A pandemic tests our resolve and determination. It tests our will to live, mourn the losses of loved ones, shattered livelihoods and our determination to keep our heads above the water.
Consumer behaviour during pandemics throw out all rules that we have learnt. It is driven by extreme needs, most of which is completely irrational and anxiety driven. Many products and industries thrive, while others are decimated.
We learn new skills, unshackle our dependencies, question what is “normal” and discover new opportunities. At the same time, we find it painful to let go of entrenched habits.
As income and livelihoods are lost, buying behaviour skews towards essentials. We let go of luxuries and indulgences. We orient our purchase decisions toward our survival instincts. We become brand agnostic but product focused. Panic buying throws brand equity out of the window. We discover product categories that we never thought we would need. We shop in a multitude of channels, many of which we would have ignored in sane times.
As brands cut back on advertising due to reduced demand and also as a social responsibility, we start looking around more. Our shopping baskets open up, our repertoires widen, our perceived notions about brands evaporate and we buy brands that we never knew existed (without questioning their credentials).
Pandemics and any other form of survival crises uncover true consumer motivations, which are driven by strong needs (and not wants). The hierarchical ladder of gratification is turned upside down. Video games, home exercise equipment, digital content consumption, books and magazines, gardening equipment and connectivity driven technology suddenly become big needs. Eating out is replaced by suddenly discovered cooking skills. Teaching our children suddenly becomes more innovative (and fun). We suddenly start knowing our neighbours. We seem to talk more with our colleagues. Our lives become more open and transparent.
If brands need to take away anything from this pandemic, it should be the fact that nothing is irreplaceable and nothing is impossible when it comes to dynamics of consumer behaviour. Choices narrow but our minds open up.