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Compassion and mindfulness | The untold theme of 2020

Photo by Adam Jang on Unsplash

Filled with catastrophic events ranging from wildfires, systemic racism and a deadly pandemic, 2020 was one of the most unexpected years for the world. The global growth rate for 2020 was predicted to fall by 4.9%. As numerous businesses were forced to shut, world economies struggled with the rising unemployment rates. Consumers still remain apprehensive towards non-essential purchases and global travel. Adding to the losses, came the unpredictable natural disasters. The last year saw up to 200 natural disasters just in the initial six months.

While these events in isolation indicate a tragic year, a quick rewind on our actions and reactions, point to 2020 as a year of compassion, togetherness and strength. Last year united citizens across countries to stand up for a common cause. Consumers opted for mindful choices and the bigger brands displayed hampers of generosity for the local businesses. As a part of our annual trend mapping exercise at Turian Labs, we identified a few optimistic indicators from 2020:

  1. Close-knit virtual communities
    Platforms like Zoom, Google Hangouts and Houseparty saw a surge in their user base as numerous consumers used these platforms to form their own interest tribes. Apart from just social media and video conferencing apps, gaming platforms emerged as another wonderland for communities to bond during the pandemic. For example, the ‘Animal crossing’ game is an interesting case study of cultivating a community with moral values in a digital realm. Protests, trade fairs and comedy shows were some of the activities through which these online communities flourished.
    In a recent survey by Facebook to study online groups, it was found that 91% of respondents had given some form of support to others during the COVID-19 pandemic through their preferred online community. What was earlier restricted to a specific location, now turned into a worldwide phenomenon. Online communities fostered a sense of belonging and comfort. Although we are recovering from the pandemic, community engagement models through social media and gaming platforms are here to stay.
  2. Immersive Insperiences
    Last year, brands took a major turn to provide experiences focused on ‘home comfort.’ Known as the ‘insperience economy,’ this idea has increased sales for about 88% of the brands that launched one with its value predicted to reach more than 2.3 billion dollars. These at-home products and services not only brought a personalized twist but also helped consumers connect better with family and friends. Work-life and personal activities found a sweet balance spot. Consumers began to re-consider the services they opted for, keeping in mind the family filter. Homes turned into ambient centers for education and entertainment.
    But, it was not just a bright side only for the consumers. Brands too have started to re-shuffle themselves to provide immersive insperiences. For flexible and convenient experiences at home, brands collaborated with each other to forge surprising synergies. Services were decentralized and stripped down to the elements to become more efficient. Although born out of a need, insperiences is not a temporary step as major brands are beginning to tailor their long-term offerings.
  3. Walking the extra mile
    As the global chief marketing officer of Burger King rightly said, “It’s time to do things, not just talk about things. It’s not the time for opportunistic messages or ‘for good’ stunts that may win awards.”
    2020 saw a serious backlash to performative wokeness as consumers hunted for authenticity. The pandemic proved to be a cross-demographic problem and the brands that were the most transparent, emerged successful. They made commitments to support the well-being of their consumers. Going with the mantra, ‘we are in this together,’ tech giants like Google and Facebook supported small businesses through free ad slots. Amazon is now helping in vaccine administration through pop-up clinics in the USA. More and more brands realized that they would need to walk the extra mile to resonate with their consumers.
    For example, L’Oreal Paris — a top beauty brand, recently launched a campaign against street harassment. From schools to public transport, the Stand-Up campaign taught consumers the basics to defend against harassment. As a message to empower women, the brand offered something apart from just beauty products. Small gestures such as these went a long way in creating resonance.
  4. Condensed consumption
    ‘Back to basics’ has caught on as a trend with a ~40% drop in global discretionary spending. The lockdown strengthened each one’s introspection, giving rise to conscious consumption. Consumers reflected on their lifestyle and daily activities to make healthier, sustainable choices. Ranging from social media consumption to physical purchases, consumers are stripping down options to create closer, meaningful connections. They prefer to buy products that can serve multiple purposes. The first few months of the lockdown saw large amounts of impulsive purchases and non-stop online shopping. Over the year, consumers shifted from revenge shopping plans to existing with bare essentials.
    As a result, brands introduced capsule products that last longer and serve multiple functions. They moved away from measuring their success just through ‘consumption growth.’ 2020 urged both consumers and brands to look at the collective wellbeing of our planet.
  5. Looking within
    As large organizations ceased to operate during the pandemic, local stores boomed. More than the rise of local products, what stood out in 2020 was the compassion shown towards local businesses. For example, the town of Tenino in Washington created a local currency, printed on sheets of wood. The wooden currency was only to be used at local establishments to help small businesses during the pandemic. American express too launched a ‘Shop Small Campaign’ to help consumers spend on small merchants. The shift towards small scale, individual owned hand made products has grown further over the last year. Consumers are mindfully choosing brands based on multiple factors apart from just convenience.

Although these indicators emerged as a response to coping with the massive changes around us, they are here to stay. As we move past the year, 2021 would definitely witness a rise in utopian moments brimming with compassion, reflections and hope. Organizations to reflect these sentiments would in turn connect deeper with their consumers.

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