I have a confession. I believe F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby transcends generations as the most profound novel ever written. And, in visions of a post pandemic life, I can’t help but wonder whether months of lockdown restrictions will give way to a new era of frivolity and decadence.
Will the Roaring Twenties beckon again? Could two ‘20s roar?
Nicholas Christakis, Professor of Sociology and Medicine at Yale, said after an interim period of “coping with the clinical, psychological and economic shock of the virus”, we’ll see an uplift this summer, with a post-pandemic period taking root by 2023. It will, he says, be “a bit of a party.”
Looking ahead, there is plenty of uncertainty over what the future holds (deep down I do hope for champagne fountains and beaded dresses). There are however some interesting behaviours born out of the pandemic that are likely to continue.
Why? Well it takes anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit and an average of 66 days for a new behaviour to become automatic.
Australian borders closed on the 20th March 2020.
Melbourne has spent more than 200 days in lockdown since the pandemic began.
Sydney will spend at least 13 weeks in lockdown.
It is clear we are facing a world with new needs, priorities and new HABITS reflective of this world.
Two interesting trends emerged and evolved with the pandemic.
Welcome to the rise of the do it yourself movement
When people experience a loss of control, they are more likely to buy products that are more functional in nature because these are typically associated with problem solving – these products not only enhance people's sense of control, but they are a means to make sense of the chaos.
That not only explains the empty shelves in the toilet paper aisle, it explains the rise of the do it yourself movement.
And rise it did:
HelloFresh’s global orders and revenues more than doubled in the June 2020 quarter, with revenues rising 123 per cent and orders by 103 per cent year on year.
Arch-rival Marley Spoon, which is listed in Australia, has enjoyed similar growth, with local orders surging by 92 per cent in the June quarter. Marley Spoon is also increasing capacity, leasing a purpose-built 14,200 square metre facility which will triple its Sydney footprint.
Bunnings’ sales rose a staggering 24 per cent to $9.1 billion in the six months ending December 31, while earnings jumped 36 per cent to $1.3 billion.
IKEA's sales in several categories soared as much as 450 per cent during the first phase of the pandemic.
However, under the constant strain of living with uncertainty – question marks over when we might see our family, friends and work colleagues again - a parallel movement has emerged: one driven by ambiguous loss.
Ambiguous loss is a loss that occurs without closure or clear understanding. In the case of COVID, the world, while physically present, does not resemble itself as we knew it. People can’t fully mourn but we know there is a sense of mourning taking place.
With loss comes a desire to become ‘whole’ again. Spending empowers because it provides some element of control in the face of much larger, uncontrollable forces.
In many ways, the antithesis to the earnest DIY movement, this mind set explains why house prices continue to surge and luxury car sales hit record highs. 
"Do it for me" (DIFM)
For Deliveroo, its UK-listed parent revealed that global orders surged by 114 per cent to 71m in the first three months of the year compared with the first quarter of 2020 - LINK
In a similar vein, “Airtasker has accelerated ahead of expectations into lockdowns which is driving a diversity of skills and services offered on the platform.” - LINK Airtasker shares jumped 7 per cent off the back of this, to $1.03 from 0.96¢
So, if we are to believe that effective advertising should reflect human motivations, how do brands navigate these two distinct mind sets – one stemming from a need for control and the other from loss?
The reality is by trying to talk to everyone you connect with no one, and brands who endeavour to appeal to both in the same way will, at best, help grow the category and, at worst, add to the sea of sameness.
Instead, the role of the brand should be to empathise with the audience mind set relative to the category.
It remains to be seen how these two distinct mind sets – one stemming from a need for control and the other from loss - evolve when that happens.
In light of this, it has never been more important for brands to really understand the values and beliefs that sit behind an individual or group’s behaviour.
The best communications strategies will apply that knowledge in actionable ways to the:
Behaviours we seek to create
Ideas we create to nudge behaviour
Channels we choose to execute the idea
Deep human understanding and empathy will be the biggest competitive advantage for marketers in a COVID world. That’s our green light.
Gatsby believed in the green light, "the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And then one fine morning—So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
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