Incessant honking in a maddening crowd. Coffee machine gossip. Team meeting with fresh cookies. Running late and forgetting to punch the time register. Frustration due to a broken air conditioner. A smile from a colleague that made our day. A whiff of jasmine in the super-crowded lift. Office drama that beat KJo’s family horror movies. The television behind us showing horrifying pictures of human tragedy, bodies soaked in blood somewhere in the Middle East.
And then arrived an organism of around 125 nm (.125 μm) size. A soap-water fearing killer virus that hunted more than half a million people across the world while paralyzing economies. In 180-plus anxious days our lives changed forever. We now work from home vis-à-vis the earlier dictum “don’t bring work at home”. Jostling at grocery shops has become a prehistoric affair as we are pampered by delivery players like Big basket, or Grofers. Social media blared with the declaration of António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) “It’s time to put armed conflict on lockdown,”. ABC news brought happiness to the peace-loving populace as Saudis declared a ceasefire while fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen. Humanity survived another day.
Homo sapiens being the most adaptable and resilient species fought back. In this process, many things about us changed. We have become less wasteful and more productive than earlier. With vaccines around the corner, I welcome you to the era of post COVID-19.
I. Massive adoption of virtual work: Organizations have gone virtual. We are meeting everyone and work goes on as usual – all from home. Think of clutter free roads, fresh oxygen to breathe instead of mindless travel every day due to status quo. TCS, Google, Facebook and many other top MNCs have already gone for WFH as the way of life, same as Adamas University. Companies are slated to save huge with WFH. An article in business.com notes savings of two big companies. Sun Microsystems identified savings of $68 million a year in its real estate costs, while Dow Chemical and Nortel saved over 30% on non-real estate costs.
Opportunities for future brand managers: As the world becomes virtual, outdoor physical media, like banners, posters, in-shop branding, cinema hall branding etc may be less helpful. How can one brand the virtual world? Possibilities are enormous and infinite. “Upload” a web series available on Amazon Prime recently offered me a few virtual branding inspirations. There are others too.
II. The empathetic chatbots:
Companies are facing communication disruptions. With the virus forcing the migratory population to return home, many now face patchy internet connections. Chatbots are now your new customer care executives addressing anxious minds answering regular questions, updates etc. Enhanced versions are on the way – highly indistinguishable while conversing with a human, raising a number of ethical issues.
Opportunities for future brand managers: Making chatbots empathetic. While technology will support in enhancing its cognitive capabilities, chatbots now need to make human connection to a lonely soul or a tense mind. Can it sell solutions as a friend with a genuine intent to help a buyer instead of being “salesy”?
III. Human connection for change:
We are now more connected like never before. People are rediscovering unity in humanity.
Police officers singing and dancing in Spain, Italians playing music with instruments at their balconies, Parisians clapping, Vietnamese health officials and lyricist Khac Hung producing an animated music video called “Jealous Coronavirus”, Bangkok SkyTrain staff dancing, cleaning and wiping down handrails – all these have resulted into a war cry that “humans will survive”.
Facebook group “The Kindness Pandemic”, are getting filled with hundreds of daily posts. NGOs are inundated with requests for formal and informal volunteering. Unlike big bang deafening campaigns full of razzmatazz, we might just transition into making an actual change.
Opportunities for future brand managers: Think differently. Focus on issues that need our support. Every campaign you design, weigh it in terms of how it can enhance the spirit of connectedness.
IV. Breaking of psychological silos impacting perception:
Liquor industry, frowned upon by many as “evil”, joined hands to make ethanol-based hand sanitizers that saved millions of lives. Can governments, regulatory bodies and society going further remain as unforgiving to this industry as they are in present times? As perception changes, the branding for this around two-billion-dollar industry will change permanently.
Opportunities for future brand managers: Think of connections where you can benefit the society. How distilleries can be rebranded? Instead of “spinning”, think of genuine contributions to life that the industry can make. Make your case for various industries where turnarounds in terms of branding are possible.
V. Creativity wins:
Show-off goes, so goes lookalike campaigns and mediocrity that thrives on imitation. The medium can be the same, e.g., YouTube, or doodle or animation – but the construct can be totally different. With people spending more time with themselves, cognitive scientist Margaret Boden notes that “psychological creativity” i.e, “capacity of an individual to create something that is valuable and surprising to themselves” is on rise. Hence, social media gets filled with creative memes, many have turned to dancing, singing, baking, painting, sculpting, physical exercises or learning to play musical instruments etc.
Opportunities for future brand managers: People get bored due to lack of distraction. Can you be creative to offer them a window to see the new world full of dreams, fellow-feeling and love? Your job is no longer a way of earning your survival or a daily drudgery that has to be done to earn money, but a way of self-fulfillment for yourself while catering to others in the tribe called the human. Are you ready?
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