The lockdown restrictions are gradually being relaxed. Will we revert back to the old normal as soon as possible, or will the current period have a lasting impact on our attitudes and behaviours? Based on scientific insights, the latter seems more likely. Brands that respond to the social-emotional tensions that people now experience will be more relevant. Especially if they continue to advertise, because people are currently switching more between brands.
Collective forced compliance
It takes an average of 66 days to adopt new behavior. So the longer the lockdown and restrictions last, the more likely we are to adjust our behaviour and thus our attitudes. Because a change in behaviour, even if it conflicts with our values and beliefs, means that we will change our attitudes. This is a form of cognitive dissonance called forced compliance. It means that if you are forced to perform a certain task that is not pleasant (such as staying at home for weeks), a mismatch occurs between your attitude (you want to go outside) and your behaviour. This leads to tension and that tension is resolved by adjusting your attitude and views to the behaviour. You could say that we are currently in a collective phase of forced compliance.
People want to resolve the tension
DECODE recently conducted research in Germany that clearly shows what this means for people and also what the implications for brands are. They show that people feel great tension when it comes to deep human motivations, such as safety, social contact, optimism, fun and independence. People experience conflict between what they see as the ideal and the real situation. They want to solve that tension. Brands can respond to this. The same research shows that people do not see much difference in brands’ functional benefits compared to before the crisis. So it doesn’t make much sense to talk about these benefits.
Rather, consider the tension with which your brand can help consumers. Use the archetype of your brand for this. What motivational goal do you help people with? Where does the tension come from? In other words, what can your brand help people fight against? Once you’re clear on this, you not only have a relevant story to tell, but it also provides direction on how to activate your brand.
Regain a sense of control
Meanwhile, people are working hard to resolve the tensions they experience. We see an increase in activities that give a sense of control: DIY, gardening and physical exercise (Monitor Consumer Behaviour Validators/VU). The ways we deal with these different tensions also reinforce several trends in consumer behavior: increased online communication, streaming entertainment, online shopping, mobile payments, and all kinds of creative efforts (baking, cooking, crafts).
More worries means more switching
The Monitor Consumer Behaviour shows that this also leads to different purchasing behavior in several categories. What is especially interesting is that people are more likely to switch brands at the moment. Richard Shotton, of The Choice Factory, has shown that people who experience life events – starting a new job, getting married or divorced – are much more likely to try new brands (21 percent versus 8 percent). In his view, the lockdown is a collective life event, of unprecedented size. The initial results on a number of additional questions in the Monitor Consumer Behaviour seem to confirm this. In the three product categories in which we researched switching behavior, we see comparable switch percentages. This is related to the extent to which people are more concerned about the crisis: more worries means more switching. For this group of people, we also see that the brand is more relevant versus other buying criteria, such as price and convenience. In the current situation, people are more likely to try other brands. Yours, but also your competitor’s. So not advertising right now is not a good idea. There was never a better time to work on the mental availability of your brand.