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I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination. — Jimmy Dean
In these days of pandemic war, isolation and privation of anything that used to give my lifestyle some meaning, I was asked multiple times “What’s next?”. And I began to collect signals through the noise.
I thought of sharing them with you.
Professional goal (as a consumer insights researcher and trendsetter): imagining the new normal after COVID 19. Changes of societal, cultural and economic contexts and what they would ignite in terms of markets, business, and products.
Personal goal: keep me sane. ’Cause there is going to be a future, and as tough as it looks now, it will also bring new needs and rituals, and the creation of the next successful companies and cultural movements.
What comes below is a series of notes, a draft on what we are studying now at Trybes. It will change in time after collecting more data and analysing it, but it’s an open door in our world of research and future mapping.
If you want to talk about any of this, reach out at alessia at trybesagency dot com.
Not looking good.
With stock markets in free fall and many countries in lockdown, the coronavirus outbreak has become for many countries the gravest global crisis since the Second World War.
Billionaire investor Ray Dalio believes that the health, economic, and market impact of the coronavirus will be much greater than most people are now conveying. It’s hard to imagine how fiscal policymakers are going to overcome trillions of dollars of profit losses for businesses and at the same time protect the individuals devastated by the virus (also at enormous cost).
Layoffs are accelerating as COVID 19 disrupts economies all around the world. The global recession may have begun.
What does this all mean in the aftermath of COVID 19 in terms of consumers/consumption?
For a start, the middle class and its spending will shrink dramatically. Think of everything we are used to seeing as normal in our households and lifestyles and try to forget it. Been there before. Simply said, less money for the majority of the population.
Meaning, for a start, there will be pricing wars, and the lower entry price products are going to win this one.
Also, less will to spend the money left. In times like these, people save more and think carefully about what they buy and why.
Convenience and meaning are key.
As rightfully called by Creative Growth & Innovation Agency MODU, the post-COVID 19 type of consumer is a sort of Considered one.
They’ll be asking a series of questions like: is this product sustainable? Is it durable? Is it worth my money? Do I really need another one of these?
As a result, the first question we should be asking ourselves is then: what should my product mean to this type of new consumer?
I say: fewer products, better products.
Additionally, there will be entire industries deeply affected. As I recall after GFC for fashion or 9/11 for travel, it will take a while — and some disruptive ideas — to create growth again (see: Zara in fashion and Airbnb in travel), while the established businesses could collapse under the weight of a sudden global crisis.
At the moment, it’s fairly easy to see how among the most hit sectors there are travel and tourism (especially airline in the short term and cruise in medium/long term), retail, luxury goods, events and entertainment, energy, finance.
But, who are going to be the winners? Which industries will actually benefit and thrive after the COVID 19? Yes, pharma, you guess. With medical equipment and biotech, of course.
But also anything that has to do with working remotely and being trained and entertained indoor: Educational Tech, eLearning, Workforce Management Tools, Online Productivity, Online Communication Tools, VOD and Streaming Services, Gaming, Home Fitness, Online Delivery.
It’s going to be interesting times in terms of consumers and consumption, and we’ll go more into details of new products and large scale assumption/implementation of existent products below.
But the hot question is, and will be: what will people need and consume the most after COVID 19?
#NewMR founder Ray Poynter pioneered online festivals in market research way before the quarantine time, giving to professionals the chance to access great content and speakers regardless of where they are and what they do.
During the last edition, he put together a panel of experts to answer questions on research and consumer insights related to these times of crisis and disruption:
People are asking us, what should we be doing, what should we stop & how can we best help our customers and the wider community?
He suggested focusing your research and marketing efforts in terms of uncertainty: You absolutely need to be finding out what do people need, what do people think you’re doing right, what do people think you’re doing wrong, how could you do it better and when does it change because we don’t know how long this is going to take. It could be a couple of months — Spanish Flu lasted three winters, two years — so you have to plan for a short, a medium and a long term version of what we’re going through.
Another crucial aspect we’re looking into when trying to understand consumers after the COVID 2019, is fear. The biggest, most shared feeling across countries, cultures and behaviours right now.
