As I write this in August 2020, Russia is promising a mass vaccination campaign against COVID-19 in October, while Western hopes are pinned on a number of vaccines currently under trial, including one developed by Oxford University in the UK.
The media has latched on to vaccination as a game-changer against the infection caused by coronavirus, medical press is less certain. What if there is no cure? And, even if an effective vaccination is approved, what if not enough people are vaccinated for it to be successful?
While we ride out the current phase of uncertainty, countries are once again shutting down whole states and cities, because the only way to ringfence infection at this stage is to isolate people until they no longer have the capacity to pass on the disease.
In this context, let’s consider what else may have changed forever, as far as it may relate to your business.
Handshakes and cheek kisses
In a world where face masks in enclosed spaces, sanitising hands and surfaces, and wearing protective gloves are becoming accepted behaviour, it’s hard to see how our social norms can return.
Across a society where we use physical metrics to decide who is attractive, and where we feel our way into relationships through touch, how will physical distancing affect our ability to make new connections?
By the time the second wave of COVID has been experienced, it’s probable that we may all behave with a more active sense of self-preservation.
How will facial beauty treatments be carried out? Will piercings once again be a do-it-yourself activity? How can facial recognition technology work in a crowd wearing masks? Will any of us go to concerts or theatre performances?
Despite cultural events pitching new dates for 2021, there’s a good chance the hospitality sector will never regain its market size or dynamism.
Is this bad news? As always: yes and no. There will be winners and losers, and there will be people who see a different way forward. Perhaps smaller, more selective, higher-margin events will become popular, where mass catering and mass everything else isn’t necessary, and where a concierged experience will reflect the true value of the event. This model already works well in certain price bands and we can see the sub-segment growing.
Marketing and ..isms
The issues around race, gender and age bias may seem relatively straightforward, but major changes are a long time coming, and the fight for equity and equality goes on.
One thing that lockdown has done is to give people time and space to listen to a growing volume of content and active campaigning that continues to argue for a level playing field for everyone. Battles may not yet be won, but awareness of the micro-aggressions of daily life is growing, and rightly so.
While division and bias live on, if you’re a business that values young white men over older black women as customers, you should be asking yourself how you explain this.
The mega-changes that have taken place through the first wave of COVID are another sign that things are unlikely to return to the way they were. And yet we constantly hear that the companies are waiting for a ‘return to business as usual’ or to understand what the ‘new normal’ will be. Such passivity is understandable, but cannot move your business forward.
And away from COVID-centric issues, other things are going on.
Macro matters too
Poland is to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention, the piece of legislation that offers legal protection for women against violence towards them.
Hungary’s nationalist government is continuing to restrict the activities of the press amid a takeover of its media by far-right interests – read the latest from index.hu by starting here.
The US plans to ban TikTok, claiming a threat to national security, and following an unfortunately low turnout from younger people at recent presidential rallies.
Antarctica is seeing methane leaks from the ocean floors, potentially marking an escalation of the climate warming already causing rising sea levels. At the same time as countries and corporations are pledging to be carbon neutral, nations like Brazil continue to destroy their natural rainforests and fail to contain the illegal export of wild animals.
If you’ve never considered any of this as important to you, or even considered it at all, it may be time for a rethink.
Your new normal
When companies sit down to ideate and decide on their futures, there’s no obligation for them to consider any of these matters. But, without a perspective that encompasses how your business sits in a new world order, how can you determine where or who you’ll trade with? How can you feel confident about treatment of workers if you buy from low-cost manufacturing in, say, Poland? Where did that animal-based ingredient you use actually come from? How will you reduce the negative contribution of your plastic packaging to the environment?
Your new normal is for you to define. There will be no magic wand, and the way you present your company and your brand must change as we move into a more enlightened but infinitely more challenging era. Your brand story can resonate only if you understand who you are selling to and what their specific need is – as well as what it will be.
These are the challenges room44 thrives on and that we’re equipped to work through with you. To explore the opportunity, book an exploratory chat here.
Future thinking. Future proofing. It’s what we do.