November 17, 2021|
7 min read
Lockdown Chic is Over: What's Next?
Many politicians the world over are promising the end of lockdowns. Even as we head into late fall and winter and the fourth wave continues to rise, they’re saying, “No lockdowns.”
They’re just reading the room here. Nobody wants another lockdown, where independent local Canadians have their businesses impacted while big boxed stores gain momentum. Where kids can’t play sports but if a rink was set up in Costco, everyone could play hockey! The data is not clean, the media continues with their fear-mongering and campaign of divisiveness…all of it to keep everyone off balance. The bottom line, no one wants another lockdown that makes zero sense.
People are tired of the isolation and rules that make zero sense. People want to live a normal life and everything is being done to not help us get there.
So, while we might have been fine with them when we started the COVID era in March 2020, we are over them now. We’re also over pretty much everything we did during lockdown—including a lot of products and brands.
What We Bought During Lockdown Is No Longer “In”
We can see people shifting away from brands that were popular during the lockdown. Perhaps for some, it was a safe second choice to get by. Perhaps the novelty has worn off being able to wear PJ pants to work or looking “business on top” for our Zoom meetings. While we were all excited to wear sweatpants, we’re now pretty tired of never getting dressed up.
What does that mean? Athleisure brands and comfy-casual clothing might find themselves kicked to the curb. “Dressing it up” is starting to come back as people want to “feel” different. People are heading back to the office, and kids are back in school. Dressing for success may have taken on new importance as we re-enter these environments, so we want to look (and feel) our best too.
We’re also going to go out more and want to feel good. Restaurants, bars, sporting events, concerts—you name it, people are doing it. And when we go out, we want to see and be seen.
So, we can expect that athletic wear may take a back seat or maybe athletic wear brands will shift in what they offer to meet that new sense of going-out-casual.
Hobbies Left by the Wayside
We’re going to see this shift with other behaviours we adopted during lockdowns too. Did you read more books? Or maybe you were someone who took up gardening or baking. Or maybe drinking more wine (out of a box). You might have learned to knit!
Whatever the case, you might not stick with your new hobby, no matter how much you love it. The pace of life is going to pick up again, and we may find that we don’t have time for our new hobbies.
The other reality is that we might want to trade those hobbies in. We took up knitting because it was something to do when there was nothing else. It was good for the time being. But now we can get back to soccer or playing hockey or grab coffee or drinks with friends.
Some of the new hobbies may have become a passion and will stick, perhaps even become a bigger part of our lives. We might join up with the local running club to keep up with our fitness.
Craving Something Different
We can also look at food to see this trend. People panic-bought a lot of stuff at the outbreak of the pandemic. We bought in bulk. A lot of us were doing “economy buying” too—whatever brand was cheapest, so we could afford more of it and stock up.
At this point? We’ve been working our way through our pantries for months now. And we may be sick of these brands, these foods, especially if they were not our preferred choice, to begin with.
So, it is not surprising that we are choosing unique products and brands when we go to the grocery store. It feels “freeing” to have the opportunity to choose differently. No more bulk buying and maybe even splurging a little bit.
And from there, we’re ditching the “comfort foods” we had and trying new things. We may be tired of the same old, same old. So, choosing differently is literally subconsciously “freedom”.
Getting Away from Reminders
Another reason we may see people pivot away from brands is that they don’t want to be reminded of lockdown. We’ve been relying on certain brands and products to get us through the last 18 months.
While that might evoke warm, fuzzy feelings from some of us, it can also go the opposite way. Those brands become a reminder of the “bad times” in lockdown. They’re no longer comforting to us—not even if they’re comfy pants or comfort foods.
That means we want to pivot away from them. We don’t want to think about “the bad times.” If we were lonely or sad or frustrated during lockdowns, we don’t want to be reminded of those feelings by the clothes we’re wearing or the food we’re eating, or even the home exercise bike we’re riding.
So what was “cool” during lockdown may not going to be anymore. It may feel outdated, out of touch—and a signal that we are stuck. Perhaps, there is a subconscious fear that we may seem like we are still living in fear and are increasingly becoming out of touch with the new real world.
What Does This Mean for Your Brand?
If you’ve been capitalizing on existing trends or looking at past data, you may get caught if you are not talking to your best customers to understand shifts. Why? Because you are looking in your rearview mirror and not looking forward. And for some brands, where there were little indications of potential risk, those risks are full-blown flood gates of issues now.
We need to consistently look ahead and think forward. And, if we were talking to our best customers, we’d know that. We’d know that they were over the bulk buys and the sweatpants and even lockdown baking, months ahead of when we started seeing the impact on the retail shelves. We’d know that they’re itching to see their friends and how important brand esteem might be or how much risk there might be to show up with something that is not future-forward vs. pandemic normalized.
Some of us marketers knew were living in a bubble and were preparing for that shift! We’ve been thinking about what happens after the pandemic ends for a while. We may have tried to serve the pandemic market and pivot towards that post-pandemic market at the same time.
This balancing act hasn’t been easy. But it does show us how we need to be able to read the writing on the wall. If we weren’t selling larger bulk size SKUs at the start of the pandemic, then it might not make sense now. If we’re in athleisure, we might want to look for a way to help our products bridge the pandemic home gym and the post-lockdown gym, the home office, and the office-office.
If we want to know where the market is going, then we have to talk to our best customers. We have to check in with them. We need to hear their insights, their feelings about what they need in the current moment. And we need to think beyond the current moment, in a lot of ways: what do they have right now, but what are they craving? Maybe this product is working for the moment, but what do they wish it did? What do they wish they could do more of?
When we start asking these questions, we get more insight into what our customers need from us. We can see what’s on the horizon. And we can start fulfilling those needs, anticipating them—instead of always being behind the eight ball.
So, like always, we have to start with the why!
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