Interviews

New Britannia: what brands should know about the national mindset in 2022

Lucy Crotty, Cultural Strategy and Insight Lead at ITV on the power of common ground in an age of polarisation.

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director

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The cultural firepower of ITV was in full force this week when Ant and Dec took the Prime Minister to task for holding a Christmas party at the height of the pandemic. With progressive marketers constantly challenging themselves to ensure they aren’t in a bubble; the public response to Ant and Dec’s I’m A Celebrity politics underlines the power of cut-through of mass-market media.

Understanding the motivations and mindset of that mass-market at a particularly fragile moment in our collective history is key to ITV’s latest insight report: A New Dawn? How to plan in line with the national mindset in 2022.

The report underlines the tensions of a society that, while far from post-pandemic, has a strong desire to live in the moment, rather than the mundanity of the daily risk assessments which have come hand in hand with the pandemic. 

It’s a tension brought to life in the report by Rachel Rapp, Associate Director of Crowd DNA. She explains: “I think survival for the average Brit is the main priority...we’ve been in fight or flight mode and you can’t just rid yourself of those collective adrenaline levels... it feels like we are free but we are not carefree.”

We have been in such a period of unstimulated limbo land and have lost so much control over our lives, now is the time to show people that they can enact change if they embrace the power of possibility once more

Lucy Crotty, Cultural Strategy and Insight Lead at ITV

A growth opportunity 

Yet after trauma comes the opportunity to grow and embrace new possibilities. Lucy Crotty, Cultural Strategy and Insight Lead at ITV, says that: “Much like pandemic life has caused people to adopt a short term mindset and focus on the here and the now, protecting their immediate worlds, so too have brands and businesses.” She continues: “There has been a need to concentrate on the immediate safety of staff and consumers, supply chains and contracting budgets.”

However, with a new year on the horizon addressing long term challenges is something that brands can no longer afford to put off. As Crotty explains: “I think everyone is quite bleary-eyed and fatigued in contrast to the energy needed to challenge and enact change.”

Yet, while 2021 might have left many of us feeling like the human equivalent of a scrambled egg, the importance of communicating possibility cannot be underestimated.

“We have been in such a period of unstimulated limbo land and have lost so much control over our lives, now is the time to show people that they can enact change if they embrace the power of possibility once more, they can be the tipping point so to speak,” adds Crotty.

A lot of people are very cautious at the moment and are still very focused on safety, stability and getting through each day, especially those with young families

Lucy Crotty, Cultural Strategy and Insight Lead at ITV

Adopting a progress mindset

Yet in the wake of so much loss and the mental load of day to day existence in the pandemic, adopting a positive mindset is not easy. Notably, in the wake of the great resignation, across the industry leaders report that a sense of a lack of progress is a key reason for the waves of departures and career diversions. 

Crotty notes that society is currently caught between the tension of the current need to protect against the pandemic and the need for a progress focused mindset. She explains: “A lot of people are very cautious at the moment and are still very focused on safety, stability and getting through each day, especially those with young families.”

She continues: “2020 was marked by a year of reflection where we preserved our little microcosms, tapped into comfort & familiarity (and eating our feelings) and pondered on what was important to us.”

2021, while in many ways still dominated by the pandemic, offered the opportunity to re-socialise and rebuild our pre-Covid routines and lives. Leaving consumers, as Crotty notes, ‘emerging like crabs from our shells’. Looking forward she notes that “all signals point towards 2022 being a year of renewal which will see us embracing change after years of relative stasis.”

Thriving in a polarised society

ITV’s research underlines an important theme; namely, that tension between progress and protection means that there is a danger when talking about the mood of the nation in binary terms.   

“You see the polarisation and extremes of society in so many different ways now, the haves versus the have nots, angry versus soft snowflakes, leave versus remain, climate anxious versus the laissez-faire,” explains Crotty. 

It is a trend that is playing out in a myriad of different ways and Crotty shares the example of a breakfast cereal brand which is seeing polarisation in its market; with sales spiking in indulgent cereals or uber-healthy and niche cereals but less so in the middle ground. 

She explains: “I think all of this is circling around the truth that in times of crisis, there is normally a binary reaction to coping with it and that normally falls along the lines of those who default to a conservative outlook and hunker down versus those who default to a progressive outlook and embrace possibility.”

We need to find those great spaces of common ground that can be real social levellers like slapstick silliness, discussing TV shows, talking about the weather, sharing tall tales, talking about loved ones and imparting life lessons. In these safe, unifying spaces we are not self-conscious nor do we fear being judged and therefore we are more carefree

Lucy Crotty, Cultural Strategy and Insight Lead at ITV

The power of common ground

At this uniquely fragile moment in time, the power of common ground and shared experiences is not to be underestimated. Crotty points to the way in which people are conscious of their binary responses to the pandemic - which are much talked about both in the industry and in everyday circles of life. A trend she believes is making people feel very self-conscious of what they say and how they behave. 

“We need to find those great spaces of common ground that can be real social levellers like slapstick silliness, discussing shows, talking about the weather, sharing tall tales, talking about loved ones and imparting life lessons. In these safe, unifying spaces we are not self-conscious nor do we fear being judged and therefore we are more carefree,” she adds

Finding those spaces and making the most of them demands great insight; whether that is in terms of new product development, proposition development or even finding new brand narrative territories. “In my opinion, it is essential for also providing those all-important guardrails of change and insight into what you should lean into or lean out of so that it provides a course of direction that feels safer to navigate,” says Crotty. 

Most people don't want a grand, lofty kind of life, they want to have a love-filled time that is full of memories and laughter, a 'good enough' TV life. I would encourage brands to embrace warm, observational humour, to show that mistakes are a chance to grow and that change is possible.

Lucy Crotty, Cultural Strategy and Insight Lead at ITV

With no shortage of challenges and commercial opportunities to navigate, Crotty believes that great insights should unlock commercial, creative and cultural advantage by helping to provide the context to intelligent problem-solving.

It is this intelligent problem solving and progressive attitude which will be vital for brands attempting to hit the right tone and build commercial advantage in New Britannia. A possibility which can be unlocked if brands and businesses alike manage the tricky balance of acknowledging what we have collectively been through, whilst also charting a positive course forward. A strategy that perhaps demands something which has been in short supply in the wake of the pandemic; hope. 

Yet the human spirit can provide that hope. As Crotty explains: “It has been a period of great flux but one of the clearest insights for me has been the resilience of the human spirit and ability to adapt, as Brits we find lots of tonic in stories about people overcoming adversity and meeting their obstacles head-on with a bit of grit, gall and ability to laugh things off.”

“Most people don't want a grand, lofty kind of life, they want to have a love-filled time that is full of memories and laughter, a 'good enough' life. I would encourage brands to embrace warm, observational humour, to show that mistakes are a chance to grow and that change is possible,” adds Crotty. 

While the urge to protect alongside the desire to progress might feel like they are pulling in opposite directions, the unifying theme of change is one that individuals and brands alike are hungry to embrace. 

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