Antidoting and how market research can help
2 minute read
Living life in the Pandemic
As the world changes due to the Coronavirus pandemic, one of the key issues we see being reported is one of ‘stress’ and concerns about mental health. We are hearing in the media but we are also hearing it from consumers through market research and focus groups.
This phenomena is not just limited to working adults but sweeping through all cohorts; the school-agers who are missing their social lives through school; the young adults who are losing their wanderlust freedoms; parents who are working (if they are lucky enough) whilst home-schooling. Let us not forget the sandwich generation. Those with kids and elderly parents who are struggling to look after the emotional needs of both.
Figure: The Language of Fear - Australian Psychological Society Article InPsych 2020 | Vol 42 June/July | Issue 3
Home life in the Pandemic
Given the lack of options due to the increasing sense of public threat, people seek solace in the little things, and we are calling this ‘antidoting’. Antidoting is more than just the occasional tonic to lift spirits, it is a way of life for most of us. Driving our own feelings of comfort and control is central to much of what we do. Antidotes, are a way to combat the increasing phenomenon of our current psychological and emotional retreat from the world – especially now, due to the coronavirus.
We have found through our qualitative conversations that consumers need to manage their pandemic life through an intense repertoire of ‘antidotes’ – from how they engage with others to how their behaviours have changed and adapted to how they look after their pets – even where they live.
Consumer Antidoting Strategies Marketers Need to Get in Touch With
The pandemic has driven our demand in various aspects of consumerism. It’s the ‘new normal’ and consumers are great at working around obstacles. Beyond stocking up on toilet paper, flour and bread makers, consumers are turning their minds to bigger things. Some classic antidoting strategies include…
1. Home Obsession
the Australian backyard was and still is the holy grail of suburban living. With life in lockdown, it provides those lucky enough to have a backyard, the space to have more personal freedom, the ability to raise your own food, and entertain within the outdoor rooms that have been a feature of 21st century home living. Even apartment dwellers have turned balconies into an outdoor rooms to provide that extra place to relax and unwind – away from the home office. The back of the house is now more emotionally important than ever.
The other home obsession is renovation. Greater time spent in the home is forcing people to not only look at the handyman jobs that need doing but allowing them more time to get them done. People are re-evaluating their spaces; searching for better alternatives to provide more ‘breathing space’ and retreats, or simply to ‘jhuzz up’ their surroundings. Needs have changed from status needs to personal achievement and better living.
We have seen home living shows reinvent themselves on TV and businesses like Temple and Webster and Bunnings have never been busier. The interest in studying home design and decoration has grown, setting up a place that feeds the soul, the ego and one’s personal safety now features strongly. There is a theory that, when people cannot control their outside world, they achieve feelings of control by controlling the little things over which they have power. Our home space is one of the ‘control’ spaces we have where we can antidote the modern crisis we are living in.
2. Food Obsession
Of course people do love ‘going out’ but this has changed too. No longer is it safe to eat out or possible if you are in a lockdown situation. Restaurants have pivoted to takeaways; chefs are cooking for elegant home dining experiences and small celebrations. Ambience in your own home has taken over making people feel special, comforted and relaxed.
Part of this has been the boom in home cooking. Bread makers and flour shortages were part of lockdown one but have stayed the distance. People are buying and experimenting with expensive stand mixers like Kitchen Aid, specialty pressure cookers, ice cream churns and home pasta makers. They are making their own pickles, jams, and preserves and personal achievement of this is scattered all over Instagram and Facebook. Television programs like Masterchef 2020 Back to Win had huge ratings and we have heard of lots of people turning to YouTube for advice.
3. Community Obsession
Family and friends have always been the most important thing in life. The pandemic has taught a lot of families the true meaning of quality time and many parents are reporting enjoying this time together. The obsession with social and family connection in whatever form is also an antidote. Nothing comforts us like those who care, and we cannot get enough of it. Apart from the drag of home-schooling, we have heard many talk about finally achieving work life balance now that commuting to the office is out of the picture.
On the downside is the loss of connection to the elderly and our broader community of family and friends. Connection now, in the pandemic, is largely through platforms like Zoom, Teams, Hangouts and Facetime and whilst this works for younger generations, there is a role to play for businesses to work out better ways to connect families to their older loved ones..
4. Sanctuary Obsession
Outdoor walks, hiking and generally getting out of the house is the new sanctuary. Families are now biking together, walking together and the national parks are full of people trying to get to nature and away from the home wherever they can. Bike shops are doing great business, as are any brand that help people relax, exercise safely and maintain social distancing.
Coffee is a widespread social appeaser and has always been an antidote. But it is not just about caffeine. It is also about soaking up the ambience of the café. It was and still is (to a much lesser and safer degree) ‘the third’ place in people’s lives – a place that you can ‘be’ other than work or home. The community obsession fits here too as many people want to help their local cafes and restaurants keep going through the pandemic. It has become a civic duty to buy something from the local café as regularly as possible.
5. Pet Obsession
One of the most interesting things to come out of working from home is pet obsession. Pets have always been an antidote to modern living, but now more than ever. I saw a new exclusive pet store open near me, just before the pandemic hit. It seems to be doing great business as owners spend their money on fancy dog coats, cat collars and expensive treats.
Working from home has made pets happier and many are now wondering what will happen to their pet’s anxiety levels when (and if) we return to some form of pre-pandemic work life. Will we see offices purpose built not only for social distance but with pet spots including in cubicles?
The Role of Market Research
Antidoting is but one of many emerging trends. Successful marketing (and market research) has a role to play here. Antidoting means shaking up how we communicate with consumers, understanding how to work with consumers who are antidoting their lives. This is not a time to keep doing as we did pre-pandemic. More than ever we need to understand consumers, and how they are managing their new normal.
We notice that when we run online focus groups, people are happy to engage in marketing issues. Consumers are starting to get fatigued with discussing COVID-19 and keen to open new dialogues. They enjoy the challenge, connection and conversation in market research that lies beyond the daily negative news cycle. They want to share what is happening in their lives and how brands can make a difference.
Likewise, we are seeing better response rates in online surveys and online quantitative research. However, this does not mean that we can throw poorly developed, lengthy questionnaires at everyone and expect quality information. The key rules of brevity, gamification and ‘capture only what you need’ still apply. The outtake from this is that marketing and market research can become consumer antidotes in a time of need. It is what you talk about and how you play the game that counts.
Great marketing campaigns built on solid pandemic and post pandemic insight is the way to win. We need to provide an antidote to the heightened emotions and changing behaviours swirling around the pandemic. Emotionally driven campaigns are much more impactful especially when behavioural change is required. It is now very clear that the current rational, factual campaigns are not working.
Brands and businesses take note. Emotionally compelling campaigns that move and inspire, resonating deeply with your target audience will continue to win. Having the power to reach out and touch consumers in this current pandemic, relies on inspiring consumer insight and fundamental truths that are at play NOW. Market research should not be put off until after, especially when brands need to drive powerful messages today that can last well into the new normal.
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As you can see, market research is critical to understanding consumers in the new pandemic.