Welcome to the age of ‘Personal Bubbles’

Post pandemic, we are seeking comfort in the body, the home and the neighbourhood

Patricia McDonald

Global Chief Strategy Officer Dentsu Creative


For every reaction, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

For some, being locked down was a moment to open up to new possibilities; to connect more fully with the virtual world.

For others, the combined anxiety of the pandemic and the climate crisis have prompted a retreat to the security of the body, the home, the joys of local and the power of the neighbourhood.

We see this trend unfolding as part of what we call the “Great Decentralisation”- a powerful shift away from conventional centres of ownership and authority and towards networks of choice, passion and mutual reward.

For some this manifests in new, distributed models of ownership; think Constitution DAO raising some $43 million to bid on a copy of the US Constitution. For others it comes to life through an escape, and investment, in virtual spaces we see virtual products change hands for thousands or even millions of dollars.

But for others, this great decentralisation manifests as a desire to retreat into personal, or hyper local, self-sufficiency: the trend we call Personal Bubbles.  Within that macro trend we see three key themes:

Our homes have become our offices, our cinemas, our bars, gyms and restaurants over the course of the pandemic. As the hospitality sector opened up, many proved reluctant to dive back in

Patricia McDonald, Head of Strategy & Consulting, Creative, dentsu International

1.Home Bodies: The wealth of data now available on every aspect of our wellbeing becomes a source of certainty and control in a volatile climate. Next generation wearables are developing extraordinary predictive capabilities: In recent studies both FitBit and Apple Watch demonstrated the ability to detect Covid 19 before the wearer became symptomatic.

On an altogether more adorable note, our teams in Dentsu Japan have prototyped a new kind of wearable, the Marshmallog- a "connected stress toy" that uses gyro sensors and flexible pressure sensors to measure and relieve stress.

2.Personal Economies: Our homes have become our offices, our cinemas, our bars, gyms and restaurants over the course of the pandemic. As the hospitality sector opened up, many proved reluctant to dive back in. Data from Ernst and Young’s Future Consumer Index reveals that 52% of respondents globally are much less likely to go out than they were pre-pandemic (58) (Source, EY Future Consumer Index, Wave 8)

This lingering anxiety fuelled a rise in home entertainment opportunities such as pre-mixed cocktails. Bacardi acquired “pre-batched” cocktail company Tails in 2020, while Waitrose launched a “Wine Tasting at Home” service offering wine and cocktail tasting kits, including virtual advice, tasting notes and mixology advice from the experts.

While the experience sector struggled, in-home experiences were transformed. Projects such as HELD by tech studio Bitter Suite promise a “multi-sensory concert in a box”, offering users taste and scent samples, a blindfold, access to an online portal and tips on props to find around the home. The Zuseum Art Gallery in Riga created a gallery experience within a food delivery app.

3.The Digital Neighbourhood: Spending more time at home, we have rediscovered the power of the neighbourhood.

We see an appreciation of all things hyper local and hyper authentic. Burger King sponsored fourth division UK football team Stevenage FC. Hollywood megastar Ryan Reynolds purchased Wrexham Football Club, and has released his new movie, Red Notice, with Welsh subtitles in tribute.  A small town in Lancashire has come together to buy and revive the local pub, library and community shop.

Young people in China show renewed interest in their Chinese culture and heritage.  The ‘Handscroll Treasure Hunting’ series on Bilibili, drawing heavily on traditional Chinese cultural references, attracted over 160 million views and over 6 million fans online.  

Old traditions have been revived; powered and accelerated by new technologies. Communities have come together to take action and make changes far from conventional centres of power.

Many of these community initiatives are also instrumental in driving more sustainable behaviours; a study from the Institute for Public Policy, cited in The Guardian, shows that community projects, often instigated with the intention of tackling poverty, have the additional benefit of reducing emissions.

Initiatives such as Repair cafes or renewable energy schemes, such as Bristol’s Energy Cooperative, a “people owned power station” aim to offer more affordable solutions for the community, by the community.

Further afield, propositions such as Otipy connect communities with farmers, empowering both local vendors and local consumers through the power of technology, while close to home the Olio platform, designed to tackle food waste, goes from strength to strength.  

Guest Author

Patricia McDonald

Global Chief Strategy Officer Dentsu Creative


Pats McDonald, is a multi-award-winning global strategist who has led the strategic and creative development for brands from Levi’s to Unilever to Sony and Kellogg’s. Patricia’s career spans over 20 years at many of the UK’s top agencies – including BBH, CHI & Partners, Weber Shandwick and Isobar. In her role of Global Head of Strategy and Consulting, Pats is responsible for working to support the delivery of world-class capabilities and services to dentsu’s clients. 

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