We are living in times of unprecedented uncertainty and of significant change. Lockdown and social distancing measures are now affecting nearly half of the world’s total population in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus. This means that the shapers and drivers of consumer behaviour have changed. To get under the skin of it and what it means for financial services marketers, we hosted a webinar earlier this week, looking at what’s now and what’s next, calling on our expert team of Change Agents: strategic forecaster Paul Flatters; futurist William Higham and; behavioural psychologist Simon Moore.
Given the size and severity of the changes we have experienced in the past month, it is unsurprising that a number of brands are rethinking how they can best communicate with their audiences. Our Change Agents were unanimous in saying that “If you’re going to communicate anything, first make sure it’s worth saying”, and as William Higham reminded us, right now is an emotional time, not a logical time. Audiences will respond to what you’re doing with emotion-based judgement.
When the UK entered this period, and went into lockdown, society was largely polarised following years of political division and disagreement over Brexit. However, as Paul Flatters noted, ‘so much has changed in a short period of time – people are now looking for unity and solidarity’. There is a strong sense of everybody being in this together.
For financial marketers, this presents an opportunity to connect with our audiences and nurture our communities, but it also means that we must be sensitive to the uncertainty and anxiety that many people are experiencing. ‘In times where emotions factor more heavily into decision making, being perceived as profiteering will not go down well. If you’re going to say or do something, it needs to be a genuine attempt to help’, concluded William.
The increasing importance of community was also a key takeaway from our Breakfast & Brainfood event, held with our Change Agents earlier this year. We explained that – even before the crisis – community was increasingly becoming a key driver in decision making for many. This pandemic has only compounded it: the trend is now kicking in much faster and on a much larger scale. Affected countries globally have begun to see recurring, city-wide rounds of applause for healthcare workers coming on or off shifts at 8pm. Community volunteers are rallying round to make sure that those who are self-isolating or most vulnerable can be delivered food and essentials.
As such, we’ve seen news outlets in the UK create a platform for the heartwarming stories coming out of this global crisis. The BBC’s Uplifting Stories page is populated with examples of how parents are keeping their children entertained, of strangers wishing happy birthdays, and even an alpaca being taken to a care home in Scotland to cheer up the residents. While these are on a more personal level, brands should remember that this is the community spirit from where many people are drawing strength. For many, there is comfort to be found in reminding ourselves that we are all in this together.
As financial marketing professionals, we must approach the consumer climate now with awareness and sensitivity. We are in a unique position to communicate strength, solidarity and support. For as long as the health crisis continues, this will resonate with the lives of so many which have been profoundly changed.
If you missed the webinar – or would just like to hear it again – you can watch the full broadcast below: