As Melbourne plunges into another lock down, it is clear the world is a different place. With new opportunities marked by lasting shifts, both attitudinal and behavioural.
What you need to know:
Foxtel has released their Great Australian Lifestyle | 2021 The New Normal Research
The research found COVID amplified key lifestyle trends identified in early 2020. These four trends have become ubiquitous:
‘Home love’ - One in two Australians say they are spending more time at home than ever before
‘Cocooned’ not ‘caged’ - One in four say they are more emotionally connected to their home than ever before
Collective ‘shoes to sofa’ moment – our homes are no longer simply the ultimate nest; “my home is my office, my café and my getaway.” We are bringing our experience from outside the home in.
A long-term love affair - six in ten Australians updated their home in the past 12 months. Nine in ten intend to maintain or increase spend on their home in the next 12 months.
The research suggests shifts in consumer priorities focusing on things closer to home:
Australians are still spending – they are just redistributing this spend with an increased focus on in-home experiences and consumption (+29% home category YOY expenditure growth)
The property market continues to grow, albeit decentralised (growth in regional areas is outpacing capital cities for the first time in 15 years)
There has been an increased focus on self (One in four has slowed down the pace of their lives significantly; one in three has focused on their mental health and wellbeing in the past 12 months)
One thing to know about me is that I have an unhealthy obsession about understanding why consumers behave the way they do – which I am hoping is slightly less weird when you consider I am a strategist.
It is also the reason that for me these research results are not surprising.
Crisis changes consumer mind-sets.
Which (in good news) psychologically explains the sudden need to stock up on toilet paper.
During such times, consumers experience a loss of control and are more likely to buy products that are more functional in nature – such as toilet paper – because these are typically associated with problem-solving, which enhances people's sense of control.
It also explains a heightened focus on the home – an area where consumers can refocus attention with control and accountability.
And, while this is not the first time we have faced a crisis, what is unique about the COVID crisis is that we have never faced something so consistently invasive (certainly in our living memories), which means behaviour change is inevitable.
With this come new opportunities. What is exciting as a marketer is the very real opportunity for brands to evolve to reflect the changing consumer dynamic.
Events like COVID, and indeed the GFC or SARS that came before, are moments of truth for brands (and as we as marketers) – of their purpose, values, commitments but equally their agility, creativity and spirit.
As the research identified, Australians are still spending – they are just diversifying that spending. And, if we are to believe that advertising itself is a distorted mirror that reflects cultural values, the question becomes: how are brands responding to a change in consumer priorities?
It is clear brands that evolve at the speed of change today will be the ones that continue to win tomorrow.
Personally, though, it has also been a time to reflect on what’s important and, as Melbourne enters yet another lock down, I (perhaps controversially) find myself far more optimistic than ever.
COVID changed my worldview, for the better.
If you could indulge me for just a moment…
I moved to Melbourne from Sydney 10 years ago. Leaving before dawn and getting home in the dark meant I never truly knew anyone beyond the fence next-door.
It was the kind gesture of a coffee delivery by a neighbour we’d met only in passing when my family were isolating (a story for another day) that sums up the extraordinary sense of community that was fostered. Turns out, there are seven children under two, two children under 10, a pharmacist, a newly engaged couple, a widow from Perth and an elderly English couple who downsized and miss their garden, in my street.
Then there is the concept of time. When your house is literally “my office, my café and my escape” the markers that single the changing of priority just disappear. I’ve had to create new routines for myself and for my family.
And, of course, the unique experience of understanding the impact of the seasons. How the sun sets lower and night falls quicker as the temperatures drop. How the trees at the back of the house have slowly turned from lush green to amber as I’ve watched the leaves fall.
It wasn’t until I witnessed the unique experience of watching in minute detail the passage of the time, appreciate the beauty in a routine, and finally got to know my neighbours that I can say COVID changed my world for the better. And I hope this focus on the small things is here to stay.