For the first time in a long time we now have real needs, not desires to solve for Australians.

By Kristy Richards, Strategy Lead

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This crisis has temporarily changed our fundamentals as a society and in a very short period. The making and spreading of rules has become everyday. A pattern that challenges our very nature as Australian’s. We are a nation not used to being controlled or mandated to, with all having to fight our very essence, our larrikin-nature which typically triggers rebellion against any sort of authority. Even less so by the government who we trust the least.

Thus, begs the question: in these times of crisis, and given we look to them for solutions, what can we do as brands? How can brand communications work to improve health outcomes, societal anxiety, promote beneficial behaviours and have a positive impact on the collective Australian mindset? Because for the first time in a while marketers have real needs, not desires to work to. Real tensions that people genuinely need solving, not just to make life a little better, but to make life bearable.

We have seen 5 new needs rise in importance across Australia and across the world. More will rise and fall in importance before this crisis comes to an end, but for the moment it’s these 5 new needs that should form the pillars of brand actions and behaviour. So brands to be truly useful, tangibly lending a hand in challenging circumstances. To help give Australians a sense of normalcy amongst the shit.

1. Help people accept the new world by recognising a trying time

For the majority of us who have never experienced this kind of once-in-a-lifetime crisis, things are a bit bleak and our views of stability and societal continuity are shattered. In this uncertainty, people are looking to have their thoughts and feelings validated by brands they trust, to truly solidify the ‘all in this together’ mindset.

To do this brands must recognise the multitude of pressures this environment is having on their audiences. Recognition can validate a person’s feelings, and make them feel they are not alone, a critical step, and mechanism to help people cope during this crisis. Recognition is the first step in helping people navigate grief, which is what we are all experiencing. Grief of a way of life lost.

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However, given we’re a few weeks into this crisis, brands no longer need to explicitly reference our situation. Let’s agree as an industry never to use the words Covid-19. People know the problem, people hear it enough. We all understand the environment and are living it day to day. We need to treat recognition of our collective new life and the needs that accompany it, then very quickly provide a solution that provides utility to help.

2. Help people stay connected

With the groups and gatherings of old no longer available to us, digital alternatives are being thrown together across the web, and we’re finally living the online worlds we were promised by all platforms for years. Live-sharing tools and platforms such as Instagram Live, Houseparty, Twitch are experiencing more users than ever, and are truly reaching into new homes, new cohorts; many of which we would never have imagined picking up these digital tools.

Social distancing means more social media, but ironically it is bringing us together acting as a solution to loneliness. What’s important is that we recognise the fundamental shift in how people are utilising digital tools in these trying times: bringing ‘the physical’ closer in real time. We are not interacting with the written word or pictures of past events we may or may not have been part of, but instead creating new moments of ‘live interaction’. Creating real moments of connection by literally talking to each other with video, playing games together or sharing a real live moment that is actually happening now. Instagram has produced a new Co-Watching feature, enabling you to start a video chat with friends and view your fav posts and stories together. Similar to the Netflix Party extension, we connect with friends through the media we consume, sharing them with reactions in realtime is a logical step.

This situation is showing us the real way to use digital now and forever. It’s about using digital to facilitate ‘live interaction’ to help us do more together, in the moment, without having to leave our homes, giving us time back and helping us to connect more often, more easily. Knowing that we need to incorporate the physical, we should show the real faces of those involved, their real reactions in the moment as you are watching, talking, and playing ‘together’.

3. Helping people to adapt

We’ve lost the ability to leave the house and hug the ones we love, and any routine may have vanished out of our lives. And quickly. Brands who can help people secure incomes; access small pleasures; increase their workflows; connect more deeply, or help lives post-corona in any sense will realise positives.

This means brands need to be open to big change, giving rise to adaption for brands themselves. Brands should consider adapting their communications, products, price and the channels to be hyper-relevant by solving current problems. Adaptation often allows brands to tap into new areas and access territories they were not known for, before ultimately diversifying their offering and strengthening their ability to navigate these uncertain times.

