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180 days that changed our world 180 degrees

Guest Column: Aditi Mishra, Chief Strategy Officer, Lodestar UM, shares insights on the top trends of 2020, based on the study that rests on 4 pillars, resist, retrograde, recreate & reglocalize

e4m by Aditi Mishra
Published: Dec 22, 2020 8:55 AM  | 7 min read
Aditi Mishra

With lights, bells, fireworks, and a lot of hope - 2020 began like any other year. But little did we know that two and a half months into the year, something called “a novel coronavirus” would bring a tectonic shift across lives and businesses; causing an upheaval of a dramatic scale and bringing the world to a grinding halt.

The first COVID-19 case in India was reported, on January 30th. However, another month went by, before the seriousness of the issue began to trickle into public consciousness. Six months later, by the end of July, India ranked 3rd globally, in terms of the Covid-19 cases. As the pandemic hit, the central government enforced a 68 days nationwide lockdown – one of the most stringent ones across the world to control the spread. While the pandemic continues to ravage the world even today, with many parts of the globe facing a second wave; the unprecedented and paramount changes took the world by storm in the first few months. It put the entire world, into a tizzy, bringing unparalleled restriction to life as we knew it, and forcing everyone to adapt to the "new normal".

However, at Lodestar UM, we believe in tackling every challenge by its horns and turning it into an opportunity. It became pertinent to chronicle the impact of the initial months and map the shifts in consumer media mindscape, through the lens of our unique global framework – Remix Culture. We decided to initiate the research under the Wave X umbrella, which is a decade old and perhaps the longest-running advertising, media, marketing research report. The white paper ‘ 180 days that changed our world 180 degrees’ identifies the major consumer trends reflected during the first 6 months of Covid-19 by understanding the conversations, viewership patterns and engagements around specific themes, the changes in and/or reinforcement in user behavior due to the pandemic. This has today become a crucial input into crafting future strategies as we see the impact stretching forward effecting plans for the business in the coming year.

We were the first movers in India with some groundbreaking and never-seen-before media solutions for our clients, which gave us immense knowledge of the pulse and the beat of the market and consumers. In all our media deliveries, "brand purpose", became the central objective during this pandemic.  

As people and businesses faced multiple challenges, we identified a plethora of opportunities as well. It gave them a chance to relook at priorities, change the perspective and adjust preferences, habits or consumption patterns. It has taught all of us Indians to stay strong, brought us closer as a community, made us look for solutions closer to home and respect life every moment. Some of the trends, that commenced during the lockdown, continued into the festive period in the second half of the year, even as governments across states grappled with restrictions in a phased manner. On the other hand, a few temporary adjustments are already in wane. Some others are possibly cultural shifts and are likely to stay etched forever across our lives.

This report reveals the key trends and culture waves, which emerged on the heels of the initial dramatic pandemic impact on India exploring the learnings for various marketeers and brands. The study rests on 4 pillars – RESIST, RETROGRADE, RECREATE, REGLOCALIZE. Let’s take a closer look at each pillar and how consumers and brands reacted under the Covid-19 lens.

RESIST: With the implementation of the lockdown there was an enhanced awareness of hygiene, the need to take precautions and to keep body and mind healthy. And consumers and brands voiced their thoughts and feelings using the power of the internet. We observed that this gave rise to 6 micro-trends - #RiseOfSafetyConcern, #ActOfDoGooders, #StayingPositive, #BeingThankful, #CleanInternet, #SanityUnderCheck. These reflected instinctive reactions to the pandemic and were strongly exemplified across both positive and negative narratives. With consumers getting used to the new normal, most of these early micro-trends have already slowed down. However, trends around mental well-being and hygiene/sanitation are still strong and on the rise. Some of these micro-trends like safety, positivity and being thankful led to brand partnerships as many jumped to promote this aspect to highlight their CSR focus or for their own businesses. Some of the others remain unexplored and possibly latent opportunity areas even today.

RECREATE: There was no facet of life or society, individually or as a community that the COVID-19 crisis did not touch. While India scrambled to seek solutions to every day, many individuals with a solution-centric mindset took this as an opportunity to improvise, learn and adapt rather than surrendering to the challenges. Under this bucket, we recognized, 7 key micro-trends - #LifeDigitized, #RiseOfHomeChefs, #Let’sGamify, #EventsGoingOnline, #AgileBrands, #IndianJugaad, #CovidWanderlust. Reflective of the power of human resilience, the micro-trends under this bucket are more personal, with lower brand clutter. Though relatively smaller in volume, brands which associated with these found it was easier to stand out. This cultural strand is probably the highest in potential and continues to grow and evolve as the world is seeing new response options to the situation. It offers many open spaces for marketers to explore a nuanced brand fit to match their high-value audiences and appropriate a strategic advantage for the long term.

REGLOCALIZE: In the initial phase of the lockdown, digital platforms were swarmed by people trying to adapt to the situation and expressing and sharing their thoughts, feelings and even actions. However as Unlock 1.0 started, the need to get business back on track intensified. With the loss of jobs and financial pressures strengthening the economy became a key focus. This was further escalated by the India-China armed forces skirmish and its geopolitical ramifications. The Prime Minister called out to the nation to support Indian businesses. These two events resulted in a shift in the narrative from immediate concerns like staying safe to supporting local businesses, supporting nation-building activities, and driving a feeling of nationalism. This led to 2 key micro-trends: #VocalForLocal and #BoycottChina. The macro-trend was led by topical issues rather than any long-term shifts. Today the narrative has moved beyond these quick spikes. Also, since these trends emerged out of negative emotions backed by geopolitical decisions, they limited the opportunities for brand associations in a direct manner. However, #VocalForLocal strengthens the narrative of Atmanirbhar Bharat and hence may hold long term potential as brands can build products and services around this to strengthen consumer connect closely aligned to overall business decisions.

RETROGRADE: With people under lockdown, waiting and wanting to return to normal, took comfort in the nostalgia and memories of the past. Sharing photos from the past, memories fed this craving. Many brands jumped on the bandwagon and brought back their retro ads- airing ads from the past to drive conversations. This was amplified as the national TV carrier Doordarshan aired popular shows like Ramayana and Mahabharat from the past to keep up the morale. And this gave way to 3 key micro-trends: #RetroShows, #RetroAds, and #Throwback. The retro shows and ads witnessed highly topical spikes; while we witnessed #Throwback slowly growing through the 180 days. The micro-trends under this bucket were high on the net positive score and leveraging these could have a positive rub off. Hence, heritage and established brands could explore and leverage these easily. However, newer brands should be more careful about mapping and evaluation.

Closely tracking and understanding the impact on consumers and business through this unique framework has not only offered us an opportunity to partner clients like Coca-Cola, BMW, Century Ply in the short term initiatives but also opened up avenues to tap into the underlying cultural shifts that we see moving forward for all clients. Leveraging some of the trends around digitization, DIY, commerce and connecting it with data across platforms, we are today able to craft newer approaches as we plan for the next year. As Maya Agnelou said ‘… now that I know better, I can do better ‘ 

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com

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