Previous blogs in the series
blog 1 of the series: a look back at advertising during the world wars
blog 2 of the series: dominant themes in the post-covid19 world

Theme#1: Assurance. Addressing the inherent fear

As Covid-19 spread globally, it started to dominate, not just the news cycle, but also how we live our daily lives. The FEAR in the environment functions at various levels

  • At an individual level, fear pertaining to individual health (physiological), emotional health (psychological). There is the fear of the crisis itself reoccurring. This would definitely create a shift in the way consumers make choices, how they evaluate different factors, how they prioritise purchases of different products. How consumers value trust, safety & protection would definitely change in the times to come.
  • At social level fear pertaining to socialising. How people socialise, gather, communicate with extended family, friends, colleagues, co-workers?  How would this translate into moments of consumption for brands?
  • At economic level fear pertaining to jobs, income levels. Then there is the insecurity of continued supply bottleneck- leading to hoarding (in which case you don’t buy expensive brands, but cheaper options). There would be a fear of loss of income. In the Covid19 case, the aftermath would be devastating in terms of job loss, business closures, bankruptcies. People will settle for lower incomes for secure incomes. Reduces discretionary spending. How do brands react to this?
  • At policy level fear pertaining to national & international policies. This would impact how brands would maintain a steady production, supply & once all this is done, how would they communicate; what feature of the product and/or brand would they like to highlight to the consumers?
With consumers turning fearful, brands would need to re-evaluate their communication strategy. Brands would need to work harder to allay these inherent fears.

For example, industries like insurance (fear of no help or support in case of a tragedy), fairness creams (fear of lost opportunity) , healthy oils (fear of poor health leading to compromised quality of life and/ or affecting life span) already use these themes.

Example# 1. HDFC Life ad talks to the fear of losing one’s husband (in Indian society, usually the breadwinner of the family)  & leaving the widow helpless. It showcases how a widow is able to live her dreams even after her husband’s death.

Example#2. Fair & Lovely talks to the fear of rejection at your next interview because of your presentation style defined as look, colour & texture of your skin (laddered to the emotional payoff of confidence).

In the context of Covid 19, we can see other products categories jump in. For other product categories, communication could mean,

  • Greater need for proof, third party authenticity stamps,
  • Stronger need for ‘Reason To Believe’ stories,
  • More information on ingredients/ composition,
  • More emphasis on processes; from sourcing to completion etc. 

Brands would need to work harder to assure consumers about ‘Quality & Hygiene standards’.

  • ‘No Human Touch’ perhaps could be preferred over ‘Hand made’ ? Who knows? (This is like a Black Mirror nightmare coming true!) .

How successfully brands can a) Recognise consumer fears b) Respect them c) React positively could be a game-changer for a brand in these tough, restrictive, constraint times.

Theme#2. Comfort Nostalgia. Pressing the rewind button

When times are uncertain and volatile we find comfort in our past, which is certain and won’t change. Nostalgia is like the comfort food for soul.

It calms our anxious nerves & brings us peace. Its also a kind of escapism.

The lifestyle nostalgia can make for good communication connect/ brand promise. Categories such as, atta, cooking oil, masala brands have used the concept of ‘Maa ke haath ka khana’ in the past.

Maggi,  Disney Land, Paper Boat, Saregama are some of the brand examples that have used Nostalgia to strike a chord amongst its consumers.

It’s a deep rooted emotion that has a potential to take the consumers back in time, almost like a time machine.

Post Covid 19, what lifestyle loss are we anticipating that would make people nostalgic for past?

  • Causally, going for a cup of coffee, catching a movie in a cinema hall, shopping trips to malls etc. It won’t be as carefree as it used to be? Can we just lounge around in the mall or work from a Starbucks sipping our cup of coffee? Can I just quickly catch up with a friend on my way back home?
  • Vacationing ; domestic & international  (since frequent travelling will take time to resume). Can we just hop across rivers, seas & oceans to experience the joy of new places & people? What about this new found love of exploring, travelling, collecting experiences & not materialistic objects? What about famous hashtags, largely associated with travelling but depicting some strong millennial values like, ‘Wanderlust’, ‘Carpe Diem’, ‘FOMO’ etc.
  • Our socialising repertoire ; when, where, how, with whom, frequency of it. Will the size of gatherings reduce now? Will it be more private, exclusive? Would we now have to prioritise our relatives, cousins, friends? What about the concept of ‘Big Fat Indian Wedding’ ? What about reunions with friends & family?
  • Meeting & greeting people with the same warmth & affection; how comfortable will we be to touch or hug or shake hands with others? Or will we become like robots (making the Black Mirror nightmare come true) ?
  • Stepping out of our houses without the ‘safety gear’, wearing mask & gloves, constantly sanitizing our hands, on return washing of hands, taking a bath, changing clothes. When can we step out again without our masks? Breathing freely without worrying about carrying the virus back home?
  • Redefining Fashion; With the constant need to protect ourselves, will we attend parties with masks on? Can we expect party wear masks too (funny but scary!) ? What about the need for make up? Will it get redefined in any way? (After all 90% of my face is hidden anyways!)
  • Sports activities, patronage & fandom: A team ‘comes together’ to play sports. Fans ‘come together’ to cheer for their favourite teams & stars. But what now? Will we get a chance to witness some of our favourite sporting events? How soon will that be? When it does happen (fingers crossed), will it be with the same vigour, enthusiasm & camaraderie? Can we expect the fans to flock the stadiums again with the same josh & jazba?

These are some of the moments that depict ‘lifestyle loss’, something consumers could get nostalgic about in the times to come.

These moments can be used as ‘symbols of hope’, about living our lives the same way as before.

Therefore, while communicating, brands need to adopt a positive tonality, one that of ‘being hopeful’ or ‘reminiscing’.  A strong need to keep the mood upbeat & not let the consumer slip into their existing blues.

In the next series of this blog, we will look at two more marketing themes: Empowerment and Escapism