Thought Leadership

From live sport to the big family Christmas, the cultural touch-points and rituals of daily life are changing irrevocably in the midst of the crisis. What is the role for brands in filling this void?

Whether it's live sports or the big family Christmas, perhaps brands can step in to give a little love this year.

Izzy Ashton

Deputy Editor, BITE

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As every brand, business and government official keeps reminding us, Christmas 2020 is going to look a little different to festive seasons gone by. As an unprecedented year draws to a close, many consumers are looking to moments of shared connection and nostalgia to find moments of comfort. And what’s more familiar than Christmas?

Indeed, this year according to research, people in the UK are celebrating Christmas earlier than ever. Christmas songs are creeping up the charts, trees glimpsed through every window and festive jumpers worn with careless abandon in mid-November. Because consumers are all just searching for a moment of joy, a moment that reminds them of happier times and of the momentary relief that a familiar tradition can bring.

But many of the cultural touch points that consumers long for have been dismantled this year by the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Cancelled in effect by lockdowns or by tier systems designed to protect us and the health of the nation but that have shifted every single person’s life in ways unrecognisable to our 2019 selves.

Alongside these shifting touch points has come a myriad change to daily life, reflected in the shifting buying behaviour and media consumption habits of households across the country.

But these changes signal opportunity for brands to offer help, guidance or even a moment of escape to consumers longing for the familiar. Whether that’s live sports or the big family Christmas, perhaps brands can step in to give a little love this year.

With that in mind, we asked a selection of industry experts, as the cultural touch-points and rituals of daily life change irrevocably in the midst of the crisis, what is the role for brands in filling this void?

It’s time for brands to come to consumers. To make our lives easier, and dare I say it, even that little bit luxurious, at home.

Katie Hind

Katie Hind

Katie Hind, And Rising.jpg

Head of Content & Social

And Rising

This year has been a real shocker.

We’re all knackered.

It’s time for brands to come to consumers.

To make our lives easier, and dare I say it, even that little bit luxurious, at home.

No more playing hard to get. Give me the goods and give them to me now.

It’s no surprise that sales of DTC products have skyrocketed during the pandemic. Whether it’s bar quality cocktails through the letterbox to make your Zoom socials more quaffable (Nio Cocktails), bum sculpting leggings that make your Zoom yoga class double take at your downward dog (Sweaty Betty), or restaurant quality recipe kits that give you an excuse to take a night off the aforementioned Zoom activities (Pasta Evangelists), we’re all turning to the brands who can help us win at living la vida lockdown.

Long may the reign of brands affording us everyday escapism direct to our front doors continue, I say.

And before you mutter, ‘these are just premium brands that a millennial like you would buy into’, let me remind you that, thanks to Heinz’s iconic Heinz to Home launch, you can now get spaghetti hoops and mayo on subscription. Now that’s my kind of luxury.

Create highly personal, deeply immersive opportunities to connect with people and tell your brand’s story.

Lily Robertson

Lily Robertson

Lily, AIP Media.JPG

Strategy and Planning Partner

Anything is Possible

Contact Theory, developed by psychologist Gordon Allport back in the 50s, suggests the more time we spend with others, the more we understand them. The industry is in love with personalisation and personal uniqueness but the individual’s experience only gains value in so far as it can interact with those around us and enhance our feelings of social worth.

Take away so much interpersonal contact, and finding a real role for brands becomes harder than ever.

There are still a million ways to create a sense of real connection between brand and audience, but it requires a subtler view of the individual as an embedded part of a greater whole. To ensure we speak to the whole individual, we use our ambient attention model.

Ambient Attention: Be in and around the places your audience live, work and play. Be alongside content they see and with creative that delights and delivers, but never distracts.

Active Attention: Make it easy for your brand to be found when and where they are pre-primed to engage.

Immersive Attention: Create highly personal, deeply immersive opportunities to connect with people and tell your brand’s story.

Cultural Attention: Develop cultural fame that delivers lasting brand impact. Spark conversations that go beyond your media investment. Tap into cultures and communities that are important to your customers.

Our cultural touch-points may be changing but people’s fundamental desire for connection has only been amplified.

Emma Williams

Emma Williams

Emma Williams, Space & Time.jpg

Account Director

Space & Time

There is a dangerous pitfall that brands can stumble into, and that is to think that they are more important to their audience than they actually are. Brands strive for attention and it’s easy to see how an audience with more free time and less distraction might be open to spending more minutes engaging with them. But, I would say don’t be fooled.

The void we are speaking of is not one craving brand activity but it’s one of meaningful connection. The brands that are successful here are those that first and foremost enable that content and connection. They are adding value to the new-found experiences of people across the country and indeed the world.

I believe this is the role that brands must play. Now is not the time to say ‘look at me, aren’t I a great product or service?’, it’s the time to say ‘I understand you and feel your struggle, here is how I want to help’. That resonance and authenticity is proven to have long-lasting effects on brand health.

Our cultural touch-points may be changing but people’s fundamental desire for connection has only been amplified. Sharing those messages or offering support to those that need it are the best ways brands can engage during what truly is a crazy time for everyone.

Brands at their best are beacons of hope shining beams of light on the road ahead.

Jon Forsyth

Jon Forsyth

Jon Forsyth, Neverland.png

Founder

Neverland

To seek out the upside in everything and show people relentless optimism and resilience. To find a way through, to find a way out, to find a way to make the umpteenth Zoom quiz interesting, fresh and entertaining.

Agencies and brands have always drawn their energy from change, good and bad, and in a crisis our job is surely to seek out the good that comes from any of the bad. For Christmas, it’s the warm, emotional, comforting escapism of Christmas advertising. And to find ways for Christmas to feel massive, even if a house is less physically full of people. To do it at scale in a way that only brands can do.

For live sport it’s giving people ways to see behind the scenes and gain depth to their passions. For business it’s been an unbelievable shift in long term brand strategy alongside the challenges of producing work at all.

For us all, it is probably accepting it’s no longer a void, but a change and we are able to fill it with hope and build on what’s gone before. Brands at their best are beacons of hope shining beams of light on the road ahead.

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Christmas Culture