Opinion

As we re-emerge from restrictions what are the behaviours that we will embrace again?

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Well meet again

We’ll meet again

Hibernation is a state of minimal activity and metabolic depression and my god, lockdown has certainly made many of us feel like that. But hibernating animals eventually re-emerge and pick up where they left off.

So as we re-emerge from restrictions to our daily lives what are the behaviours we will embrace again with renewed vigour and what might that mean for brands?

It is important to remember that the flu pandemic of 1918 didn’t reduce humanity’s determination to socialise, it increased it. So, with a vaccinated future in sight epidemiologists predict the rest of the 2020's will be akin to the "roaring 20s".

Of course, not everyone will be comfortable socialising in public places straight away, so we need to think about those differences on the road to social recovery, rather than treat it as one size fits all.

So what are the implications for brands amongst this resurgence of socialising?

Brands will need to think about the role they can play in this social comeback. Think about their audience, are they early adopters or more cautious? What are the right moments and contexts to talk to them and where can you add value to those occasions?

The creative industries have been decimated over the past year. More than four million trips to the cinema and theatres have been missed, but people are determined to get back to enjoying entertainment together again.

So what can brands do to save the arts and connect with the Irish public at the same time?

Apart from funding new creative initiatives brands should consider how art and culture or live events might add value to their audiences. Where do you have permission to play? In addition, although ‘real life’ experiences are going to be highly in demand there is still a role for digital immersion, so consider how technology could be used to scale or improve the experience.

Another industry hit hard has been travel and tourism with estimates pointing to an 85% drop in revenue since Covid-19 began and a staggering 160,000 job losses.

People who travel for pleasure will want to get back to doing so, but how they choose to escape is likely to shift a little because vaccination isn’t an immediate cure for travel anxiety.

We’re going to see a resurgence in the road trip. A recent study by the government of Ireland cited an intended decrease in airline travel and a survey by activities booking website Goadvenrture.com found that more than half (54%) of Irish consumers said they plan at least two Irish breaks once Covid-19 lockdown restrictions are lifted this summer. So whilst the desire for a proper holiday will be back, it's more likely to be on home turf.

In addition, in the same way that many people have pent up demand for travel, the reverse can be said of technology use. Post-COVID, we may see more travellers taking holidays off the beaten path. For brands, dialling up destinations that can offer seclusion may be beneficial.

So how should travel and tourism brands act if they are to thrive again?

Brands in this sector will need to examine how safety conscious their audience is, use search trend data to spot new ‘explore and escape’ opportunities, and think about how to create distinctive health and safety communications.

Those brands may also need to rethink ‘travel-support’ products and services e.g car hire and sun tan lotion. How do you profitably communicate those in a context where foreign travel is reduced?

Another impact of lockdown was that it saw us all a bit more comfortable with going, ahem, ‘au naturel’ and generally a bit less groomed. Like the effect of past World Wars and pandemics, we have focussed on quality over quantity, practicality over vanity.

Nearly 40% of Irishmen experimented with facial hair (and why not) and loungewear buying soared with a 5700% increase for the search term ‘track top women’.

So as the crisis abates we will be faced with a dilemma: Will we double-down on casual wear or will we shake off our worries in favour of something dressier? Albeit whilst still masking up.

So how should brands respond to our newly found joy of sartorial self-expression?

Brands need to recognise that not all audiences switched to loungewear or growing a beard, so what did yours do?

They should also look to understand what need states are right for your audience? Is self-expression somewhere where you have permission to play, and if so how can you help facilitate that self-expression.

And also make sure you are monitoring conversational and search trends in order to be as relevant as possible as old needs come to the fore again and new needs surface as lockdown lifts.

Ultimately we will emerge from our hibernation and once more play together, entertain ourselves en masse, travel and explore, and make some dodgy sartorial choices. Just like the old days.

We will meet again, I think I know where, it's just up to the government now to tell us when.


Eoin Corrigan is Head of Strategy at MediaCom Ireland

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