How does fear affect consumers and their shopping behaviour? Growth strategist and advisor Kristin Luck mentioned this webinar hosted by Women In Research (WIRe) and run by Rebecca Brooks: Alter Agents — Facing Fear: Understanding Anxious Consumers.
One insight on fear and consumer behaviour is the instant coming out of the Preppers tribe: people that like to stock up, prepare for the worse and learn all kinds of DIY hacks — ready for the war, the storm or another quarantine. Yes, believe it or not, these people will keep their munitions and attitude afterwards, and right now they are living their moment of popularity among us all.
Finally, a big semantic area spreading across events, entertainment and content is digital. We are finally facing that proper digital transformation that has been announced for — at least — ten years. There are countless examples of digital behaviours that we are adopting because we are forced by Coronavirus circumstances, and some of them might stick afterwards. We’ll go through each of them in the chapters below.
We live in a hyperconnected, deeply intertwined world, and now pretty much everybody gets it.
Bad taste jokes aside, it’s true that right now the cultural shift we have to experience is understanding how everything depends on everything else.
Co-founder of data and art project HER Salvatore Iaconesi has a strategy for the COVID 19 aftermath.
It requires an enormous transformation: to our values, to our sense of solidarity, to how we perceive the ecosystem we live in. In one world: to our culture.
Without an Ecosystemic Culture, we will not make it: now it’s cov19, then there will be others, and things will be the same or worse. We need to start designing and building it together, now.
By Ecosystemic Culture, Salvatore means adopting two points of view at the same time:
Only by changing our culture and rituals in an ecosystemic manner, we can properly live our times — thinks Salvatore. It’s an opportunity, in his opinion.
I agree, and I’m willing to explore more of this with my team. If anything, we have such diverse backgrounds and skillsets that we can really think ecosystemically across knowledge silos.
In the same line of thinking, the Post Growth Institute published a simple guide for rebalancing our world in times of crisis, claiming that the coronavirus outbreak made one thing abundantly clear: we’re interconnected and in this together.
The psychological effects of COVID 19 and its impact on the economy will likely be imprinted on the Millennials’ generation, and we are willing to dedicate a specific branch of analysis to that. If any of you reading here is into this topic, please reach out and let’s collaborate.
Culture wise, the change we’re experiencing is, to say the least, unprecedented in terms of:
Yet the most interesting aspect of the COVID 19 for us Netnography researchers is perhaps the social outcome — and its impact on business and behaviours.
As well said by cultural insights experts Space Doctors, we’re all wondering what’s going to be the New Normal, as fundamental ideas like how we greet each other, that we held to be quotidian and even part of our cultural identity, are being rapidly reframed as we are forced to relate to each other, both locally as a community and globally, in new ways.
I 100% agree that what came out as an immediate response to forced isolation, social distancing and WFH is, paradoxically, a stronger connection to others: from Italians organizing flash mobs to sing from their balconies to cloud clubbing events in China, Spanish rooftop communal workouts and people all over the world acting to make networks of all kinds — humans plus tech — in response to the Coronavirus.
And I’m not even mentioning here the dozens of hours I’ve spent on Zoom/Hangout/Skype/WhatsApp with colleagues and friends in the last month, peeking on a massive Grandma online hangout to fill up her (now empty) Sunday lunch: ten families attended, from Tuscany to abroad. 💓
When NYT internet culture reporter Taylor Lorenz asked on Twitter
I was somehow reassured by the beauty and creativity of humankind even during tough times: we are social animals and as such we will always find the most creative solutions to communicate/meet each other. Being that recreating a bar experience on FaceTime, starting a live-streamed book club to help cancelled book launches, hosting Karaoke, Church functions, cows & goats or free Bollywood dance classes.
Honestly, it looks like we’ve never been so “together” across the world, as far as I remember.
So the question is now: what is going to be left afterwards?
A deep wound that could remind people how they came together?
Seeds for a new form of sociality?
Ogilvy CCO Paolo Iabichino explores some of the lessons of Coronavirus time in this interview for Sapiens, and came up with the definition of “reminder wound”.
It’s not all.
