Lockdown 2.0: How can brands stay ahead and stay relevant?

For the second time round, the UK is shutting every non-essential shop, restaurant and leisure space in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus. And let’s be honest…we all knew it was coming and Christmas is most certainly going to be different this year…

Christmas carol concerts, dance shows and markets will have to wait another year.

Long, chilly, scarf-wrapped walks will be our social highlights.

Black Friday will take place entirely online.

How will John Lewis hit us with the feels with this years Christmas advert?

For this reason, this isn’t just ‘lockdown take two’ for retail brands. This time, it’s completely different, and potentially more dangerous as it occurs during the most significant commercial period of the year

So what does this mean for brands and what must they do to continue to engage shoppers and boost online ‘footfall’? Here are our top tips for getting through lockdown 2.0:

Understand changing consumer behaviours and purchasing trends

There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding behaviour and purchase trend forecasting.

In a year like no other, brands need to be aware of how dramatically habits and lifestyles have altered and shifted, and how this will affect what people are looking to purchase around the gift-giving period. However, at the same time, whilst habits and lifestyles have changed dramatically, our core human desires, needs and wants haven’t… this makes forecasting consumer purchasing behaviors a little trickier this year.

Will people redirect their purchases toward home improvement, instead of experiences and days out? Will they buy online streaming service subscriptions to binge on the whole series of Gossip Girl (…guilty) instead of party clothes, makeup and accessories?

According to Harmony Murphy GM Advertising UK at eBay Advertising, “to successfully understand and engage with audiences in the run up to Black Friday and Christmas, marketers must ensure that they harness the freshest data insights possible and look to target consumers in real-time, with products or messages that are truly relevant to them in that moment.”

Argos, is a great example of a brand understanding shifting consumer need states. During the summer their commercials reflected new purchasing trends around outdoor activities, showing families at home with fun filled gardens pimped out with Argos products. Perhaps for lockdown 2.0 Argos could demonstrate potential at-home related Christmas gift ideas which can be ordered online and delivered to home.

Adapt brand communication activities around core values

As many brands learnt from the first lockdown, it’s how you enhance and adapt your communications around your brand values and personality that determines whether they stay within the minds of consumers during these challenging times. Successful brands must understand their consumers current needs and wants under lockdown and amplify the elements of their identity that will be most relevant to them.

Asda is continuing to shift and adapt it’s communications around price-cutting values to reflect the hopes many are pinning on Christmas, with its ‘Asda Price Christmas’ – stating that, “it’s the Christmas we all need, at the prices we all want.” 

Continue to focus on the development of virtual brand experiences through ease, entertainment, implementation and emotional triggers

There will be even more innovation around virtual and digital at-home brand experiences, meaning brands will need to continue their efforts to promote and sell based on their potential within the home. They must also be sure to make these experiences easy and accessible, promoted in a clear and concise manner for the most footfall, awareness and interest. 

For example, XYZ have created a reality tech platform called Connector which combines physical and digital components that allow participants to explore a brand experience through their smartphone or computer in the same way that they would move around a physical event. This has been used successfully by Levi’s, where consumers have been able to visit a pop-up shop and experience the brand through their phones. This has enabled Levi’s to achieve virtual ‘footfall’ and could be especially beneficially for the gift-giving season, with parents and young adults looking to find designer clothing to put on Christmas wish lists.

An ever-increasing need for mental health support and sensitivity

According to a study led by the University of Glasgow, the first lockdown had a major impact on the UK’s mental health with young adults experiencing suicidal thoughts increasing from 12.5% to 14% (Collinson 2020). With huge concerns that this second lockdown will further impact mental health, brands can play a crucial role in spreading awareness about mental health and provide helpful platforms for their follows to engage with. However, they must do so in a way that is credible and authentic for them.

Shoe brand Asics’s recent ‘In My Shoes’ audio series provided moving and educational content around mental health, designed to be listed to on the go. This activity tapped into the brands purpose of getting people to move more during this second lockdown for the benefit of their mental health. The brand also organized a virtual solidarity run to raise awareness for World Mental Health Day. This is a great example for brands to follow during lockdown 2.

Ultimately, with Christmas looming and a second lockdown now in full swing, brands must work hard to adapt their core proposition within a cluttered online space, forecast trends and behaviours for the most optimal reach, continue capitalizing on the at-home occasion and provide a sensitive case for mental health. The most successful brands once the lockdown has lifted and in years to come will be the brands who made the effort to respect, adapt to and promote their offering with a consumer-centric focus.

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