Signals of change: considering the change in consumer lifestyle habits
22 July 2021

This article was originally published on The Drum.


The media may have us believe that offices will remain empty and we’ll all be a lot more sociable post ‘Freedom Day’. But for brands requiring a deeper understanding of audience behaviors, it may not be as simple as that.

During the past 18 months, restrictions and personal concerns have shattered the patterns of where people spend their time and who they spend it with. Within all the disruption and social isolation, new habits have been formed and priorities reassessed.

As we emerge, consumers will undergo what we call a series of ‘lifestyle negotiations’ as they question their pre-Covid ways of working, socializing, shopping, exercising, and traveling, and re-evaluate future behavioral choices.

For brands, this will mean further reappraisal of their products and values by a consumer, driven by the needs of their new formative lifestyles.

Understanding these drivers, and defining both audiences and their changing relationships with the world around them, will be vital in determining new strategies for communication, action and empathy.

For the purposes of this article, let’s focus on work and socializing and the shift towards more flexible patterns.

According to a recent analysis of ONS statistics by consultancy Advanced Workplace Associates, just under half of the people currently living in London’s 14 inner boroughs could now do their jobs remotely. For the UK capital, this could result in the relocation of those working in certain sectors such as customer service, administration, managerial and civil service.

However, for lower-income workers and those with roles in healthcare, education and skilled trades, working patterns away from the home are already returning to pre-pandemic behaviors.

Media headlines can often make it appear that city-center offices will remain empty, house prices will plummet, seats on public transport will be freely available and bars and restaurants will struggle, but brands should go beyond broad insights and understand what’s actually happening in local areas, populated by targeted audience segments.

The return to work is more likely to be impacted by location, social and economic influences, which need to be defined on the ground by localized intelligence and data-driven analysis.

As Unilever described it during Cannes Lions Live this year, brands need to ‘get real’ and ‘get on the frontline’ to truly identify and understand nuanced cultural and behavioral shifts.

The way people prioritize and interact with others will also continue to change alongside working patterns, so it’s important to define audience relationships with friends and family, as well as with colleagues.

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