Two months after lockdown began, it is becoming more and more evident that we won’t be returning to the world we left behind anytime soon. And while we know that business will fully recover, the changes it will undergo are not temporary or short-lived.
Rather than wait and weather, we must shift our outlook beyond the immediate and ask if what we have built is fit for purpose in a changed world. And if it isn’t, then how fast we can fix it. This pandemic is showing itself to be more accelerator than disruptor.
In the past three months, people’s mindsets have changed. As our stress levels have gone up, our tolerance levels have gone down. Universally, we are not at our best. We are frustrated, anxious about the future and have collective attention issues. As a result, what brands have achieved up until now will be given short shrift if it doesn’t work for us in this new normal. The businesses that succeed will be those who accept the changing world that we are now living in and design better solutions for this evolved psychology.
We know that people will be looking for design that makes them feel secure and certain, and their yearning for more human connection will only increase, even if it can only be online for now. The good news is that we are seeing many examples of people and businesses retooling in record time. Often it takes adversity or an enemy to become stronger. As Andy Grove, the former Intel CEO once wrote: “Great companies are improved by crisis.”
Spectrum may have frustrated me with their customer service in the past, but I have renewed respect for them after they said they would provide free internet for people with kids in school. We’re seeing CPG giants finally invest in the D2C side of their model that for too long was at the bottom of their to-do list. Heinz launching their DTC service ‘Heinz from Home’ last month a case in point.
Nimble creative businesses like The Infatuation built around the restaurant industry and reliant on physical activations are accelerating into online and virtual spaces at record pace. Businesses in the health and entertainment spaces that were almost entirely brick and mortar like Equinox are going online. Rather than go to a party or a bar, I can tune in to DJ Mick on Instagram whilst I shake up a cocktail inspired by Stanley Tucci.
The list goes on.
And likewise, the brands that don’t adapt or change won’t make it through. I bank with Chase, but their ineptitude to cope with PPP has made me think about moving my business elsewhere, even though their digital-first platform used to make my life so much easier. But after being directed to print out a 28-page application, fill it in with pen and then scan and upload it, my loyalty has frayed.
These stories should give us hope and a wake-up call in equal measure.
If you should have pushed harder on that new product or capability that always got relegated to the bottom of your to-do list, then do it now. If you wish your business were built more for online, then do it now. If you wish your brand were better for the planet, then do it now. If you wish that you had invested more time in your own brand, then do it now.
Today, poor design won’t cause consternation, it will cause desertion. Our tolerance levels are down. The aperture for the types of brands that we want to engage with is getting smaller. The good news is that you can still fix it.
Your brain may say that you can’t afford to do it. The truth is that you probably can’t afford NOT to.
- Matt Kandela is CEO of design and branding agency, Dear Future