The COVID Blues
I went down to Saint James Infirmary
To see my old lady there
They said that she’s got the Covid
Do you have BlueCross or Medicare?
To say the past 4 months has been revolutionary is an understatement. First, in 24 short hours, the global pandemic slammed the door on the world economy. By itself, it forced most of the world’s population to immediately change their daily behavior and has generated forces that are now and will be consequential.
Following was the social unrest which has torn the fabric of American life and dramatically shoved societal norms, formerly accepted as part of life, into the searing light of examination and change.
There was a time before the pandemic, remember it? Before March, consumer behavior was based on habits, beliefs/values, experience, disposable income, convenience, comfort with technology, but moreover the freedom to make these choices. And control them.
The normal choices you could make were simple. Anybody could decide how to spend their time and resources. Going to church/work/movies/restaurants/travel/sporting events/concerts/ and just be with friends or be in a crowd or even have needed surgery were simple decisions.
It seems quaint now and would make a Smithsonian exhibit.
Today we are in a transition phase which doesn’t allow for expansive freedom of choice, but moreover dictates our current behavior.
The core driver of decisions immediately became choosing between essential versus non-essential actions due to our fear of and anxiety about the unknown. Previous behavior was eliminated or dramatically altered as ordered by public officials and with the incessant drumbeat of the media. Old norms vanished. Is it safe to go to the grocery store and even when we go, do we wear masks or gloves, keep socially distant, repeatedly wash our hands and disinfect our homes and cars more often? Ok, working from home is not all bad. Unfortunately, not everybody can. People got laid off at an eye-popping rate. Many businesses-and particularly small ones-failed eliminating choices we had made a part of our lives. Many larger businesses also failed, impaled on strategies that one month before were tenuous but working.
Our lack of control and the inability to understand the future results in fear and anxiety which are now constant companions. Somewhere in our future will be treatments and vaccines for the deadly pandemic and slow painful changes wrought by social unrest. Until then, we will be circumspect about our decisions.
While much of the behavior in Transitory Normal has been literally forced on consumers, they will adapt, and some may even become permanent. My bets…anything digital , jump to light speed delivery and Zoom-like platforms.
EVOLVING NEXT NORMAL
As consumers begin to gain confidence they will also bring forward fears that will be retained that will continue to affect behavior. They will judge the behavior of others and brands using their personal behavior as a ruler. They will have to decide their comfort level about important decisions to the mundane: whether to return to work, not wear a mask, go to museums and gyms, if/how to travel, etc. The bulk of consumers will slowly make choices where they have a comfort level. If the behavior is validated, it may remain. The first ones to choose will take the risk-get out of the foxhole- and will be the “early adopters” of this new normal. So the market will slowly gain traction.
The surviving brands face the challenge of getting even their best clients to believe that there is no danger of catching the virus by interacting with them. The brands that can’t will be in a fix.
For everyone however, behavior will be shaped by the experiences in the Transitory Normal and some will be scars like having to search for a job or work out your mortgage or pay your bills. Online buying will more quickly transplant bricks-and-mortar as a primary delivery mechanism (it already has really) and curbside pickup-once an oddity- will continue as a behavior in Transitory Normal. Curbside pick-up is a way, albeit small, to compete with Amazilla (guess who) and their “it’ll be there today” instant delivery. So will working from home, virtually interacting with your doctor, virtual meetings and wearing a mask. Life will be more virtual as technology will show to have reduced the need to travel for business and made meetings more comfortable and convenient. You may not have to come into work or at least not all the time or even live near work. Think of it, be employed by a company in Seattle, but live in Texas. Want to own an office building? Go ahead.
There will be far more competitive pressure to develop better meeting platforms. New ones will spring up. There is and will be a plethora of new businesses borne of the new needs people will have.
It will be much like the early heady days of digital and will address one of the big needs people have…control so that anxiety is reduced.
PS. If this does anything it should prove the brilliance of Amazilla. Not coincidentally, ‘Zilla’s logo is A to Z with a large, happy smile.