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COVID-19 Consumption Habits: Are they Here to Stay?

PART ONE: Initial Impact

With the vast majority of Americans home-bound and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the way we consume media – and everything else – has changed. We are rushing to purchase goods, testing the limits of WiFi and increasing the value of Netflix stock on a daily basis. We’re consuming not just food and beverage, but more news, content, media and social conversations than ever before.

Raising New Questions

All of this new content consumption begs the questions: Will we all come out the other side of this crisis as a different type of consumer? One that’s even more critical and demanding in terms of quality and specificity?

 

All of us are so overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information we’re exposed to now – every day, all day long – that the marketers who are going to succeed in the future are not just those who can grab our attention, but those who can also move us to actually pay attention, consume that content, and then move us to share it, promote it or otherwise act.

 

As four very different generations all try to navigate the uncharted waters of a global pandemic #alonetogether through either forced or self-selected quarantines, we might also humbly point out that the human race has endured several other, unwelcome tragedies and public health crises over the course of recorded history.

 

So, how will this crisis affect us differently? How will it impact our already-always-on Gen Zs? How will it influence the way they choose to live the rest of their lives? (My 16-year-old just insisted on teaching her mother a TikTok dance, so I guess we’ll see).

How will Millennials deal with even more angst and, perhaps, having to move back in again with their families? As a GenX, I’ve been training for isolation and boredom my entire life – so I’m good as long as I have wine and TV.

 

But for Millennials and Zs, this forced solitude may be forging a permanent, permeating change. How will devices and apps be changing to accommodate them? Will we need 10G to keep up with demand? In Europe, Netflix and YouTube have already had to reduce their streaming quality to avoid an internet collapse.

We’ve never been here before. From news and social media, to food and beverage delivery, to virtual museum tours and master classes, to binge-watching almost anything all damn day – the incredible consumption of information, goods and services at this time is unprecedented. Offices have never been this empty, except perhaps a few days after 9/11 and during the Great Depression. The ability to continue working from home and not miss a beat is only made possible by the huge advances in technology. Imagine trying to do what we do now just a decade ago without Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, and of course, 5G.

 

Even the way we get our snail mail has changed. Here’s our own CFO braving the office building to grab the company mail.

The Incredible Increase in Consumption

With everyone quarantined at home, we all have more time to both consume and create more content. Recently, iHeart Radio hosted a music fest for charity featuring several artists performing from their homes. That’s content we’ve never seen before as a conglomerate. With more people demanding and creating content during these trying times, we might just change our strategic direction to a more human focus vs. the antagonistic and divisive stuff of the past few years. Maybe it’s just my perspective, but lately, posts, blogs and articles seem a little kinder, a little gentler… and that’s a good thing.

 

There is so much content out there right now that, even as I write this, I’m worried it won’t be “in time” or might duplicate other information. Maybe.

 

But it’s also important that, as an agency, Modern Impact keeps the pulse of this ever-changing landscape, supporting efforts to stay safe and healthy by all working from home, acting and reacting to our clients messaging and content needs, and financially supporting our team. As we continue to advertise to people and not devices for our clients, we must keep our messaging relevant and timely. We’re also proactively planning our clients’ continued success and re-launch strategies in the post-COVID-19 era.

 

There’s no crystal ball to show us what the long-standing impact will be on consumption and the way we’ll go about our daily lives. Will we all get so used to working from home that we avoid the office forever? Doubtful. Just ask parents who are juggling work and their kids’ schoolwork right now. “Adulting is Hard” may be a joke of the past as we welcome “normal” responsibilities back into our lives with open arms.

 

Will we all stop wasting food? Hopefully. Will we donate more to charity once our financial lives get back to normal? Big “yes.” Will we all start being kinder and helping those around us; halting nastygrams on social media and replacing our questionable attitudes with empathy and caring instead? So far, it looks like that could actually happen.

What’s a Crisis Blog without a Note on Toilet Paper?

As Americans we’ve never shied away from “stocking up” if we have the financial means. But just because the Chinese were hoarding toilet paper in February doesn’t mean we have to follow suit. While it’s duly noted that we’re consuming more TP right now AT HOME, the run on toilet paper and related products has left us with empty shelves as companies try to keep up. Unofficial reports from friends in other countries say their TP supply has not experienced such a huge movement (no pun intended). We stock up because we can, but that doesn’t help our neighbors.

 

And, as anyone who’s been in a grocery store knows, it’s not just TP. We’re scared and we’re hoarding. But that means there’s not enough food and other staples readily available to stock our local food banks – which are now busier than ever with the rise in unemployment.

 

We all need to consider the greater good when we’re out there on our weekly run. Fortunately, there are many brands that have turned to supporting charity, donating food and clothing, raising money and more. Stay tuned for Part Two: How Brands are Doing it Right.

Content Strategist

Yes, that’s really her name and, no, her parents aren’t cruel – she married into it. After 30 years navigating the traditional and digital advertising space, Cam joined Modern Impact to become our Chief Content Strategist. But she’s not just about creating content, she’s focused on metric-driven marketing messages with underlying, clever wit (when applicable). Working from our Denver office, she’s a master at Slack and video conferencing; working so closely with her MI colleagues she can smell the creativity streaming all the way from the Minneapolis office. Join Cam on her ever-evolving adventure through Marketingland (and occasionally Mothertown and INeedSomeWineville).

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