General

We may not all be infected. But we will all be impacted.

March 24, 2020

We may not all be infected. But we will all be impacted.

We used to say that the only constant is change – and this has gained new meaning nowadays.

The coronavirus spreads fast around the globe, and while we may not all be infected by it, we will all be impacted by it. With that said, we can all start to prepare for the changes we will see in social dynamics, behavior, and commerce. So, here’s our angle on the matter and initial guidelines and insights into navigating this new shift (by 360i).

(Originally written on March 12, 2020. Figures and facts may be updated)

Until it is all normal again

Even though normality will be restored at some point, it will likely not be any time soon, and our lifestyle will continuously be upended. However, as much as this is a stressful moment, it’s also a fascinating time to observe behaviors and learn about what people will start, stop, and continue doing moving forward into 2020.

Available data shows that fear is spreading faster than the virus itself. And with that, while most of us won’t be infected, we will all be impacted.

So, in our commitment to do right by our people and our clients, we put our humble thoughts on paper and crafted a 3, 6 and 9-month scenario that may come in handy when thinking of our actions today and for the rest of 2020 (always in line with what’s authentic for businesses and brands to impact).

This is a new situation for everyone, and we can face it with strategy and courage. We hope this can help everyone prepare to bounce back into relevance in the post-coronavirus reality.

A landscape mired with confusion or misinformation

Data has shown us the good, the bad, and the ugly

There’s more than enough evidence to inform us and lots of noise to distract us. Information and official data can help us calm down and see things clearly – even the bad things. Information is in flux, so, by the time you read this, the data might have already shifted (the below was last updated on 4/7).

Let’s start with the good, and there’s lots of good

  • Over 80% of those who catch COVID-19 only have mild symptoms
  • Thousands of people (over 500,000 now) have fully recovered from it and are discharged and safe at home
  • China, the first country to report cases and the originator of the pandemic, started to close makeshift hospitals as local authorities’ efforts to curb the virus are working
  • In South Korea, the number of new cases is declining fast
  • In India, doctors have been successful in treating coronavirus with the use of a combination of drugs widely used globally
  • New testing kits can give results in hours, not days
  • Researchers seem to be close to finding an antibody against coronavirus and a vaccine may be at the verge of kicking off human trials
  • And finally, children seem to have little to no symptoms at all

But of course, there’s a concerning amount of bad

  • There have been over 2,000,000 [confirmed] cases worldwide already and nearly 120,000 deaths
  • Infection rate is still just beginning to be reported in many parts of the world
  • There are delays in testing and the inability to test patients worldwide
  • For many of the infected, the illness is severe enough to require hospitalization
  • The mortality rate is significantly higher than that of the flu, which typically only kills a tenth of 1% of the people it infects each year
  • The subsequent economic impact is unfolding

Finally, the ugly

Misinformation, confusion, politics over science, and denial has caused inefficiencies and panic, which has shaken the very structure of our psyche. In the U.S and other countries, the level of uncertainty is high, and mood swings can throw our daily lives out of balance.

The impact has been huge – in markets, in the economy, in employment, in social norms, in relationships, and much more. There is even data to show that divorce rates are spiking across China after couples spent too much time together during the coronavirus home quarantine.

This is “ugly” because it shows that the way we’ve been reacting has had serious implications.

And as people who lead businesses and can have an impact on other people’s lives, it’s essential to think of how the next 3, 6 and 9 months may unfold, and how we can help ease our society’s anxiety and fears as we blaze our way back to normalcy.

Now what?

If history is any indication, when this is over, we will be a different society

A better one. Smarter, more prepared, and humbler.

The fact is when social physical distancing flexes, hopefully, in 3-5 months, the lingering threat will still be present, and people won’t be back to simply living life as it was. Our hygiene, wellness, eating habits, transportation arrangements, working dynamics, travel patterns, and social norms may be forever changed.

Just think about how long until you stop washing your hands frantically, how long until we feel comfortable about getting closer to people you don’t know, and until we commute freely again. How long until we stop feeling the need to back away quickly from someone sniffling and sneezing.

With that in mind, we used many sources, research, discussions with experts, and relied on our cultural antenna, to draft the following scenarios. These scenarios follow basic and immutable principles crafted by Abraham Maslow in his hierarchy of needs and human motivational theory (ranging from physiological needs up to self-realization).

The next 3 months

For weeks now and the next 90 days ahead, we can infer that most people will struggle to work from home, keep kids’ education going, provide entertainment, and keep a healthy routine and schedule. This is the impact of the initial shock to our lives, where we all feel the entrapment and the anxieties of our world getting significantly smaller.

Main pain-point: Excruciating loss of control. Naturally, our daily lives have been thrown out of balance, and this leads to a sense of loss of control. Many people will feel some heaviness in their chests, and it’s disorienting and painful to try to make it all work when you don’t even know what needs to work and to what end. And since we live in a world where we track everything, where we anticipate everything, where information is widely available, we’re addicted to planning and controlling as many aspects of our lives as possible.

Most needed antidote: Pockets of stability. With all being upended, the sense of control can be restored as a few elements start falling into place. Stability will bring back ease, calmness, and focus. It’s imperative that with all the fluidity around us, some things must become fixed and firm.

In this context, here are some questions you can ask yourself: 

  • How might your brand help people adjust existing rituals to the situation?
  • How might your brand help people work from home?
  • How might your brand aid parents trying to keep up with kids’ education?
  • How might your brand help bring calmness to the household?
  • How might your brand help people stay active and entertained?
  • How might your brand encourage the adoption of a new schedule?
  • How might your brand help mediate family conversations – the tough and the light ones?
  • How might your brand help keep people connected with friends and family?
  • How might your brand offer a sense of normality in an abnormal daily life?
  • How might your brand awaken a sense of nostalgia and connection to their most cherished times?

