In the Northeast, after months of lockdown we have flattened the curve, yet things are nowhere near back to normal. For instance, I live about 15 miles from New York City, but I haven’t been there in about six months. The train used to shepherd hundreds—thousands—of people back and forth to work, but now run those routes with almost no passengers on board.
The latter may not be a short-term impact, but a trend that has been fast-forwarded thanks to the outbreak.
A recent study by Kantar confirms that the biggest barrier to recovery is fear. Kantar polled 100,000 consumers around the world. The data shows we could use brave leadership to push through it.
Among the findings are that 69 percent of consumers remain worried about the pandemic. Forty-six percent say they will delay their return to normal consumer habits because of concerns about their safety or the safety of their loved ones.
Consumers appear to be rattled by the past few months. Just a quarter say they will return to normal consumer activity as soon as government restrictions are lifted. Sixty percent of consumers don’t expect to re-engage for at least another month, while 30-50 percent of consumers don’t expect to visit restaurants, travel or go to movies before two to three months or longer.
The consumer reticence is to be expected. The U.S. hasn't experienced something like this for a century or so. Looking back, there are lessons from the 1918 flu epidemic. As with that outbreak, social distancing (then called “crowding” control) played a role in the recovery.
Brands can play a role in guiding public behavior during this crisis. A public service announcement “brought to you by Procter and Gamble PG,” would drive home the necessity of wearing a mask while showcasing the brand as a caring and knowledgeable source.
In the process, such brands will be helping themselves. No matter how many politicians emphasize mask-wearing and social distancing, if the will of the majority doesn’t see the sense of it all, then they will continue to view the outbreak as a hoax or as a mysterious entity that doesn’t follow our preexisting rules.
Covid is the rare event that poses danger to every human being and is happening on a worldwide scale. The way we fight it is on a corporate level, by social distancing, avoiding crowds and contact tracing.
That’s not an easy message for brands, but for marketers who like a challenge, there may be none better.
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