4 Futures for the post-Covid World (english version)
The following Scenario Planning work presents what I see as 4 potential Futures post-Covid.
I wrote it at a time where we’re all looking for visibility (article written on March 30th) and try to anticipate the future.
I do not believe in any report pointing to one direction for the world of tomorrow. Reality is more complex. Which is why I invite you to consider these four scenarios as not exclusive of one another.
My read is that the world of tomorrow will have components of all 4, at different scales, and at different times.
The same goes for individuals. We will likely all act accordingly to all 4 scenarios at one point. Again, at different capacities depending on our personality types.
In terms of marketing strategy, the following gives you a structure helping you place your bets and anticipate your actions depending on a/ who you are (as a person, entity, brand) b/ who you will want to speak to c/ and what you will give or sell them. Reflecting on those notions now is one of the keys allowing to be relevant tomorrow.
I built this model using 2 tensions that I feel will be particularly decisive to shape the world of tomorrow:
TENSION #1: How Covid made us feel during the crisis:
“I am few things” (Covid made us realize we weren’t much as individuals) vs “We are important” (Covid also gave us an enhanced sense of role within a broader global community and taught us to act as a collective)
TENSION #2: Our instinctive reactions following the end of Covid:
“Thinking about what we underwent and wanting to make up for things that missed out on” vs “Thinking of what we learned and wanting to move forward”
Hence 4 quadrants/ Future Worlds:
Before developing, a reminder: these 4 Futures are all expected to happen, at different scales and times.
Those trying times called for lots of adaptability and creativity for everyone. Both for survival, crisis management, and finding new relays of growth.
Many new practices that emerged during the crisis will not only stick in people’s mind but replace permanently the way we go about living.
As with most cases of disaster in history (see liquids prohibited on-flight post 911), many precautionary measures will be implemented retroactively across all industries. Virtuous methods discovered/ implemented during Covid will now join other causes culturally judged as our compulsory areas of focus as a collective: environmental issues, gender inequality, inclusivity.
This will add a new layer of “good doing” and “best practices” with a pandemic inspiration.
As a term, « health » will broaden its scope to:
Anticipation and showing preparedness to threats that do not exist yet
Having all experienced the impact of self-isolation, Mental Wellness will finally better penetrate the global forum
Developing new tactics to foster “Hygienic Togetherness” (as an analogy from another world: it's the same rationale as replacing plastic straws with ones built with eco-friendly materials if we’re thinking about reducing our carbon footprint). See the use of holograms for elevators in China (link)
Potential Covid practices being extended post-crisis include:
Tailoring services to our weakest and most exposed citizens:
Specific slots dedicated to the Elderly in supermarkets
Enhanced hygiene protocol for staff exposed to the public
The post-crisis world will also shed a new light on social inequalities and reinforce efforts in that space. Notably for homeless people who seem to have been left in dramatic conditions with close to no help in most countries
Brands and companies using lateral thinking to benefit the public:
Decathlon’s giving away its copyrights on their diving mask to help hospitals create more respiratory assistants (link)
Airbnb using empty lodging for those in need
Alcohol companies manufacturing hydroalcoholic gel
Small businesses finding a second wind – like dying French textile factories now busy building masks with leftover materials
Revalorization of data in the eye of the public, and tech companies seen as potential allies:
Whatsapp x WHO partnership (link)
Orange (French TelCom provider) giving away data on 1M° French citizens to the National Institute for Science and Research (link)
Youtubers seen as watch-dogs and legitimate forms of (counter) information (link to “Osons Causer”)
Tech giant showing strong efforts for a qualitative curation of content and fight against misinformation: see Twitter badging trustworthy sources, notably by partnering with authorities and scientists for a better fact-checking (link)
A future where the tracking of health-related data will take a prime position in the space of collective intelligence. An enhanced focus on forecasting/ detecting future diseases
As an aftermath, we can expect organisations and brands to better educate society on the added-value and benefits of collective intelligence
Education and work made more engaging:
Schools dialing-up playfulness to engage students, like this Japanese school putting courses on Minecraft (link)
Cities acting to reduce noise pollution (a sensorial discovery that struck us all overnight!)
A strong boost of ecological practices in urbanism: more pedestrian streets, public taps, cleaning stations
This scenario will be a double-edge sword as it will also imply a new wave of judgmental behaviors (captured in the following scenario "Judgment Day"). Just like one can now get insulted for driving an SUV in Paris or London (something unconceivable 20 years ago), new parameters of correct Social Behaviors will emerge.
