2020 - the year of the new normal.
But is it?
Have we all fundamentally changed the way we behave?
Has everyone started taking their health more seriously and has made fitness a daily habit? Has everyone started spending more time with family and had less work-related stress? Has everybody changed what they need in life and started buying only that?
I think it would be myopic to look at the NEW normal from only our privileged lenses. Some things have changed for us but for the vast majority in India, things have only become economically worse. And THAT has changed behaviour, not Covid, not any new shopping normal.
Because, you see, things have NOT fundamentally changed - even for us privileged white collar workers. Yes, shopping behaviour has changed. ‘Online is safer than any brick and mortar shop’.
We have cut down on travel time due to the lockdown. A few of us might have even enjoyed WFH thus far because now we don’t have to be at our best looks-wise: it’s ok to have not coloured your hair or it’s ok attend a board meeting in nightwear. But is that all there is to the 'New Normal'?
Ask yourselves this. Once you are vaccinated, wouldn’t you go to office, visit malls, enjoy a salon treatment? Wouldn’t you stay back after work for a drink with your colleagues? Wouldn’t you take your looks and your hair more seriously?
2020 has NOT created a 'New Normal'. In fact, it has made us realise how much we loved the 'Old Normal'. And that is pretty normal for people to feel. Nostalgia of the way we were: financially, productively, collectively has replaced aspirations and ambitions. 2020, if anything, has made memories more important than dreams.
Our needs, aspirations, beliefs, faiths haven’t had tectonic shifts. Brands need to appreciate this. Be you a real estate firm or an apparel company or an FMCG player or even a local gym, remember that people HAVE NOT fundamentally changed. Our lives are having a temporary pause and we will be back with full gusto soon. But, will you be ready for the return to status-quo?
I hear so many clients discussing “New Normal demands a new business model”. Well sure, try it out. But never forget, consumers never wanted, nor are they liking, the New Normal. This has been forced on us, and we are all waiting to be liberated from this.
Businesses and brands need to believe that inherently people want to forget 2020 and return to the way they were in 2019.
I genuinely believe, 2021 will be the beginning of getting back to the 'Old Normal'. Or let’s just call it 'The Normal'. Please.
(The author is chief intelligence officer, GREY India)