side in multiple of the arguments presented around staying at home vs remaining open for business, the balance between health and the economy, around politics and age. There is a sense of exasperation in their narrative and anger either towards authorities or those who disagree with the authorities. A brand aligning with this space needs to act like a Hero, a bottom-up protagonist, helping to manage this frustration and anger, providing simple solutions to the day to day issues experienced and building new symbols of hope.
The Common Man (Fight – positive)
Likely the most common of the archetypes as the pandemic has evolved, the Common Man gets on with things as best as possible. They try to make the most of the simple things in life and use everyday moments to normalize an abnormal situation. The Common Man needs a Facilitator. A peer-to-peer brand, positive in a practical way, helping everyday activities to be done in a new way. A supporter in the recovery of nature and of community feelings. It may embrace a bit of nostalgia for the ‘good old days’ rituals and tradition.
Out of the pandemic’s box, the leap towards the future
But for most brands there is a chance to be a Springboard for the last Archetype, the Creator. Springboard brands help Creators to be resilient and to reinvent themselves in the new normal. These brands create brand new paradigms, and leverage the tension by doing things differently. There are so far few brands that have emerged as Springboards around the world, but there is a huge opportunity for brands to rethink the way they work, the way they employ, the products they deliver and the service they offer.
What key strategic areas should be considered in the New Normal
Our research has identified 7 key insights that all brands – not just Springboards – can consider when thinking about their futures:
1. Health and Safety
Protecting our physical and mental health and wellbeing will become more important in our day to day lives, not only when it comes to the more obvious industries such as pharmaceuticals, but also for travel, food, cosmetics, fitness, textiles, entertainment, conferencing and other sectors.
Consumers will expect increased attention to health awareness, sanitisation protocols at every touchpoint. Virtual, tech caregiving will become increasingly prevalent, offering opportunities for forward thinking brands.
2. Sustainable Conscience
Since the coronavirus lockdown was put in place around the world, there has been a noticeable positive impact on the environment, and Nature has bee allowed to breathe again. Future sustainability will become increasingly important, even for those who have not paid attention to it in the past.
There will also be increased attention paid to the way companies behave, not only towards the world around us, but to their own people. Consumers will demand, watch for and choose companies that engage in ethical practices.
The gap between digital natives and other such as the over 65s has narrowed dramatically. People around the world, irrespective of age and socio economic status have become accustomed to life online.
This presents opportunities for brands wanting to make a switch from face to face interactions to online. New digital experiences can also be introduced to deliver curated experiences and tech empowerment, bringing e-life to the home.
4. Local and Neighbourly
Feelings of uncertainty and being under threat have increased the value placed in brands perceived to be ‘close’ to consumers. This closeness can be derived from being from the same country, region, town or even suburb as consumers. Proximity builds familiarity, comfort and trust. There is an opportunity for brands that are able to leverage their provenance.
This opportunity extends further towards the way that products are made, and use of local ingredients, local supply lines and personalities. Not only does this add to brand equity, but it can also contribute towards improved agility.
5. The Considered Consumer
The reality of the financial impact on consumers is that spending power will shrink, and consumers will be more cautious and considered in their choices.
A simpler, more authentic way of living will evolve and consumers will be looking for clear and concise messaging, new pricing models and a renewed focus on functional benefits that build confidence and surety. Durability, longevity and reliability will become important once more.
6. Community and Solidarity
The virus has reinstated the importance of community all around the world. Consumers will look for brands to help support their sense of community, not only in terms of tools (eg digital interactions) but also as bearers of a new fair, kind, generous and supportive approach to consumers.
Solidarity is expected and the global system will reset around a bigger “we thinking” paradigm. This means that profiteering, not carrying out obligations, reneging on agreements and taking advantage of the vulnerable will not be tolerated.
7. Springing back to Life
Despite the current situation and the fear that has gripped the world, human beings are resilient and when normality returns, they will embrace life with renewed energy and enthusiasm. At this point they will look to brands to raise a smile and a laugh through comforting messages, or even recapturing the ‘good old days’ before COVID-19.
Even the smallest messages or simplest gestures will be appreciated. Brands will need to be positive and upbeat, recognizing the humanity in their customers.
Above all, brands need to redefine their purpose.
Brands will have a key responsibility to clarify their messages, values and stories, to pursue a new level of authenticity, but also own a role in guidance and understanding. The brand role will be to help rebuild a social and cultural narrative.
Access to the Report is free!
The report, with further detail around the archetypes and strategies, as well as insight videos can be found on the Faster Horses website.
For further information, please contact Veronica Mayne – firstname.lastname@example.org