SIZING: I give this scenario a 90% index of penetration in the public debate and expect it to stay ingrained in our lifestyle over the long-run.
The crisis acted as an amplifier of characters, revealing the best but also the worst of humanity. People have witnessed behaviors that they deemed unacceptable and now want to settle accounts. A phenomenon that will span from micro to macro.
Judgment Day a Micro level:
We discovered accentuated sides of own personalities but also witnessed it with others around us. Time for a reassessment of what feels right and desirable to each and every one of us.
Love life: a peak of divorces and/ or a shift of life patterns (spending time apart, deciding to carry on but living in separate flats). Also expect an impact on real estate/ housing / rental with people buying, selling, relocating.
Friendship: questioning your friend’s circle. Who lived up to your standards and who didn’t? Taking distances from friends whose behaviour shocked you, notably from an ethical point of view.
« My friend told me he didn’t care about confinement and would carry on living the way he intended to, still going out, still dating as much as he can - I’ll definitely be less close to him now » Craig, 37yo, UK
Acquaintances: the same trial will take place judging your social surrounding based on behaviours observed during the crisis.
See 1M° Parisians who left their flats to spend a more glamorous confinement in a second home of theirs - thus spreading the virus in other, less affected regions. Quite a few cars with the Parisian tag number “75” were attacked by villagers in secluded areas of France (link). And that reflex seems to apply from nation to nation: Italy, NY with Upper East Siders leaving for the Hamptons. (link)
Who wore masks in your neighbourhood? Knowing that people were told not to (in France) and that pharmacists themselves didn’t have any: see massive thefts of FFP2 masks and side black market (link)
Who played collective and who played solo? Who complained for their monthly bonus at work? Who agreed to sacrifice a bit of personal comfort to support the collective they are part of?
Judgment Day a Macro level:
A collective assessment to decide who should « be put on trial » and held accountable. A form of Covidian Weinstein. Lots of whistleblowing and entitlement to judge are expected to come. A scenario wherein individuals will embrace a Greta-Thunberg-like posture but applied to Covid management.
People will accuse brands and companies who tackled poorly the issue or worse, used it at people’s expense:
Companies laying people off during the crisis
Re-evaluation of staff’s treatment: for instance, the weak health measures taken by UberEats or Deliveroo to protect their staff. Uber. Cleaning staff. Carriers. Farmers.
After their heyday, mainstream supermarkets may be accused of having put their cashiers at risk. Smaller and more ethical players may find a new wave of popularity in contrast.
States and political figures:
Who knew and didn’t take the proper measures? See the case of back-then Minister of Health Agnès Buzyn who said in March she knew as early as Dec 2019/ Jan 2020 that thousands would die within months in France (link) and now openly states that nothing was done in preparation
We will have passed the stage of blurriness and hesitation on controversial topics (Chloroquine for instance) and regardless of their original posture, the public will condemn the camp of those who were wrong in their assessment
A strong interest of the great public to know how certain political or economic ties, dependency or submission of one’s state towards other nations may have led to a slower implementation of an optimal protocol
What usage has been made of data? On whose call and whose watch? See the case of South Korea, maybe the nation that tackled the pandemic the best notably thanks to a very smart usage of data collection and analysis, but not without controversy (link)
Focusing on the end-game and forgetting about the intricacies of how Covid-information developed and changed minute by minute for weeks/ months, people will choose a winner: the Nation(s) that tackled the situation the best
Clusters of nations who shared a common Covid-strategy and ideology will judge other clusters of nations: Herd Immunity (UK, Brazil) vs Data Trackers (South Korea, Japan, China) vs Lockdown Advocates (Italy, France, Spain, China) vs Systematic Testing (Germany, South Korea)
SIZING: I give this scenario a solid 100% index of penetration in the public debate but expect it to die shortly. To quote of very wise woman (my mom – hey mom!): “The World has a very short-term memory. We always think we’ll learn and remember but one event is always chased by the next, and people move on” Christine, 65yo, France
This space will stem from frustration and deprivation. Lust will be at its peak. People will want to make up for everything they have missed out on during confinement. A Post-War syndrome of sorts with a peak of consumption, especially in spaces related to hedonism and aesthetics.
Rush on restaurants and bars. Average basket/ user way higher than usual.
