COVID 19 A Benchmark To Change Consumer Patterns For Brands-Prabhakar Mundkur

Most tumultuous world events have had a strong impact on people’s behavior.  The World Wars devastated us so much that we passed humanitarian laws on war through the Geneva Convention and it made us more determined to work at world peace.  Or the Great Depression made people very thrifty and careful. AIDS altered sexual habits permanently. The Covid-19 pandemic has also had a far-reaching impact on people’s behavior. After all it has already killed the handshake as a form of greeting, something that we have practiced the world over since 5 BC according to archaeological evidence.  Getting to know consumers who are in a crisis is not an easy task. The fear of infection is likely to have some long-lasting impact on the social history of man.  The need for congregation, whether for a party or for a wedding, a sport or any other event in large numbers may have suffered a permanent impact on our social behavior.

But what has been the most significant change to our entire system due to COVID-19?

Quite irrefutably it has brought back the concern for ‘safety’ back into the spotlight. Maslow called it a basic psychological need for humans after they had satisfied the need for basic physical needs like air, food and water.  While it has become fashionable for new thinkers to ascribe several shapes to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, his basic postulation about the four levels of psychological needs; safety, love, esteem and self-actualisation remain firm, irrespective of whether you believe this is a pyramid or not. Maslow argues that our higher needs are as real and as integral a part of human nature as our need for food. 

Source : Simply Psyhology

How has this reflected in our buying habits?  We have moved from non-essentials to essentials in a big way during the pandemic.  The need for safety has sent the demand for hygiene, cleaning and staples soaring.  While non-essential categories have slumped.  

As Maslow says in his book Motivation and Personality, a person who is safe and belongs and is loved will be healthier than a person who is safe and belongs but who is rejected and unloved.  In many ways the pandemic has brought back love into the world or at least made us realise that love is more important than we thought during our hectic work and social schedules. We are now making more time for love. Because families were forced to stay in their own dwellings and interact more with each more than ever before it has brought back the glue of keeping families together. 

According to the Accenture COVID-19 a survey which polled 2,500 consumers in India among 45,000 respondents globally said, 90 per cent of consumers are making lasting changes to how they live, work and shop, and there is no going back to the pre-pandemic world for consumer bran

How are marketers dealing with these changes in consumer behaviour?

Marketers have responded in various ways.  Some have capitalized on the fear and anxiety caused by the pandemic.  Others have incorporated hope and rejuvenation. And some others have just hung on to the coronavirus theme itself. But most brands that are doing well have incorporated some form of empathy with the consumer’s distress during the pandemic.  But reduced consumption has affected brand advertising the most.

Brands that show an understanding of the travails that consumers are going through succeed the most. 

This means identifying closely with the consumers fears, anxieties and worries.

And reflecting their changed behavior. during the pandemic.  

Whatever the appeal of that brands take one thing is certain; brands have been forced to re-think their marketing strategies.  Changes in media habits have also forced marketers to think differently.  People for example spent more time on TV and digital media during the Lockdowns.  

The pandemic will transform the world of marketing and advertising as much as it is transforms everything else like healthcare, travel and transport, restaurants, lifestyle businesses, and the way real estate and air-conditioning systems are going to be designed in the future.  After all there is no knowing if and when the next pandemic might arrive or how long the current one will last.

COVID-19 has been an extraordinary time for the human race. So, will consumer behavior change permanently? My bet is that a number of behaviours that we adopted during the pandemic are here to stay at least for some time to come. Or at least until the world is completely safe once again.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors’ and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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