What does COVID- 19 mean for brands and businesses?Written by 1HQ 31 March 2021
In our latest report, we look at the risks and opportunities in the consumer goods industry as well as an in-depth exploration into the following 5 hard questions in response to Covid-19:
What will be the value of values?
Brands will need to go beyond compliance
Public demonisation of brands who are not seen to ‘play their part’ in society will continue to come thicker and faster – particularly with an evermore digital consumer’s growing awareness and understanding of key issues. Ignorance has long been rejected as a viable excuse for perceived wrongdoing, but we will also now start to see compliance become admonished by consumers. Brands will no longer be able to get by doing the bare minimum when it comes to minimising things like environmental, local economic, health, and social impacts. They will need to demonstrate how they are going above and beyond what is legally/ morally required of them.
You must choose the values you ‘halo’ wisely.
As more and more brands come to realise the value of such credentials, there will be intense competition to be seen as the most local or the most purposeful amongst their competitive sets. Choosing the values you want to stand behind publicly is a long-term decision and the appropriate care should be given to their selection. Do they meet the needs of your consumer? Are they right for your brand or category? Do they set you apart or add to the noise? How culturally impactful are they? How do you communicate them? Do you know where to start?
‘Doing the right thing’ will become commercial necessity
As demand for such values accelerates – it will be the brands that build them into the core of their identities which win going forwards. Our broader impacts must become ‘halos’ to celebrate, not ‘shadows’ to hide. The resulting trust we’ll place in brands who actively do the ‘right thing’ won’t just be a key criteria for preference and choice; it will also resolve other commercial tensions – like reducing reliance on promotions for penetration.
What is changing?
We all know that the hierarchy of values being sought from brands has been evolving slowly for some time; with ‘wellbeing’, ‘local’ ‘sustainable’ and ‘purpose-led’ credentials ranking ever higher in people’s decision-making criteria. The current lockdown economy has done nothing to halt this evolution. Rather, it has served to dramatically accelerate the adoption of such values and make permanent their impact on consumption behaviour.
Will wellbeing matter even more?
Brands will all need to be seen contributing to a holistic sense of wellness
The enormous coverage currently being given to activities, products and services that can support both our physical and mental health through the lockdown – will tip the balance of desire for a holistic sense of wellness and wellbeing firmly into mainstream consumer consciousness. It will become a key determinant of choice.
Innovation, design & communication will need to focus on prevention – not cure
More people than ever will be focused on preventing future impacts to their wellbeing and their ability to enjoy a sustainable, healthier way of life – rather than the old-school mentality of waiting until there’s a problem before seeking out a solution to fix it. This is a trend we at 1HQ call ‘enjoyable wellness’ and it will continue to see the traditional codes and communications of efficacious pharmaceutical brands merge with those of mainstream FMC, healthy and beauty goods.
Brands will need to demonstrate their effect on community wellness, not just individual
With the world being united in the face of adversity, we’ve also seen an unprecedented amount of altruism. Despite (and perhaps even because of) ‘social distancing’ measures, we’re seeing communities become more tightly-knit than ever before – as the individuals within them demonstrate a desire to protect the wellbeing of all. More than that – we fully expect this knitting together to fuel the burgeoning desire for locally-sourced and locally-made goods and produce. Demonstrating that a brand considers its impact on local communities and broader global society in general will be essential moving forwards – not just as a means of staying criticism – but as a tool for unlocking preference and thereby incremental commercial potential.
What is changing?
Another megatrend that has seen seismic shifts in consumer behaviour over recent years is the greater focus we have on our health & wellbeing – both physical and mental. Far from going away this trend is only going to intensify. Not just that, but the sense of community this pandemic has fostered will see us place even greater emphasis on the health & wellbeing that extends beyond ourselves – that of our families, friends, pets, and the planet more generally.
Must we re-map the path to purchase?
Brands will need to revisit traditional shopper journey assumptions
With digital channels now being people’s sole method of engagement with many brands – the balance between eCommerce and physical retail will tip faster than ever, and more permanently. Especially since the workplace will become more fragmented – as people become more comfortable communicating digitally – and therefore not having to leave their homes so much. To that end, the traditional FMCG shopper journey – which follows a linear path from in-home to out-of-home and in-store is likely to need rethinking.
Opportunistic brands could identify new target audiences to drive penetration
Driven by pure necessity, people of all ages will also become exponentially more fluent with digital commerce and the plethora of consumption options available; unlocking enormous potential for brands that can prioritise their ‘digital shelf’. Entirely new consumer segments may even become viable audiences for nimble brands to target.
Brands will need a compelling direct-to-consumer offer
Business model innovation will likely arise from this situation too; with direct-to-consumer subscription models chief amongst those expected to grow. To be compelling in this arena will require more than just a new delivery mechanism, rather it will require an entirely new product experience – and likely a new product/pack format.
