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Humans, brands and the new normal, a tale of hope and change

Updated: Jan 18



Working on a brand evolution project for a global Fashion brand during the beginning of the pandemics in Portugal, both as a freelance brand strategist and copywriter, I've learnt a few things. The most important one is that in difficult times, people still aspire for beauty, comfort, and entertainment.


One thing is for sure. This global human crisis we are going through will certainly have a long-term impact on how humans and society are evolving. And that will directly impact brands and Marketing, meaning things will be different. And that is alright.


What is the future of Marketing? How will brands adapt to the new times? How are consumers adapting to the present times? Is the world really going to change dramatically? Is Marketing, as we know it, going to end? Will brands still be relevant? Which brands will stay relevant? Are we going back to the good old comfy times? Or will we be brave enough to change? All these questions have been burning inside us in the past few weeks. As a freelance brand strategist, writer and a consumer myself, that concerns me, as none of them seems to have a simple straightforward answer.


It will all be alright. And alright means different


The truth is, we're all experiencing mixed feelings right now. We're all being personally and professionally challenged, and no one knows exactly what is going to happen after the lockdown is over. Here in Portugal, you can read on the streets 'vai ficar tudo bem'. It means, it will all be alright. But what does alright mean? For some of us, it may mean getting their jobs, businesses and finances back on track; for others, being able to keep pursuing their dreams, develop their hobbies and passions; it may even mean to feel free again by having an ordinary life, like going to your favourite coffee shop or pub, hugging the loved ones or simply being able to enter a shop to buy new shoes - is that just me missing entering a shop to buy something not edible?


One thing is for sure. This global human crisis we are all going through will certainly have a long-term impact on how humans and society are evolving. And that will directly impact brands and Marketing, meaning things will be different. And that is alright.


RIP Shopper Marketing


To give it a bit of context, 7 years ago when I've moved to London from Mozambique, where I was working at DDB for 2 years, I've landed my first job as a strategist at Mars, a Shopper Marketing agency. Back then, I didn't know exactly what Shopper Marketing meant, left alone why it was kept separate from other channels. Why on earth would you call humans shoppers? Does our human side disappear whilst we are shopping? Can our emotions, ambitions, desires and aspirations be turned into analysable data and mapped out on shopper journeys? Can we really separate our 'real lives' from our shopping trips, both online or in-store? Most certainly not.


One thing we can already predict is that, more than ever, shopping will have to be more humanised. Hard-selling tools, even though quite effective when people are more sensible, are not ethical and modern consumers are aware of it. This is great news for brands with purpose, that communicate with the right tone to the right audience. These are the ones that will be more likely to survive after the pandemic. The reason is, they've stayed close to their people, even when things were difficult. And they didn't treat them as shoppers.


The online-real-life life


Working on a brand evolution project for a global Fashion brand over the past 5 months, both as a freelance brand strategist and copywriter, I've learnt a few things. The most important one is that in difficult times, people still aspire for beauty, comfort, and entertainment. There are only as much canned tuna and toilette paper rolls one can buy until you start climbing the Maslow pyramid of needs. After two, three, four weeks being at home, people miss having nice stuff in their lives - they are also bored. And what do people do when they are bored? They text inappropriate people, bake sourdough bread, cut their hair and, of course, shop. Online.


My client, that has a global store open 24/7, meaning an e-commerce website, had to re-adjust not only the supply chain and logistics but also and above all, the mindset. People spend their days on their laptops and phones whilst living their real lives. What a month ago was seen as unhealthy, is now a survival tool. How would we live without technology's support? Would we still feel human, connected and hopeful? What an interesting conundrum.


(Allow me the brackets, this is what the pandemic feels like. A massive conundrum.)


Back to brands. Now, more than ever, brands need to make their shopping journeys seamless online, yet keeping the authenticity and warmth of traditional trade -we know people do not buy products, they fill needs and look for real connections. This is what will be remembered when 'real' shops open again and we will connect both again.


Well, still a lot of questions for now but I see a more humanised future for brands. So let's stay connected, safe and sane. As change is the only constant of life. Online and in real life.

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