I personally foresee Corona’s sales to boom and to become an emblem of joy post-crisis (hang in there Corona!) – a form of f*ck you to the disease with numerous posts and hashtags on IG
Beauty and fashion:
From the very basics you couldn’t access during the crisis: hairdressers, manicure, jeans that got worn out.
To extras: expensive cosmetics, dressing up again, dolling yourself up for the outside world. Lots of thinking will be put into it as most will have gained weight and yet will want to look their best when seeing their friends again. Maybe wilder/ edgier haircuts.
Gyms and physical activity: gym addicts but also new members will come and rush. Clubs may stay opened later at night. Group classes will become even more popular than solitary training
Coaches: they will be particularly popular for obvious reasons - all the more that most managed to carry on with their classes online during confinement
Dating: peak of intercourses (on top of confinement babies set to get born in Jan – Feb 2021, people will seek variety of sexual experiences post-confinement) ; affairs that one could not consume during confinement for instance
Holidays: destinations that epitomize fun and carelessness (Cancun, Tulum, Bali, Thaïland) at the condition that these will be Covid-free. I sense people may prioritize crowded destinations over secluded ones. From a sensorial standpoint travelers will seek population density and liveliness
Events: concerts, festivals – I think people will flee quiet HoReCas for quite some time and favour noisy venues
Rise in cultural venues: following a heavy push of open-access digital exploration of museums, people will want to reconnect with the real thing
Big turn over in jobs could be an hypothesis, but only if people are confident enough by the state of the economy in their country
SIZING: I foresee a 80% of penetration of this scenario in society. The peak will be sudden with a massive economic impact but is likely to fade away after a few months.
This last scenario is likely to be less showy and thus go more unnoticed. In this future, people have self-reflected a lot during the crisis. It gave them the opportunity to re-establish personal priorities, distinguishing the essentials from what now feels more frivolous or expandable. It’s a nuclear shift leading people to declutter their lives and being more appreciative of simple pleasures.
Love and relationships: for relationships who survived, a greater bond fed by a shared resilience and a common history. Expectations may be scaled down: a couple realizing that maybe they are fine as it is and don’t need to save to buy a flat after all for example. A greater sense of contentment with what you have.
Travel: ideals may have changed here. Rather than fantasizing on a trip to the Maldives, people will have a greater appreciation for what is next door and plan trips within their own country – a country that, in a sense, became exotic in and of itself during a confinement spent in a 35m2 flat. Choices of hotels may now be more lead by the depth and quality of human interactions (a kind host at a local establishment) than the usual criteria such as design or prestige.
Consumption: the crisis has increased our sense of community. Confinement forced all to focus on a limited range of big retailers. In this future, consumers will seek to buy from cherished proximity stores oozing warmth and selling local products. Here again, the nature of service will play a big role. Casual and unhurried chit chat will re-appear in shopping sessions.
Work: people will reassess their horizons and consider changing jobs. It won’t be a rebellious or sudden act led by passion – rather, the fruit of maturity. Another manifestation may be living your current work situation with more acceptance and harmony. Realizing that certain types of stress and pressure are all relative.
Lifestyle: we will realize that being physically at work for the sake of it does not always make sense. We will embrace more agile working methods, including WFH and highly flexible online tools. Same goes for transportation: we will be likelier to replace our subway ride with walking or taking our bikes to work.
SIZING: I bet on a weak 20% of penetration of this scenario in society. The audience positioning themselves in this space will be limited in size but committed over the long-run. This future is to be taken as a silent yet steady wave.
MAKING SENSE OF ALL THIS
As stated several times, these 4 scenarios are all likely to happen and are not by any means exclusive of one another.
A strong caveat must be added: this basis pattern can and should be re-explored in the light of local nuances. Certain scenarios make be more and less prevalent in a given country for a variety of reasons: culture, ideology, state of the economy, number of casualties.
In marketing and strategy: all scenarios are designed to be used as a framework/ springboard for positioning, targeting, tone of voice, communication or innovation. And as a Brand Strategist, I’ll be more than happy to discuss with you your objectives/ needs and accompany you in this exceptional moment of our history.
I hope you found this pattern inspiring. I strongly welcome any builds, inputs – especially for a predictive exercice. This report is likely to be updated as history unfold.
Brand Strategist - Paris
Report under copyrights: Alexandre RICHARD™