The COVID-19 outbreak is hitting very close to home for many of us. Many are worried about our loved ones and are personally affected by loss of work and income. International studies are already starting to show that a strong belief in the future has turned into bleak sentiments in many parts of the world.
What makes this situation so unique is how quickly it has unfolded, and how the reason behind the crisis doesn’t discriminate. Everyone faces the same challenge – and the only way to face it is together: individuals, communities and organizations.
We’ve spent years studying how people increasingly expect companies to take action, set an example, and have a true purpose beyond just making profit. We’ve learned that the best way to find that purpose is by solving real problems for people and society one step ahead of others. The world needs these companies more than ever right now.
This crisis will undoubtedly cause shifts not only in people’s needs and behaviors, but in their deeper values and attitudes. However hard it might be, leaders need to start thinking: How will these changes affect our company, our brand and people’s relationship with us beyond the current crisis?
Waiting until after this is over to find out how to act could prove to be a high-risk game. It may be too late to catch up. Now is the time to decide what company you want to be on the other side of this.
What is the core of your purpose and how will you stay relevant for people? How can you rally your organization around your vision for the future? And how do you start to act when setting direction and creating a belief in the future is more important than ever?
Based on our experience and knowing what we know from our annual Purposeful Brands study, we have made four general predictions about what effects to expect on the other side of this crisis. With the scale of the situation, it is not easy to predict all the outcomes, but there are a few bets about the future that we are willing to make.
Trust and shared values will become even more important
The last edition of our annual Purposeful Brands study clearly showed that trust was the most important factor driving brand purpose and preference. We also saw that people build trust in brands that understand them and share their values.
Times of instability makes trust essential. The COVID-19 outbreak will likely make trust even more important for companies and brands. People will find that they are willing put their trust in some companies, but not in others. This is both a chance at comeback for companies that have lost people’s trust, and a risk for companies that thought they were trusted. It is all a function of how companies choose to act now, and whether they act by their values or not.
Relevance and great value are challenged when people reevaluate meaning
When faced with a crisis, people tend to ask themselves what really matters. We get more skeptical, and we question things that we used to take for granted. It becomes more important for companies to play a meaningful role in people’s lives, but it also becomes more difficult.
Many will experience the effects of worsening financial conditions. People are asking why they should pay a premium if there’s another offer at a lower price? As a result, great value and low-price solutions will grow in popularity. But the pendulum will also swing the other way, especially in parts of society, with people choosing to consume less but of higher quality, meaning and for social good.
Sustainability seen in a new light as collectivism surges
When we come out on the other side of this crisis, we will ask why it happened and how we could have prevented it. Many will question how they are living their lives and if it’s truly sustainable, asking: What do I want my consumption to contribute to?
After years of working with brand relationships, we know that the “me benefit” is more important than the “we benefit”, but that the latter is becoming much more important. We are at a pivotal point where this could accelerate rapidly, especially among people driven by collective values. And we generally believe that collective values will grow stronger in societies.
Dramatic changes in behavior drives shifts in attitudes and needs
Many of us have recently found ourselves doing things we’ve never done before or doing things in completely new ways. Without hesitation, we’re choosing video call instead of using just audio, shopping anything and everything online, and watching live streamed opera from our living rooms. The digital transformation of many industries will take giant leaps forward and take brand new turns.
The sad urgency of the situation we are all in has accelerated these changes in behavior, but many of us are having positive new experiences as a result. We’re learning smarter ways to do things and freeing up time we didn’t know we had. These are changes in attitude that will stick, becoming new standards and new future opportunities for businesses and brands.
Our instinct as leaders might be to focus on the necessities of here and now. While this is understandable, it’s also here and now that we need to think about the future that comes after the worst crisis experienced in a generation or more.
How you choose to act towards your customers and employees today will be remembered for a long time. Old customer loyalties will be up for grabs in the months to come. Employees will look for hope, purpose and a clear direction for the future.
However hard it might be, it is high time to decide on what company you will be on the other side of this. What is the core of your purpose? What will be the core of your proposition? How will you be relevant for your customers? What major changes in people’s needs will it lead to? In order to answer these questions, you need much more than sales data. You need real insights about how the needs beyond the crisis will emerge.
Humanity is under siege. We must fight this together and companies have a role to play, to show their true sense of purpose. After this crisis, people will reward companies with purpose and meaning more than ever before.
But what was meaningful in the autumn of 2019 is not necessarily meaningful in the autumn of 2020. These are dramatic days of change that are impacting our needs, values and loyalties. For leaders and organizations, now is the time to stay as close as you possibly can to the people that you serve. The new sentiments are created while you read this text, as humanity fights the crisis.
Stay safe, take care of each other and progress with purpose through the crisis.
Co-founder of Lynxeye
Co-founder of Lynxeye
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