Apparently, hate speech went down during Coronavirus time in Italy. Paolo explains this positive phenomenon with the following words:
There is a somewhat intrinsic reason, in the sense that man — by his nature — needs an enemy: the great narratives are played out in the dialectic between the hero and the antihero. And at the moment the dialectic is no longer against the government, against Salvini, against the left, against the right, against migrants: at the moment we are all against Coronavirus.
It is so much bigger than us and so frightening that we are not allowed to take it against each other. Taking it against the Coronavirus is absolutely impossible and therefore we are all cohesive and we have instead shown a great proof of the contrary: we have fielded a great proof of love.
And to the people affirming that ‘everything will go back to hate and indifference once the emergency is over’, Paolo replies:
No, I believe that this thing will remain in the imagination, it will remain just as a memory of the trauma and we will not be able to go back to making our usual life. […]
Look at what’s going on the balconies of our cities: people who did not even say goodbye even living side by side, today smile at each other and sing together.
There will inevitably be a new sociality and I don’t think it’s a matter of proxemics. I don’t think we will all be further away because we will be afraid of the neighbor’s sneezing, I think the opposite.
I think we will be more attentive to others, I think we will question ourselves a little more. Coronavirus should really allow us new dynamics.
Talking about a new form of social life brought by COVID 2019, among the many phenomenons that caught my attention in the last few days, there is the one of Borderless Socialising.
As “being together apart” has never been so easy and so frequent around the world, people point out how they’ve hung out with old friends that they haven’t physically seen in years. Coronavirus taught us an important lesson in terms of taking off physical and formal restrictions.
There are a bunch of products and projects out there dedicated to this very need.
Take QuarantineChat for example. Artists Danielle Baskin and Max Hawkins’ project allow (random) people all over the world to connect, by talking on the phone with someone else stuck at home.
The romanticism of this social experiment struck a chord with me since I’ve spotted it on Matt Muir’s newsletter (thx, Matt!).
So, what do you think? Are we going to carry the Borderless Socialising with us in the aftermath of COVID 19?
I very much hope so! Just as the clear uptick in volunteerism and civic engagement we’re experiencing during this time, narrated by the inspiring minds below.
What are activists and collaboration experts thinking of this period of emergency?
Shareable founder Neal Gorenflo describes well how to deal with social distancing by reframing it into physical distancing with social solidarity.
In the face of fear and great uncertainty, many people are rising to the challenge and safely reaching out to help others. The variety and scale of efforts is impressive. In the process, the call for social distancing is being reframed to physical distancing with social solidarity. And scaremongering turned into caremongering and sharemongering. This is leadership worth emulating. We may be physically apart, but we’re all in this together. It’s time to not only flatten the curve, but humanize it.
Worth looking at some of the case studies where Coronavirus catalyzed a growing wave of grassroots action despite social distancing. Mind that they are a little percentage of hundreds of google docs, resource guides, webinars, slack channels, online meetups, peer-to-peer loan programs, and other forms of mutual aid emerging online and on-the-ground.
Meanwhile, on a different side of the world, Founder of the P2P Foundation Michel Bauwens has been keeping track of collaborative responses in a dedicated Corona Solidarity Initiatives Wiki.
And finally, inspiring activist platform The Alternative UK has recently published Citizens are acting to make networks of all kinds — humans plus tech — in response to the Coronavirus and Localism 2020–2050 (well predicted from Helsinki, 2012). It’s all “Empathetic Communities” + “Local Loops” — after the breakdown.
The Empathetic Communities and Local Loops concepts imagined back in 2012 are incredibly (and creepily tbh) relevant now, and one of the most inspiring sources of future sustainable thinking I’ve come across.
Once they’ve acknowledged the changes in consumption mentioned earlier (and new products coming next!), marketers and brand managers are left to think whether they want to have an impact on the world.
As we said, we must think eco systemically.
Many businesses stepped up at a time of pandemic crisis, with a range of initiatives that go from supporting their employees or supply chain to pivoting into new (much more needed) products, but will they keep doing this in recession times?
Social responsibility and mutual help are a thing now, but is it going to be a thing of the future?
One thing is for sure: we don’t care about your Corona Marketing emails now, and so we won’t care in the future (in case you’re planning to do this with recession or other tragic topics). A pandemic is not an excuse to keep in touch with your consumers. Please, stop talking and start doing: really think carefully and thoughtfully of what people need, and give it to them.
