Thought Leadership

COVID-19 has driven a seismic shift in societal values in just 60 days

Whisper it quietly but the pandemic seems to be turning us into better people, writes Rebecca Wagstaffe, Business Development Director at 3 Monkeys Zeno.

Rebecca Wagstaffe, 3 Monkeys Zeno

Business Development Director


Whisper it quietly but the pandemic seems to be turning us into better people. A new study by 3 Monkeys Zeno shows that core societal values, which typically take generations to shift, have changed more dramatically in just 60 days than we have seen since the aftermath of the Second World War.

The study, An Historic Moment: The Values Shift in a Pandemic United Kingdom, breaks down the hopes, fears and values that are influencing human behaviour in pandemic-era Britain. A parallel study Zeno carried out in the United States tells a similar story, outstripping even the aftermath of 9/11.

On both sides of the Atlantic we are witnessing a shift away from self-interest to community spirit. Away from individualism and towards the wider collective. In every demographic, from Gen Z to Boomers, the number one rising value is Protecting the Family. A renewed sense of community is also reflected in Helpfulness and Duty becoming key rising values in our study. Besides this, Thrift, Simplicity and Self Reliance all feature in the top ten. Tellingly, Power and Ambition are increasingly seen as negative values, along with Status, Wealth and Self-Interest.

Here in the United Kingdom there is a physical manifestation of these shifting values. The NHS, which Nye Bevan built from the ashes of WWII, has been transformed from political punchbag to national treasure virtually overnight.

John Lynch, 3 Monkeys Zeno Strategy Director who analysed the results comments explained: We are three extraordinary months into a global historical moment where everything we accepted as the norm, the everyday, was wrenched away. This shock dislodged tightly held beliefs, causing some values to diminish and others to be elevated. But it’s a foolish company, institute or government that ignores this swing, as consumers will be unforgiving if your brand messaging strays from being aware, empathetic and helpful. We are at the start of this change, so buckle in, as we can expect the results of our second wave of research in the Autumn to confirm that this seismic societal shift is permanent.”


Visit 3 Monkeys | Zeno's profile to find out more or contact Rebecca Wagstaffe directly.

Guest Author

Rebecca Wagstaffe, 3 Monkeys Zeno

Business Development Director,


Rebecca is Business Development Director at 3 Monkeys Zeno. Across her twenty-year career she has honed her ability to spot a brilliant campaign at a hundred paces and specialises in encouraging teams to be bolder, be ambitious and look behind the brief. She helps 3 Monkeys to articulate the vision and convey what makes it unique to the wider world to help grow the business.

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