Rethinking Needs Part Two: The mid-to-long-term impact of COVID-19 lockdown

Part one of this series can be found here.

Digital connection

The digital experience as default has been thrust to the forefront of our lives. Work, social and family lives have been held together (with relative success) through digital platforms connecting homes, workplaces and enabling everyday life to continue as seamlessly as possible. Out of necessity, adoption has been accelerated and brands have innovated in order to meet the growing demands and expectations of the consumer.

Habits and techniques used out of necessity in lockdown will likely endure as we emerge as a consumer choice, with many saying that they feel more connected socially and companies advocating remote-working.

With this comes more focus on the connected home as the centre of our lives. Innovation and enrichment of platforms have further raised the expectation of the digital world and access to experience through these channels may become both more expected and desired. The increased importance of digital experience in the purchase journey will create opportunity for brands who get it right.

Implications on communications behaviour

Cut above competitors by building innovation into every touchpoint

With forced consumption and in response to unprecedented innovation from channels, digital adoption and take-up of emerging channels has been accelerated. Brands can take advantage of increased digital literacy and enhance these new digital experiences.

Seek to lead the curve in enriching life via digital channels

Leading the charge in digital experience will allow you to hold more purpose in your customers’ lives through discovery, experience and purchase, circumventing barriers that may have existed in traditional brand interaction.

Map how changing means of communication are influencing decision-making

Decision-making dynamics may change, and brands may look to facilitate this. Has lockdown increased the importance of family preferences and a reliance on collective decision-making via home counsel? Have digital/social lives merged or overtaken traditional word of mouth and online recommendation?

Reconnecting with humanity

Throughout the pandemic, we have seen companies and brands rise to the challenge of supporting society in solidarity with the collective cause. During COVID-19, we’ve seen multiple brands reacting to this trend with conspicuous examples of the positive influences that they have on daily life. With these overt demonstrations of their power, comes a higher expectation of and reliance on brands to provide positive impact. A new societal contract has seemed to emerge, with a focus on empathy and humanity at the heart of it.

We have already seen early reactions to this trend, with companies being held more accountable and judged upon the treatment of their people. When you consider this in context, with a growing number of the population suffering direct financial impact and an increasingly visible wider economic issue, this trend will likely endure, making corporate responsibility (and the communication of it) more required than desired.

Implications on communications behaviour

Find an authentic way for your brand to benefit the wider world

Find a way to impact the world positivity that resonates, has relevance and links to your product, service or brand.

Celebrate the empathetic human voices connected to your brand

Highlight the people behind the product and brand in order to demonstrate empathy and responsibility. Demonstrate your corporate responsibility by focusing on, pleasing and then using your people (consider employees, suppliers and customers) as a powerful and key communications channel.

Actions speak louder than words: do, don’t say

Conspicuous demonstration of purpose has become expected during this crisis and consumers will get better at differentiating between brands who say and brands who do.

Fetishising Freedom

Curbs to freedom have inspired the whole nation to reappraise their lives and potentially appreciate things which were once taken for granted. Even within limitations, we have seen consumers seek to maximise ‘in-home’ experience and entertainment, with a desire to stick to the status quo of keeping busy and avoiding ‘lost-time’ as much as possible.

Making the most of every situation could reinvigorate our lust for life, with consumer surveys noting that people are yearning for a return to normality. This release into freedom and re-opening of opportunities could develop a dramatic reappraisal and capitalisation of life outside of the home.

Just as brands have enriched our lives through lockdown with entertainment, consumers may expect brands to continue fulfilling this role in everyday life. The desire to maximise and increase quality of life outside the home could see consumers leaning naturally towards brands who best facilitate this; either by providing an enhanced experience across touchpoints or minimising time spent on mundane tasks that get in the way.

Implications on communications behaviour

Embed experiences into every brand touchpoint

Experience will be desired by consumers post lockdown and a key technique to be used in order to elevate the perception of value (outside of cost) and differentiate through aligning with consumer sentiment.

Use product and communications to deliver a sense of escapism for consumers

Capitalise and amplify any sense of escapism or freedom that your product/brand can offer and leverage to match a reinvigorated greed for life. Heightened emotion surrounding certain brands/categories may give you permission to play in an arena which was once deemed inappropriate.

Maximise consumers’ free time. For example, by simplifying and automating day-to-day tasks

Consumers will expect mundane tasks to be simplified and frictionless (especially for activities which were less affected in lockdown). Therefore, essential brands will be expected to make experience easier to facilitate the desire to live beyond the everyday.


Shibal Biyong

In both COVID-19 and recessions, direct financial impact or uncertainty naturally provokes a tightening of the purse strings and a cut-back on discretionary spend.

If we look to South Korea, we see a strange phenomenon where a reduction of spending power and disillusionment with the future may offer an opportunity for brands to increase impulse purchasing. Shibal Biyong (literal definition: fuck-it expense) can be likened to the ‘lipstick effect’, where consumers make consciously-irrational luxury purchases as a physiological survival tool to make life just that little bit better.

This phenomenon may provide brands with new opportunities to capitalise on these windows of influence, nudging impulse buying through emotion and reward.

Implications on communications behaviour

Prime your brand to influence impulse decisions

Focus more effort on the priming stage of the pathway to put your brand at the forefront of consumers’ mindsets when they come into market.

Position your brand in moments of desire, impulse and spontaneity

Planning to impact and influence at impulse moments. Use contextual triggers – payday, bad weather, targeting people in a good mood – to remove traditional barriers to purchase.

Make purchase seamless from comms to checkout

Make impulse easier by minimising effort and removing all friction between trigger and purchase.


These trends will have a different significance for individual brands and therefore can be worked through in terms of direct implication in individual workshop sessions with your respective MG OMD client/strategy/planning teams.


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