A brand’s biggest differentiator will be its end-to-end product experience
Everything about the product, its packaging, its design, it’s disposal mechanism and so on will need to be considered for success. If brands fit in with the lives and expectations of consumers at every point, they will win.
What is changing?
Alternative channels outside of traditional bricks & mortar retail have been growing for years. Never before, however, have we all been forced to explore the array of different engagement and consumption options available to us. There’s no doubt that the growth of eCommerce will accelerate as a result, but we also expect ‘buy-local, shop-local’ to emerge as a winner –and technologies like contactless click-and-collect to remain permanent fixtures.
Which channels will build relationships?
Brands must design for their digital shelves
Perhaps the most obvious implication – if more people are spending more time in their homes, online – is that the communications channels through which brands can reach them will be largely digital. With more brands vying for digital attention at all stages of the marketing funnel –from awareness all the way through to repeat purchase – FMCG, health & beauty brands will need to consider how they stand out online. How will it impact the products you choose to sell? Will the design of your packaging – both 2D and 3D – be different online than in-store? What communications strategies will you choose to adopt?
Brands will need to rationalise product portfolios to promote choice
With consumer uncertainty being at an all time high, the amount of consideration and research being put into purchase decisions will go up. With less people shopping in-store; large, cumbersome portfolios will benefit less from the brand-blocking they might command at-shelf. Online consumers will navigate directly to the perceived ‘experts’ in each field; thus, communicating a narrow field of expertise vs. a broad ‘jack-of-all-trades’ offer will help to build trust and promote choice. For businesses with the resources to maintain multiple brands – this will likely lead to a stream of new brands being created to cover different consumer needs in a more targeted fashion.
Brands should not forget about their physical experience
With competition for digital attention skyrocketing, there will be huge opportunity for brands that can find ways to connect with their audiences in the physical realm. Digital will –of course – continue to deliver ever greater reach, but emotional engagement and cut-through will increasingly come from physical touchpoints: the product, its packaging, live sampling, events & experiences –and so on. Technologies that can combine physical and digital channels – like packaging-enabled AR/VR, and live broadcasting will continue to move from gimmick to necessity.
What is changing?
The bottom-line is that people will be spending more time online and at-home than ever before; and the proportion of the population doing so will grow ever faster. This is owing, but certainly not limited to factors such as:
– The rapid adoption of, and forced acclimatisation to, remote working technologies
– The short-term reluctance to travel and cease social-distancing
– Forced adoption of eCommerce
Which channels will build relationships?
Agencies will need to be more agile and outcome-driven
With a faster rate of change than ever, brands will need to be working faster than ever to stay relevant. The days of long, drawn-out, waterfall-style projects – with months spent in research –will continue to dwindle. Brands will need to react in a much more agile fashion, which means their agencies will need to do the same. Working to an agile methodology -conducting short sprints to achieve specified outcomes – will mean agencies can work faster to deliver tangible business impact.
Agencies must be able to understand and activate against the bigger picture
In an exponentially more connected world, brands will no longer be able to silo their marketing activities into executional buckets. Change just one thing and the entire ecosystem of a brand will reverberate.
A 2D pack design change, for example, will need to consider both the roles of the digital shelf and the physical shelf; a change to 3D structure will need to consider the impacts to both digital and physical retail supply chains – as well as potential behavioural differences between digital and physical audience segments.
Agencies will need to expand their understanding to encompass the full range of a brand’s activity –becoming ever more immersed in their client’s worlds – in order to understand how their specific activities fit in. Those agencies that have the in-house capability to consider everything from how a brand should be positioned, to how it should innovate, how it should be represented through 2D and 3D design, and ultimately, how it should be communicated beyond pack – will be increasingly sought after partners.
Last, but certainly not least, agencies will need to shoulder some of the increasing responsibilities their clients are being faced with. For example, agencies should not need to be briefed on managing and communicating the impact of our client’s brands on the planet – but rather should actively consider it in everything they do.
What is changing?
Clients and agencies are no longer able to meet in-person, and teams on both sides are geographically fragmented. Collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack, Skype, Zoom and Google Hangouts have all seen an explosion in use – and will likely continue to grow in importance moving forwards. We’ve never worked so separately before, and brands will have to move faster than ever to stay relevant – so what will the requirements be for agencies moving forwards?
COVID-19 has given us a lot to consider, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. Nothing is yet certain – and perhaps the only thing we can all agree on is that the road ahead will be tricky. It will be littered with opportunities for responsive brands, of course. But not without careful planning and consideration. So, where do we start?
Well, in true 1HQ fashion, we don’t start with the answers.
We start by asking questions, hard questions. So, if you’ve got a question for us, or if you’d like help figuring out which questions you should be asking then we’d love to hear from you.
Get in touch today.