And stop the Corona Marketing emails now, FFS.
The first data to come out is on China, of course, as the country experienced all of this first. There’s an interesting thread by VC and investor Nicole Quinn and a Kantar’s consumer survey on the Chinese behavioural change during the outbreak.
But make no mistake: all that doesn’t necessarily mean consumer trends AFTER Coronavirus, nor guarantees to apply in other markets.
Meanwhile, as I’ve been trend hunting in the last two weeks to prepare for the second and third quarter and answer panicking clients, I’m happy to share my notes so far.
As a start, speaking of consumer insights and consumer trends, I wondered and asked my colleagues how Maslow’s hierarchy of needs could change after the pandemic and quarantine we’re experiencing.
Adobe CPO Scott Belsky came up with the best answer so far.
(actually, more like a question, as many of the ideas you are finding here — I don’t see the point in faking certainty right now, tbh).
Next to Scott’s provocation, here are a few crowdsourced ideas on products/services, consumer insights and consumer trends after Coronavirus.
We’ll be looking into them, measuring data on consumers’ perception and market context.
For now, just as an inspiration for future opportunities, have a look at my notes. What might work really well in the COVID 19 aftermath are:
In all this, the real, overall winner is Amazon, that managed to grow dramatically, scooping up entire markets which just weeks ago would have gone to brick and mortar stores, and yet repositioned itself as a public good, in what’s been defined as a mind-boggling image makeover.
Amazon won the Corona-war and it’s here to stay.
One of the benefits of this pandemic is that people finally stop talking about voice disruption and other tech fads.:D
Jokes aside, as we all find ourselves to “pivot our own business model” (not just entrepreneurs but also consultants, agency people, thinkers etc), one byproduct of the massive shutdown plus uncertain future is that we’ll be focusing on what’s really worth.
In terms of tech, coming ahead you can find a sort of subgroup of new products or growth of existent ones that might be triggered by Coronavirus and stick with us afterwards.
First, let’s think again of consumers and their demand.
Everyone will want supply chain transparency from now on. Blockchain people, it’s your moment!
Next, we’ll need all the tech products related to the aforementioned remote day-care and remote assistance. I’m thinking, to start with, of platforms and apps for elderly physical and mental health/social support. It goes without saying: the effort will be in UX.
Furthermore, much needed will be the tech products that can support the mass market online fruition of health and education (as previously mentioned E-mental health apps and mindfulness digital help, TeleHealth, E-learning and Self-education).
In this area, something I can see coming is user-friendly apps for vulnerable and older people to embed video in their daily lives. Not just video calling family but also taking part in remote community yoga classes or a tea and biscuits hour.. (source).
Changing topic, remote work will need, among many tools:
and will trigger a Multifunctional Home Phenomenon, that will need its own tech to be created and implemented. For example:
On the video products side (coming after, in the entertainment chapter ;), as per suggested by Geoffrey Colon, software like OBS Studio, Switcher, Lightstream, Wirecast, Streamyard can make any event into a video experience. The tech is already here, but in order to facilitate the culture of the streaming experience, we need to work on how to make the stream more interactive. Have someone to answer questions in real-time and remember, people watching at home probably are doing other things, so throw in unexpected surprises that make them perk up and listen.
Meanwhile, exiting a global pandemic situation might make companies and organizations request/build specific tech such as:
So watch out for facial recognition companies that are pitching the technology as a sanitary alternative to fingerprint scanners.
Finally, a quick thought on the intersection between tech and culture/society: I wish it didn’t take the world to go through this, really. But, it is what it is, and good news is that digital transformation has achieved more in 10 days than what we achieved in 10 years in some countries (such as Italy).
Necessity is the mother of invention, innit.
So, now that digital IS ubiquitous and it’s not a problem of tech nor culture or society, let’s all stop the digital myth narrative.
Beyond digital, there is the old good (and bad!) humankind and humanity. We need things, we make things, we destroy things, we power things, as we need it.
