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Adapting PR and marketing strategy to suit new consumer expectations during and post Covid-19

EAST VILLAGE

It’s safe to say that, whilst living miles apart, TeamEV is seeing a host of lockdown trends emerging. As well as spending every day speaking on Slack and video calling each other just to say “hi”, we’re all obsessed with house plants, taking Insta-worthy pictures on our daily walks, and planning our next meal. Self-care is on the up and work/life balance seems more realistic than ever. New hobbies are forming with quizzes, jigsaws and, of course, baking becoming part of everyday life.

Of course, not everyone is experiencing lockdown in the same way, but there are some trends already developing and it will be interesting to see which ones we leave behind in lockdown and what becomes part of our “new normal”.

I’ve talked about how this might just be a “reset” for us all; of course, not overlooking the loss and devastation that this virus has, and will continue to, cause but trying to find some hope about what the future might hold. We’ll hopefully see people valuing their communities more, making time for family and friends, an increase in flexible working, and an environmental consciousness worldwide; so where are the opportunities for brands and businesses to tap into this change? I look at five trends that I anticipate will alter the way we communicate post Covid-19.

 Becoming a more digital-first economy

This one goes without saying but lockdown has forced us all to reach for technology to keep in touch with friends, families and colleagues. We may be apart but, in many ways, we are more connected than ever… and I don’t anticipate this changing anytime soon. With this in mind, it’s key that you make your brand easily discoverable online; broaden your social media scope and use it so that people can easily find you. Brands are using this time to really get to know their customers; moving away from simple transactions and creating online communities, and even when the pandemic becomes a distant memory, social media engagement will be about loyalty, not likes and comments.

This rise in digital users will also see direct-to-door and subscription models become more popular. I’m about to start reading Nir Eyal’s “Hooked”, all about how to build habit-forming brands, and we’re going to see this trend way beyond lockdown. It’s a whole new business model for some industries, but provides a real opportunity.

Conscious, not mass, consumerism

 This one has been bubbling under for some time (all hail, Greta), but what lockdown has shown is that brands need to have a purpose and resonate with customers. Use this time to make a connection with people; what do they already love about your brand? Why should they love your brand? If you don’t provide reason or purpose and you’re not a product that people buy out of necessity (I don’t expect anyone to start having an emotional attachment to their car garage), how will you build that loyalty?

Mary Portas says this with a lot more conviction than I do but she’s been in the press recently stating that there will be no more “more, more, more”. Consumers will come out of this wanting one of two things; either investment or value. The middle will start to disappear – as we’re seeing with some retailers struggling to survive this time – so a connection to your customers is crucial.

We’ve already seen some of the positive environmental impact that worldwide lockdown has had (have you seen the canals in Venice? Wow) and just as we were starting to before, we’ll be a lot more conscious of what we’re eating and drinking, how we’re travelling, and the impact that we have on the world. Brands will need to be mindful of this; whether it’s showing their own sustainability credentials or enhancing this desire to be “better humans”, consumerism is dropping its “mass” status.

The end of the Instagram “highlights” reel?

Linked to the above, and a result of everyone being forced into lockdown, we’ve seen huge changes in the tone of social media… Instagram in particular. Influencers are moving away from styled shots of their recently unboxed Chanel bag or posed bottomless brunches at the foot of a waterfall, and are instead moving towards more ‘real’ content. Now don’t, for one second, think they haven’t put hours into perfectly styling their unmade bed or practicing their ‘natural look’ make-up tutorial, but the best influencers have read the room and adapted how they present themselves.

I’m sure the beauty hauls and posed pictures driving luxury cars will continue, but I’m hoping that Instagram becomes a place of reality, rather than solely aspiration. Giving people a behind-the-scenes look at your life, brand and customers will become part of every good digital content strategy.

 The value of “home”

There’s no doubting that Covid-19 has taught everyone just how important family and friends are. Not being able to see and touch your loved ones is hard, and those first hugs are going to be the best feeling in the world. It’s unlikely that we’ll all forget how we felt missing birthdays and Sunday lunches together right now, so home and family will definitely remain a priority for people. This means that consumers will want products and services to provide experiences for them and their loved ones; offering something that will enhance their lives.  

A positive part of lockdown is the ability to exercise a bit of work/life balance (yes, I can hear the home-working-home-schooling parents scream at me), but the lack of commute and need to switch off and spend time with those you’re living with does mean that we’re packing work into the right amount of hours and actually – on the whole – enjoying a bit more time together. Adapting your messaging to better understand how people are using their time now, and also once we’re out the other side, will stand you in good stead. 

Care in the community

Anyone else loving getting to know their neighbours on the new WhatsApp group? In a society that was torn apart by cultural differences, busy lives and, dare I say it, Brexit meant that we just weren’t getting to know one another. Then Coronavirus came along and changed all that…

Communities will come out of this stronger, which will hopefully see new local and cultural pride. I think there will be a rise in hyper-local news (I set up @lovedickensheath at the start of lockdown to help bring people together and promote local businesses where I live, and channels like B31 Voices and Birmingham Updates have stood the test of time) and we’ll see this localised pride remain. Tapping into this feeling and new-found respect for one another will see certain businesses rise to the top.

As we all wait with baited breath to hear what the Government’s exit strategy might look like, we can start to learn a little from lockdown (there has to be some purpose to all this madness, right?) so use any time you have to trial new social content or business models… the best part of this is that people won’t remember if you don’t do it quite right, but they will remember to forget you if you don’t do it at all.

For more great advice on PR and digital marketing, visit www.eastvillageagency.com.

Tara Tomes
Founder & Managing Director
EAST VILLAGE