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Ideas Strategy

The Global Takeaway: June 2020

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Essence

The Takeaway is a round up of key trends shaping behavior around the world, identified and analyzed by Essence's global strategy team.

In North America: On time

In 1748, Ben Franklin said that “time is money.” Since then, we’ve been conditioned towards productivity and performance, and time management has become its own industry. Our reliance on time has created an unrelenting anxiety towards achieving. How we spend our time plays into our sense of both self-esteem and self-worth. 

“Coronatime,” however, is different. It has no scale, and we don’t yet know what to measure it against. There are no traditional markers to measure its passage or how productively we’re performing in this context. This has created a “quarantine paradox.” One route that some have taken to crack this paradox is through untraditional productivity; two-thirds of people want to have “achieved something” during lockdown (Canvas8). For others, the absence of dependable time-based markers has shifted the center of where we create identity in society—and in ourselves. Some of us are enjoying fewer expectations and obligations to perform and achieve. 

 Signals

1) Across America, people are discovering (and rediscovering) crafts like flower-pressing, book-making, and needlepoint to pass the time.

2) Consumers are taking a hands-on approach to their food, with breadmaking and “victory gardens” soaring in popularity.

3) Many people are spending more time indoors than ever, and they’re diving into trends like cottagecore and wallpapering to give their homes a fresh look.

Why it matters

Without time to govern our self-worth, more of us are measuring its passing based on how we feel. In this space, a new leisure class of society may be emerging. Brands that enable spaciousness will drive emotional connections with this class. Brands may need to rethink traditional categories of productivity and achievement, instead exploring opportunities for introspection, bringing play and productivity together, and expanding our understanding of modern achievement.

In EMEA: Our relationship with the elderly

We’ve seen the headlines about how this pandemic is disproportionately affecting older populations; almost 15,000 people have died from COVID-19 in care homes in the UK since the start of the pandemic. But on top of that, older, more vulnerable populations have had to bear the brunt of self-isolating and social distancing. This has resulted in a worsening loneliness epidemic among the elderly. Calls to charities like Age Scotland have increased from an average of 70 calls a day to more than 700. 

However, the pandemic has a surprising silver lining: 51% of people in the UK believe that they will become closer to friends and family as a result of COVID-19 (Ipsos, 2020).  In many cases, the lockdown has brought families and generations closer together, with virtual connections now at the centre of our everyday lives. In fact, 1 in 4 of consumers are spending more time socialising as a family since lockdown (Mediacom). This desire and realization of togetherness in the face of the pandemic has been mainly powered by technology. Tech has played a principal role in sustaining the quality of life of elderly and vulnerable populations, allowing them to stay connected and maintain a sense of emotional wellbeing. 

Signals

1) Age UK Camden has developed a community scheme donating laptops to elderly people in isolation.

2) CitizenM hotels in London and Paris have donated iPads to help isolated patients and the elderly connect with family from afar.

3) 87-year-old Geoffrey told The Telegraph, “[My] grandchildren have been very good at setting me up with all sorts of things. I say, ‘I don’t know how’, and they say, ‘You just press this button’, then about 30 seconds later I’m ‘housepartying’. You can see somebody smile, which you can’t do on the telephone.”

4) New brand campaigns by Facebook’s Portal have been showcasing how their smart home displays are bringing joy into the daily lives of older generations during lockdown. 

Why it matters

Prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, “techlash” was on the tip of everyone’s tongue. However, COVID realities have helped to realize the core benefits of connection in a time of need. This seems like an obvious benefit, but senior populations are often overlooked when it comes to advertising by tech-focused brands. As we begin to return to and define a “new normal,” brands could look to this audience and segment to help change the landscape and attitudes towards technology to positive ends. In other words, connectivity and community can go hand in hand. 

In APAC: Gaming after COVID-19

As we live through the day to day of the pandemic, more and more of us are talking about gaming. Twitter reported a 55% boost in conversation in the category in April across the region. There were over 247 million tweets in APAC alone authored by 103 million unique users. Titles like Animal Crossing have helped drive much of this fervor, promoting ease of access. Core need states triggered by COVID-19 that gaming is helping to solve include socializing (connecting with friends and family), providing normalcy (making it a part of the daily routine), and idling (passing the time). 

This is an important conversation as the audience for gaming across APAC continues to diversify. An April survey by Google reveals that in China, women are spending more time gaming at home during the pandemic. They’re also spending more money, both on mobile games and platforms (78%) and on consoles (69%) according to ThinkWithGoogle. With many people stuck at home, we’re seeing a shift in the ways people play; mobile gaming has shown decreases at an average of 20%, while web-based or PC gaming has shown an increase of 40% since COVID began (MiQ).

Signals

1) NASCAR organised its IRacing series, where professional esports drivers take part in an online race. It had 1.3 million viewers and was broadcast on traditional sports TV channels like ESPN.

2) Quarantined students in Japan recreated their own digital ceremony in Minecraft, building a graduation hall equipped with a stage and seats for an audience. 

3) Companies like ISR Esports plan on opening senior-specific gaming facilities to help the elderly cope during the pandemic.

Why it matters

As gaming continues to evolve across the region, we can’t afford to ignore its role as a growing channel for consumers. Compared to other behaviors brought about by COVID-19, this one’s here to stay; 56% of new gamers globally agree that gaming is an activity that they will most likely continue even after COVID-19 (MiQ). Brands will need to consider gaming as a standard part of the media mix, thinking about gaming not just as a place to play, but a channel for meaningful communication with consumers.