I read through a bunch of academic abstracts so that you are saved from the misfortune of smaller fonts and superscript numbers that lead to nowhere. The short of it is, pandemics, be it Cholera in 1832 in France or 1918 Spanish Flu's influence have had telling influences on the world. AIDS, Apartheid, Destruction of the French commune, etc. could be linked to the outbreak of diseases.
At the minimum, the pandemic is not a horrible movie that will end with us compensating for the horror with a tub of ice cream from Ben & Jerry's. It isn't going to be simple.
Horrific Pandemic vs. Soft Pandemic
Not all pandemics are the same.
The worst affected in any pandemic are the disadvantaged classes of people. It's a cycle of economic activity that breaks. The 'haves' consume and the 'have nots' enable consumption. When the 'haves' stop consuming, the 'have nots' go hungry. That's what happens with every economic catastrophe.
But, here is where it gets counter-intuitive.
A really bad pandemic would make the state take decisions they otherwise won't. Taxing the rich, improving labor conditions, healthcare, etc. Pandemic gives a perfect context to galvanize support for far-reaching corrections. A soft pandemic on the other hand is one where you actually go get an ice cream (or to Las Vegas for a weekend that never ends) and wake up on Monday to a pre-pandemic, normal world.
In other words, the world order remains the same - warts and all. Necessary corrections don't happen.
I am not saying any of these. This is the gist of academic papers on the societal impact of pandemics.
So D2C, eh?
//I have a lot of self-doubt about the usage of commas and I don't have the time to re-learn how to use them. So if you are a grammar nazi, please correct me.//
'Direct to consumer' happened because of the distrust about the old guard.
When a society has a chance to correct and it doesn't it simmers polarization. There will be two sides to every debate. They will both be right and wrong. We already had that world before the pandemic and it will be more of the same. Many of us will be activists, from an armchair. Brands are soft targets.
What should brands recognize?
The shift from needs to wants to virtues.
We will all signal virtues more rigorously. We will buy things not because we want them but as a way to signal where we stand on an issue. Leave out the extremes. An average customer will read your brand messaging through the lens of their world view. There is nothing bland about marketing communication anymore, if it ever was!
Brands that can afford to be activists will do it (Nike does). Brands that cannot will still try (Gillette's #Metoo campaign is an example). I have more screenshots. So I will throw them at you, mmkay?
One more, mmkay?
So how should brands prepare to engage?
Start with the realization that the moment they drop a communication, they are going to be in a debate. What matters is whether they are going to be indifferent or go the other extreme and be an activist. Brands don't have to make extreme choices and a great many cannot afford. But they can calibrate their stance and stay relevant, even if that stance is not mainstream opinion.
Brands, even the ones that are not on the consumer side, will be both applauded and chided at the same time.
Twitter Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey joined a chorus of criticism for Coinbase Inc.'s newly announced policy of not debating politics at work, saving it runs counter to the core principles of cryptocurrency.
The outcry came in response to a blogpost by Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong, who said that the company should be mission-focussed and not "advocate for any particular causes or candidates internally that are unrelated to our mission, because it is a distraction." Dorsey said Armstrong's stands runs counter to the purpose of currencies like Bitcoin, which is traded on Coinbase and is itself a form of social activism.
Brands have to now invest in not just cute sentiment analysis and social listening tools but understand deeper contexts that drive customer conversations - even in non-buying contexts. They need to understand what motivates consumers to buy, experience, dislike what they buy or whom they buy from. They need to watch who else is garnering attention and by saying what.
The world is like the presidential debate. There is nothing presidential about it. But that doesn't mean that the issues won't matter. They don't go away. As long as consumers care, brands have to keep their ears firmly on the ground, empathize, and voice with them or be bold and show them the actual way.
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PipeCandy is a market intelligence platform that tracks the global eCommerce & 'direct to consumer' landscape.
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