If you are thinking of your post-crisis plan today, do think about your brand positioning as well. It might very well be possible that you want to adjust it. After all, we are currently in the middle of an imposed planetary behavioural change project. Some changes in our behaviour will disappear together with the crisis. Others will stay. And it is those in particular that you really want to think of and pay attention to in order to see if they might affect your brand positioning. And if they do, you need to start adjusting right away.
I have never had this many friends starting to exercise. It is like they all collectively discovered the importance of sports and working out. That being said, it does help that this message is repeated daily by virologists, politicians and news anchors. Or stipulated by the multitudes of people in the park who, if we can believe the footage on the news, all have spontaneously made the decision to start jogging.
Some of my friends will not give up their work-outs post-crisis. They felt the effects it has on their body and have realized the health benefits. The extra effort needed to keep it up is a burden they will gladly take on as well.
There is an even bigger sensibilization-campaign going on. COVID-19 is a rude reminder that we are not as invincible as we like to think and that our health and how we take care of ourselves is important. That is another one of those things that will keep resonating long after our kids go back to school and we go back to work. The first thought to pop into your mind when a colleague coughs will not be “oh dear, hopefully he won’t get sick”, but “is there a meter and a half between us”. That will count for the first couple of times we go back to restaurants as well. Before it felt kind of cozy, sitting with our tables close together or eating tapas from one plate. We will now ask to sit a bit further apart and tapas will definitely be put much lower on the menu.
“We are currently in the middle of an imposed planetary behavioural change project.”
The government is spending money left and right. Nobody really knows when the hole that this creates will be filled again, everybody knows who will pay for it. Politicians even say as much: you the citizens will feel this in our wallets. Nobody complains about this now, in our current state of crisis. But just wait until the bill comes in. But who will receive it? Not the health workers, not those temporarily unemployed or those who will lose their job in the recession. There is a clear new moral compass on the rise. One that calls for more modesty, humility, and solidarity. The virus makes no difference between people, language, wealth, background or skin color. We’re all equally vulnerable. That has its effect on the luxury industry. If what happens in China can teach us anything is that a couple of industries manage to pick up the slack really fast after the crisis has passed. Luxury products are not among these. Luxury products may need to position themselves a bit more on the quality or craftsmanship of the product and less on the capacity to show-off.
A final example. Have you noticed how loud birds can whistle? Or how amazing greenery smells? However, birds do not whistle louder and the smells of nature have not changed. There is just less traffic and pollution. This is what brings us to climate change. Before the crisis, it was difficult to explain that the danger of climate change is inherently linked to its exponential effect. Today, everyone knows what exponential growth is, we can draw the graph in our sleep. We know it because we lived it.
Climate change and sustainability will be back on the agenda after the crisis. After all: climate change has not gone away, we just do not pay as much attention to it now. The difference with the past will be that all of us, just like with exercising, will have had a taste of what it does for us, living in a world with a little bit less pollution. And we will know what happens when something is growing exponentially. For some people, more people than before, this will undoubtedly translate to a preference for more sustainable products.
The planetary change in behaviour we are experiencing now will affect our behaviour in the future. The exact details are not yet clear. But, as a marketer, you better think about it already. And your conclusion might well be that you want to reposition your brand slightly to bring I more in line with this change in how consumers behave. And if you do, you better start now.
By Wim Vermeulen