There is no boundary between what’s online and what’s offline: Gen Z always got it, now everybody gets it (even my grandma). It’s like electricity, really. Do you wonder or hesitate before you switch on the light? :)
Big deal here as every event has been cancelled, people cannot experience anything IRL and the majority of events producers/planners and “experience professionals” I know are left with no work for several months to come. 💔
While the world is streaming and experiencing online (see society/culture chapter above), at Trybes we’re wondering what we can make out of all this once the shutdown is finally over.
As many of you probably know, we worked on festivals and transformative experiences (Burning Man, anybody?). In that field, I suspect the first festivals to be on after the quarantine are going to be really impactful: people will be craving community, self-expression and music and they will release months of deprivation plus hope and a general sense of “post-war relief”. Very powerful.
The whole events industry should learn from this, and we’ll be working with event organizers and producers to create meaningful and impactful experiences: the post quarantine can be one in a lifetime opportunity for most. Here’s my 20 cents: just leave out formalities and focus on humanity. Enable connections and any form of expression.
Just as digital became more ubiquitous in the last ten days than in the last ten years, I don’t see why we shouldn’t learn the lesson from COVID 19, take the chance now and make every corporate and trade event more experiential and audience-focused.
People will need stronger reasons to invest their shrinking budgets in professional events: make them worth (and answer their human needs: connections and expression). Stop with boring events.
To complete a future vision of events, some industry professionals are anticipating how trade shows and conferences can benefit from tech using the quarantine lesson and maximising remote presence:
My suggestion in this is involving cutting edge agencies, creatives and producers specialised in experiences. To fill the gap between online and offline, between human and tech, you need to make VR or any form of streaming/telepresence psychologically immersive, interactive and experiential.
For that, you need experts of experiences like San Francisco-based event producer Scott Levkoff. Creative Director of Playable Agency, Scott had all his company’s upcoming live events cancelled, and is now co-organizing virtual events including best practices webinars, storytelling game nights, and variety shows aimed at getting performers paid.
I feel two opposite trends coming up: while the festivalization of events will finally shine (bringing business people to truly experience IRL connections and expression at events), some part of virtual events is here to stay, even after the quarantine.
It might be the case, for instance, of tech companies virtual gatherings. In his Stratechery newsletter, analyst Ben Thompson predicted that at least a couple of the big tech companies who are moving their annual spring events online this year — Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft — might never hold them in person again.
Or it might be the lesson taught by F1 to sports events. As sports around the world were disrupted, Formula One drivers competed in the first-ever Virtual Grand Prix in history.
During the quarantine, sports leagues are looking for alternative means of holding competitions and engaging fans, and it’s fair to join the Morning Brew reflection in wondering: would fans go for baseball, basketball, or football pros playing the video game equivalent of their professional sport?
And would they enjoy additional virtual experiences with their favourite sports icons once normality of live events is restored?
It’s obviously a big stretch to talk about substitution virtual-IRL, and definitely not what I’m going for here. But, having analysed the success of E-Sports and streaming live events among Gen Z audiences, I’m tempted to look at the future and consider any kind of combo scenarios.
Meanwhile, in a different field, orgs that work on inspiration and education like TED could keep some of their Coronavirus pilots afterwards, if successful. I’m thinking of TED Connects, for example: hosted by head of TED Chris Anderson and current affairs curator Whitney Pennington Rodgers, TED Connects, Community and Hope is a free, live, daily conversation series featuring experts whose ideas can help us reflect and work through this uncertain time with a sense of responsibility, compassion and wisdom. It sounds like something we might need even in times of recession, doesn’t it.
Lastly, could The Social Distancing Festival be a sort of plan B or augmentation for events? And what can we learn from it?
Probably the most exciting industry right now, so much is happening (and will happen). Partly because part of the content was already online and now just got a bigger, much more engaged, audience.
Partly because we’re learning a few lessons with COVID 19 and its quarantine, in the fastest way possible.
Let’s start with video content. Some movies go straight to online now, officially accelerating a process of “killing the theatrical release” as we know it. After Coronavirus quarantine is over, studios might release directly to VOD for a premium run while still in theatres. Universal is already doing it.
We see a double effect happening in the fast learning process we’re experiencing now:
On this note, a few examples that show this phenomenon:
Conjointly, I want to dedicate a paragraph to one of the most brilliant analyses and ideas on the future of experiences and entertainment — by media mogul Matthew Ball. Can we bring the Disney Theme Parks top-performing media business model to the online, while keeping its original allure of satisfying our timeless desire to be “inside a living story”? I reckon it’d be a great product, and I 100% agree it represents an incredible, long-lasting storytelling lesson.