This initial stage is especially important – according to a study published in the British Journal of General Practice, lasting habits take an average of 66 days to form. After this initial period, their imprint is likely to remain, even if the initial driver fades.

The next 6 months

Six months in, we can assume that people will be calmer and more in control of their own situation. By then, we would have learned the ropes of working from home and keeping everyone calm, informed, and entertained while we will likely experience slightly more freedom to leave home. And if history taught us anything, we will start to conform to the situation while nostalgically thinking of how things were before.

Main pain-point: Sense of Stagnation. After some 90 days past the initial shock, stability should be in place, and we all start to see things more clearly again. And with that clarity, we will then realize we haven’t been moving forward, improving ourselves and progressing as much as we were used to. We’ve all been in a self-improvement groove for years now, and the loss of momentum will make us feel stagnant or even like we’re moving backwards.

Most needed antidote: Signals of Progress. To infuse a sense of optimism and forwardness in this more stable context, signals of progress and improvement need to become more evident. It elevates the sense of hope and reconnects us with the aspirations and plans we had before change drastically took place.

In this context, here are some questions you can ask yourself: 

  • How might your brand help people create new rituals that bring them a sense of improvement?
  • How might your brand help people take on new hobbies and passions?
  • How might your brand connect people with skills they can learn in this context?
  • How might your brand inspire people to reengage with their passions in new ways?
  • How might your brand help people imagine a more positive future?
  • How might your brand help inspire a more positive outlook?
  • How might your brand reconnect people with their plans, where they left off?
  • How might your brand start to prepare people to the world post-COVID19 pandemic?
  • How might your brand help people realize isolation is necessary, but loneliness isn’t?

The next 9 months

Nine months in, we can infer that our world (but not yet the whole world) will be ready to go back to normal. But normal may have taken a different shape, and it’s hard to reenter this atmosphere after months of intense limitation and isolation. The world outside will feel vast and complex at first, possibly, overwhelming.

Main pain-point: Initial Disorientation. Now we’re ready to go back to regular errands, work from an office, go shopping, socialize, exercise regularly, pay bills, find jobs, hire people, gossip, and whatnot. But it will be a new normal, and even though we all dreamed about our world pre-COVID19, the reality will be similar, but different. And this will potentially be a tough reentry.

Most needed antidote: Accessible Guidance. Make no mistake – everyone will experience this on an individual level. We will all feel the new environment differently. To help people reorient themselves in the new but familiar territory, accessible guidance will be needed.

In this context, here are some questions you can ask yourself: 

  • How might your brand help people reengage with rituals they deemed important?
  • How might your brand help people navigate the new reality?
  • How might your brand help people access personalized information about the novel landscape?
  • How might your brand help people regain trust in others?
  • How might your brand help people ease back into social closeness?
  • How might your brand help people ease back into work from the office?
  • How might your brand help people avoid old mistakes?
  • How might your brand help people pick up their lives from where they left off?

Some relevant actions and references

Time to focus on progress, not perfection

Across the different scenarios, it’s a moment to try and pilot things. It’s not a moment to wait for perfection, because perfection gets in the way of progress. We need progress to inject a positive outlook. Here are some actions that may inspire you.

Many brands are taking relevant actions worth noting in the face of coronavirus. More will take place daily, try to be one of them.

  • Disney+ launched “Frozen 2,” two weeks early, to help keep kids and families entertained.
  • Nike made their training app free for people to workout at home.
  • NBC Universal is putting “Trolls 2”, “The Hunt,” and other major movie titles that were headed to the box office straight to streaming services.
  • Zoom is offering free video conference subscriptions for K-12 schools to keep education going.
  • PBS is airing the Ken Burns baseball doc because MLB season postponed, other leagues will follow.
  • Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Postmates, and Instacart are in talks to create a joint fund for gig workers impacted by the pandemic.
  • Chipotle is using new tamper-evident packaging seals to reassure that food is untouched during delivery.
  • CVS quickly launched delivery service to help communities in need and also informed their workers that they will get bonuses and are committed to hiring 50,000 new employees during this time to inject livelihood and spending power into society.
  • Postmates, KFC, Pizza Hut, Sweetgreen, Caviar, and others are offering a contactless delivery system.
  • Seamless/GrubHub is deferring commission fees for independent restaurants.
  • The Met is offering free live streams of famous operas.
  • Major museums are offering free virtual tours.
  • Many airlines and hotels are waiving change fees and offering full credits available for one year.
  • Many supermarkets and grocery stores have created special elder hours, prioritizing the most vulnerable population to come in when stores are cleaner and safer.

To name only a few – there’s no shortage of well-intended and successful examples out there. In a time of need, like this, businesses can play a vital role in keeping society moving forward and optimistic. Hopefully, your business can join in.

The following relevant actions and references were used in this piece:

  • Dentsu Japan Navigating COVID-19
  • CNBC
  • Digiday
  • BainCo.
  • Warc
  • Retail Industry Guidance for 360i
  • Google Insights
  • Twitter Trends
  • Forrester
  • GWI
  • McKinsey
  • Technology Review
  • MIT
  • The New York Times
  • American Scientific
  • Desk Research
  • The 360i Strategy Panel
Originally Published on LinkedIn by Chief Strategy Officer Raig Adolfo.