How long does it take to form a new habit? Sixty-six days according to University College London’s Dr Phillippa Lally, which is how long we’ve been in lockdown in the UK, give or take the odd day.
So, it stands to reason that this period of enforced isolation has lasted long enough to break habits around brand use. This can work in one of two ways for businesses: it can present an opportunity for those fleet of foot or well-placed to step in to meet post-lockdown behaviours but it is also a threat to brands relying on established occasion purchasing.
COVID-19 has been devastating and dramatic; most of us have not seen such a behaviourally disruptive force in our lifetimes, certainly not one so universally felt. So, if ever brand owners needed it, now is time to reconsider the basis of their customer affiliation; to face the fundamental issue of emotional loyalty versus practical convenience and recognise that brands may have misread mindful loyalty for mindless habit.
Emotions have been heightened throughout this experience and so the feelings of being supported, or let down, by brands are strong. Brand consumption based purely on familiarity and occasions has been at particular risk in lockdown; indeed, it is always vulnerable when change is forced upon us. Brand use longevity is better forged when it satisfies relevant and powerful need states, as these prevail, whatever the occasion.
While some need states are intrinsically linked to a key time of day, it is beholden on brands to demonstrate and remind consumers of the broader relevance and frequency of those same need states, whatever the time or occasion.