These are not only adaptations in the current climate, but in the best case, these adaptations can build behaviours, routines and probably most importantly manage to ‘reset mindsets positively’ for their audience delivering true, meaningful, lasting value that counts.

What’s important is that brands don’t hold themselves back unnecessarily by trying to maintain the levels of polish previously essential to landing ideas. Previously as marketers we would all push to curate a picture-perfect experience, event or product in the real world. The best brands, who are navigating this new world effectively, are being fluid in their schedules and offering live development, unpolished but useful solutions and connection in low-fi home settings.

As an industry we need to act, not speak, and never before has the 80% rule been so relevant. So think to our sphere of influence, look at how and where our key brand benefits are or could be relevant and apply, apply, apply!

Soundcloud is working alongside video game streaming platform Twitch, allowing musicians to be quickly verified to make money from live streaming performances. The Twitch ecosystem is built upon viewers donating to streamers, so musicians should be able to tap into these behaviours to earn some bucks now, and possibly find a new way of doing gigs into the future. As musicians rely on social platforms to build their distributed audiences and host music, digitising the paid performance aspect will likely bubble up more positives of this partnership to the surface.

4. Corporate support

Brands are dealing out the big bucks to offer help to those in need, either financially or via goods. ‘Those in need’ is broad, but we’ve seen a focus on employees, SMEs, “hidden-heroes” (health workers, tram drivers, cleaners, etc.) and the vulnerable. The decision of who to support should be led by the values of your brand’s audience, and a good response may touch on all those in-need with differing support mechanisms. While communications of support and nice wishes are all well and good, in the words of early 00’ rockers Jet: put your money where your mouth is (YEEEEAAAHHHHHHH!!)

Tapping into the parts of broader culture your brand can directly influence authentically is critical to making sure you can help without a backlash. We need to mirror the behaviour laid down through the rise of ethical branding. Don’t touch what you have no right to touch, and don’t talk to issues that you can’t credibly influence. Otherwise, just as in the ethical space, you will be shouted down for greenwashing. However, in this case, the greenwashing will impact and influence how a broad range of society thinks and feels about your brand.

Jameson in the US navigated this space admirably by acknowledging the fact that local bartenders are doing it hard, and have pledged $500K to a charity guild and supporting them with a simple message: you’ve always had our backs, and we promise to always have yours #LoveThyBartender. Simple action, delivered in a space they can authentically own. Helping people believe they are just doing their bit to keep the industry intact through this time, in real tangible ways rather than drumming up publicity.

Jameson US Instagram @jameson_us
Jameson US Instagram @jameson_us

5. A little light relief

We all need a little respite when the news is grim, especially day-after-day. While it was not quite appropriate for brands when the news was fresh, now that we understand the rules of engagement brands are starting to have some fun — and to a good reaction. It goes without saying that humour should be in good taste and within the wheelhouse of your brand before you start dishing it out.

The rules of comedy still apply, the jokes that land to greater effect are those that play on true societal shifts and cultural dichotomies that we need to make sense of and accept.

Great brands are playing on these big shifts. They are talking to the very essence of our lives at the moment, playing on what we have more or less of and making light of it.

Shedd Aquarium in Chicago is a perfect example. They are aiming to help people make the most of our ‘human lockdown’ caged like the animals in the zoo. They are literally parodying our current existence by turning the tables literally, letting their penguins roam free around the enclosures and sharing their reactions. Reactions we may replicate in the coming months once our front doors are opened and we too can roam free. It’s working because animal videos are embedded in the formula for internet virality and are sought by us all as an instant pick-me-up. Needed now more than ever.

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It’s important that we all keep a close eye on how Australians’ needs evolve over the coming weeks and months as our situation does the same. So that as brands we can do our best to be truly useful, tangibly lending a hand in challenging circumstances. To help give Australians at least a small sense of normalcy amongst the shit.

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We’re an independent creative agency helping brands capitalise on the why, when, where, what and how of human behaviour.

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