By now, we have all got used to the idea that things will never go back to how they were just three months ago. What will unfurl in its place will be different. We will call it, quiet unimaginatively, the 'new normal'. Till we get used to it. Then it will just be normal.
Meanwhile we patiently (read as: out of no choice), wait for these dark clouds of gloom to pass. We have the optimistic view, the worst-case scenario and many scenarios in between to mull over while finishing another never-ending household chore.
Everyone taking care of their own household chores is probably one of the most conspicuous signs of these times (apart from the plight of migrant workers being exposed). Many for the first time in their lives learnt household chores. Of them, many who would have otherwise spent their whole lives never doing it. It has been an inadvertent exercise in practicing mindful living. If the countless social media posts are to be believed, an annoying but humbling and enlightening experience for many. Unbeknownst to us all, this actually contributes in loosening the soil around the deep roots of sexism and classism by a minuscule bit. Even if minuscule, a sign of our times, best not to ignore.
Another point from my notes is that this crisis seems to have somehow nudged people into caring. The fact that 100s of small-scale groups have sprung up across the country to help people most in need within their immediate ecosystem and beyond even with limited resources supports this point. Nearly everyone is stepping up in whatever small way they can.
This is probably catalysed by the sense of guilt and helplessness we are all feeling. We have been made to face our privilege like never before. This coupled with the realisation that no matter how tall the fortresses we build to protect the ones we love; we are all vulnerable. Leveraging the sense of “we are in this together”. Despite warranting social distancing, this pandemic seems to have brought us closer. (The stray incidents of animosity towards a certain race and religion, notwithstanding)
In a similarly universal vein, voices can be heard from various corners about how us humans pushed the planet and nature to a point of such revolt. The notion of the 'earth cleansing itself' seems to be gaining some traction. Question is, will this lead to a newfound urge to treat it better? And will that impact brand choices?
And there is the looming insecurity of the recession. Salary cuts and job losses have become the talk of the day. There is a gloomy sense of abandonment of sorts by those in power. There seems to be a void waiting to be filled by a voice of leadership with genuine intent and wisdom. There’s merit in evaluating how brands can stand to profit by stepping up.
This crisis could be heralding an era when brand salience and indeed sales depends on how well a brand believably makes the shift from leveraging existing attitudes to championing alternative narratives. The era of brands as the guiding light for people, society and the planet.
Perhaps what we knew as ‘the alternate narratives’ are on their way to becoming mainstream or in other words, the new normal.
The author is a brand strategist with a career spanning close to 15 years across agencies in Mumbai and Colombo.