Well, as it turns out, it’s done already.
Minecraft, Fortnite, Roblox, GTA Online to a lesser extent, and Pokémon Go can be considered “digital park platforms” and teach us a lot in the aftermath of COVID 19.
Think about it, they have a bunch of advantages if compared to the analogue parks:
Numbers don’t lie: each month, each of them delivers 1.2–1.5B hours of playtime across their 75–120MM monthly active users, and perform really well also in terms of retention, taking children to several life stages (tween, teen, young adult, independent adult).
I highly recommend reading the whole essay to understand where this is all going.
Finally, in terms of social media and digital content, we suspect video will continue to grow and it will become more ubiquitous, scaling up not only among professional content producers but also among people as a general way to communicate. One trend we’re seeing is people becoming more accustomed and comfortable with video and talking to cameras, and that will facilitate behavioural change at large, making video apps and platforms like Zoom and FaceTime more of a “hop in option” rather than just a preset formal meeting enabler. Platforms, apps and app features like these will possibly, in time, take the place of texts, calls and voice notes. Meanwhile, vlog-style content will keep growing for entertainment, education and consequently marketing, as it feels more and more a socially accepted/common ritual.
Most of the top apps, in fact, embed some form of videos.
WFH — Working from home, an already growing trend, has seen an unprecedented boost in interest during COVID 19.
As a result, pretty much everybody privileged enough to see their job not cease to exist (yet) is wondering:
Will WFH be the new normal (at least partially, say once a week, for example) or will I forget about all this after the quarantine is over?
There are over 8 billion posts on this topic on Google. I understand it’s not easy to get out some hints avoiding the rabbit hole syndrome.
So, if you only have the time for one piece of content on the topic, I suggest diving into Coronavirus Is a Preview of Our Self-Isolating Future by Will Oremus in OneZero.
I find Will’s analysis one of the most accurate around on the topic: he examines the real benefits of working from home while having an unbiased vision on the bigger picture (including socio-economic context).
I’ll copy below a couple of parts I’ve highlighted to give you an idea, but go read the article, I promise it’s worth it.
‘It’s conceivable that this will be just a blip, and everything will return to normal once the threat has passed. But that seems unlikely. Once employers and employees realize that they can function largely as normal without gathering in an office every day, odds are that both will want to try more of that. […]
Dreary as that might sound, the advantages would be enormous. Think of the effects on commute times, housing prices, gridlock, and greenhouse gas emissions if large swaths of society stopped driving into the office and began working from home. Think of how it would empower people whose disabilities make it hard for them to get around. […]
There are big advantages to workplaces that are at least partly distributed. Working from home becomes easier the more it’s normalized. Managers can hire the best worker regardless of where they live, which opens the door to more diverse teams and could help to revitalize smaller cities in a time of overwhelming economic concentration.
But, as Will reminds us…
The downsides are more nebulous, but nonetheless worth considering.
The majority of Americans today are employed in sectors such as health care, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing that don’t lend themselves to virtualization.
White-collar workers can self-isolate only because it’s someone else’s job to deliver all the things they order on demand. They can Zoom and Slack and stream because someone else mined the precious metals in their laptop and laid the fibre-optic cable to their building.
Tough one. In times of such unpredictability and rapid, deep change, the best we can do is to prepare like we never did before. Leave your control freakiness at home (talking to myself here ;) and be ready for an adventure. Bring with you new tools and develop new skills, starting from the ones indicated below.
We’ll be working on all of this for the next few weeks, please let me know what you make out of it and let’s plot something together!
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Who are we? We’re a bunch of researchers using hybrid intelligence to deeply understand consumers. We help brands and projects to reach their target audiences, by understanding their needs, behavioural traits and intrinsic cultural values.
We’ve analysed millions of data points from cultures, communities, groups, influencers, brands, organisations, events, official and unofficial channels across several industries and we don’t mind sharing some of them with you.
Do you have any questions or problems to solve? Drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org (co-founder at Trybes).