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The 2 Possible Futures of Marketing After Coronavirus

Will we forget or will we remember?


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Nabil Alouani

3 years ago | 6 min read

We buy Apple because we Think Different.” Our Nike sneakers remind us that we’re Doers, and we buy Rolex to prove to ourselves and the rest of the world that we’ve achieved financial success.

For the last century, the world economy has been based on solving consumer problems with products. Eventually, the products outnumbered the needs, and we created new, sometimes artificial ones — to then supply the products necessary for fulfilling them.

Economists understood that once fed and sheltered, human needs become primarily emotional. A new range of products and marketing started to emerge. The labels began to tap into our emotions, self-image, and how we want to be seen. Marketing has become all about the message.

The way things are looking, I believe that there are two main messages that the coronavirus crisis brings to the forefront:

  • “Forget the crisis and get back to normal.”
  • “Remember what happened, and revisit your consumption behavior.”

The “Forget” Tendency

“Make up for what you lost,” “go back to freedom,” or just “be happy again.” These types of marketing messages will hope to pull the consumer back into their consumption-based lifestyles. It’s not that complicated to predict this upcoming marketing impulse. Being free to do whatever we want after serving time in isolation for months is a wave worthy of being surfed by marketers.

We all know that the most accessible customers are the ones that feel vulnerable, and the pandemic made everyone feel vulnerable. Parents are tired from homeschooling, distant couples are looking forward to going out for a date, and almost everyone is going stir-crazy.

Because we want to feel better about everything we’ve lost, we will willingly allow ourselves to become victims of products and services that are well-wrapped in an “enjoy your life again” package.

Therefore, I don’t think that marketers have to worry that much about their comeback approach. Surely, the competition will be fierce but that’s no surprise — it has always been like this. Other than that, marketers are likely to stick to the basics and adapt the “Forget” message to their clientele.

I’m concerned most about the consumers — meaning everyone. A tsunami of temptation is heading our way.

The “Remember” Tendency

I have a preference for underdogs. For me, the most exciting competitions are those where the underdogs are putting a fight against the giants. That’s how I’m picturing the “Remember” tendency: an undertow dancing alongside a tsunami. First, let’s explore the idea then look at how it works.

What’s “Remember”?

When reflecting on the “Remember” core message I can’t help but think of the words of Spanish philosopher George Santayana:

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

We have a lot to learn from the pandemic; we’re facing a lot of problems that we’re definitely not looking forward to seeing again. We’ve witnessed shortages of medical equipment, problems within our educational systems (if kids are happy about skipping school it’s not a coincidence) — not to mention financial fragility of the world markets. You name it and we’ve seen it.

How about directing the market towards fixing some of these issues? The government can do a lot, but it can’t do everything.

A lot of negative is showing up but it’s only one side of the coin. There’s also an undeniable amount of positive emerging from the crisis. Here, let me remind you of some of them: 3D-printed masks shielding against the virus, more time for family and self-reflection, cuisine, creative content showing up every day, clean air, blue sky, home workouts, and so on.

Those beautiful adaptations and innovations deserve a better future than being doomed to disappear when we get back to “normal.” Who could keep them alive better than marketers?

In short, the “Remember” tendency capitalizes on lessons learned from the pandemic to market new products, services, and content as well as to sustain the ones that already became popular.

Now, if you’re wondering where these new products will come from, the global industry is likely to develop the same tendency. They will strengthen what already works and strive to fix the uncovered issues — fix the problem with a product, remember? Besides, in the modern economy, the interaction between marketing and industry has become a chicken-or-the-egg situation.

We could produce what marketing finds compelling and we can market what the industry decides to produce.

Why is “Remember” sexy?

I personally find this approach appealing because it fits well with more responsible modes of consumption. We’re witnessing a global rise of interest in self-care, education, and relationships. It’s an opportunity to explore these healthy markets.

For years we’ve been adapting to the market and even though we care about our planet, our health, the education of our children, and the ill in the hospitals, we don’t do much because we’re too busy pursuing an ever-evolving market based on careless consumerism.

The ‘Remember’ undertow is a unique opportunity to upgrade our consuming behaviors without killing the economy. “That’s cute, but real life is something else,” you might be thinking. That’s understandable, but hold that thought.

For instance, if we buy fewer processed foods, we’ll start consuming more of the natural ones — I mean, we still need to eat. We lose numbers in the food industry but we gain them back in agriculture, food conservation, cuisine, and supply chain.

It’s not just a dream. I’ve been living in Paris for the past 3 years. During my stay, I’ve seen increasing numbers of those concerned about their eating habits. As a result, the market has had to adapt. The number of organic food stores has boomed. There’s been an increase in products labeled “BIO” — meaning organic — in non-specialty supermarkets.

There has been a 17% growth in the organic food market in France between 2016 and 2017. During the latter, for food products alone, the market was worth 8.4 billion euros. It’s not just food and the French economy. The global fitness market industry was valued at nearly 100 billion dollars during that same year.

People are getting more interested in their health and it’s feeding the economy. And when we manage to add eco-friendly to the equation, everybody wins.

In short, what I’m saying is:

  • The customer behaviors heavily influence the market
  • There are healthy markets to explore. Making money doesn’t have to be at the cost of customers’ best interest.

That’s why, right now, marketing has a chance to flourish while improving the world.

Our experience with the pandemic influenced our behaviors. To make use of our time indoors we introduced ourselves to new healthy habits. Once we pick a routine, it becomes a part of our brain circuits — a part of who we are. Even after going back to normal, these patterns will stay and influence our decision-making including what we buy.

The content creators and distributors that are giving free subscriptions aren’t only being nice. It’s also a marketing strategy. The marketers are making a bet on the survival of the routines that we picked during the pandemic.

Chances are, you will keep on listening to Audible and reading articles on Medium even after social distancing. Maybe you already got the premium version of your meditation app. It may look like a marketing trap but it’s a good one. I’d rather fall for this kind of trap rather than the ones that get me to buy empty calories that will only do harm to my body.

Look, I’m not against enjoying life again. I’m against enjoying so much of it that we’d regret some of our actions later on. We’re craving a lot of things to buy and a lot of sales to make but they’re not going anywhere. The market game will resume and we can all start playing again.

We say that the market has its own rules, but we forget that we — business owners, marketers, and consumers — are the ones who dictate them. Right now, we have an opening to improve the whole game. Every ad and every purchase matter — the ones you make and the ones you don’t.

This article was originally published by Nabil ALOUANI on medium.

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Nabil Alouani

Business | Psychology | Marketing — What's your favorite quote? Mine is "True masters are eternal students."


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