The comfort economy

Sophie Lewis, Chief Strategy Officer at dentsuMB on the importance of simple pleasures, home comforts and how this Christmas, it really will be the thought that counts.

Sophie Lewis

Chief Strategy Officer dentsuMB


I had almost finished writing this and then last night I watched Episode 6, Series 4 of Schitt’s Creek. As the whole of the rest of the world has already seen it, I do not need to put a spoiler alert here. It was the one where Patrick (David’s boyfriend of four months, as marked by a giant heart-shaped cookie) kicked off the Open Mic night at Rose’s Apothecary with the most brilliant and touching version of ‘Simply the Best’ (a song I absolutely loathe), sung at a mortified David who is forced to realise, along with the with the audience (on the programme and us) that not only is Patrick is an incredible singer (I have had to revise my opinion of said song and have even gone as far as to look up the lyrics) but also a gorgeous, appreciative, loving boyfriend, full of enviable qualities and innocent charm.

My point? Schitt’s Creek is the ultimate comforter right now. We’ve survived the first wave. And it was all about survival. It was about staying in, doing our bit and staying alive. And waiting for it all to pass.

But now we’re into the hard yards. It hasn’t passed, yet, and summer has gone. The nights are closing in. I am bracing myself for Seasonal Affective Disorder and preparing to sew myself into the Unicorn Onesie until April.

We’re not sure of anything. Of our jobs, of our health, of our loved ones. We’re not even sure how many of us are allowed to sit in a pub garden together. And when the world and the fundamentals of our lives are so in flux, we look for ways to make things feel a little bit better.

Luckily, Bake Off is back, cue flour and yeast shortages again, and Gary Barlow has returned from his Grecian sojourn a stone lighter and with a new album.

My mother-in-law told me recently about The Repair Shop; she loves it. I have never seen it. She described it as ‘soothing’. In an article in Broadcast, it said, “The gentle daytime show has gone from strength to strength since it moved to 8pm in March”. March. There we go, a show in which some nice, gentle, people mend some stuff, slowly. Something to soothe away the brutality and darkness of the situation on the news on a daily basis.

There’s definitely something of the ‘simple pleasures’ already going on. The brands we trust and like and which just make us feel warm inside.

Sophie Lewis

A chance to hibernate

As a person who takes great joy in comforting, comfortable things, anyway, I am getting right into it. I see winter as a chance to hibernate and keep the same pair of tracksuit bottoms on for six months, so it’s not a great change. But what about everyone else?

I think it will be all about the little things we can do/buy to make ourselves feel better in the face of what’s turning out to be a pretty shitty year.

Post-recession in 2008, lipstick sales went crazy. I don’t think lipstick will be doing well this season -who cares? – although according to Boots, skincare is doing very well. I am not surprised; Teams has led me to consider Botox and plastic surgery in a way I never would have thought possible. But I am going to hazard a guess that chocolate will do well.

And tea and biscuits.

Simple pleasures

I suspect our treasured, most comforting brands will be going great guns. Heinz Baked Beans, Rich Tea Biscuits, Dairy Milk; there’s definitely something of the ‘simple pleasures’ already going on. The brands we trust and like and which just make us feel warm inside.

Equally self-care will feature heavily. Vitamins, exercise programmes - Peloton have already moved beyond the bike and everyone else has already moved their training sessions online - and Headspace seems to have been made for just this kind of global crisis. A nation of people trying to keep themselves mentally and physically healthy.

Not to mention cocooning or ‘hygge’ if you buy into all that minimalist Scandi stuff. Making our homes into nice, warm, soft, comfortable places to be. Hell, I may even get myself a couple of new cushions to replace the ones that are falling apart after being involved in a twin version of ‘Floor is Lava’ one too many times.

And the supermarkets are providing their version of comfort too. The most reassuring of creative devices, the ASDA pocket tap, invented by BJL, our partners in Manchester, in 1977, has returned. Accompanied by yet another Roll Back - it must work, otherwise they wouldn’t keep doing it, right? - ASDA are finding ways to help us through. They served me up five meals for £25 on Insta a couple of days ago; as the person who pushed ‘Feed Your Family for Fifty Pounds’ post-recession for Sainsbury’s I was looking for the T&Cs straight off the bat. But it’s a form of comfort and reassurance, none the less.

Give help where it’s needed most.

Sophie Lewis

It’s the thought that really counts

The new CEO of Tesco, Ken Murphy, said recently: “The overarching sense I feel is that Christmas this year is all about giving ourselves and each other a break and celebrating the fact that we’re all still alive, we’re as well as we can be and we have our closest family and friends around us.”

I’m with you Ken. And so, it would seem, are people. BJL did some vox-pops recently and asked people what they thought Christmas would be like this year. One person said: “it’s going to be homely” and she didn’t just mean the location.

She meant where we have, hopefully, a nice, quiet time. Possibly one where we actually think of those less fortunate than ourselves and try to help them in some way. I shall be watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, ‘Little Women’, ‘A Christmas Carol’ and most importantly, ‘The Wizard of Oz’. This will be the Christmas where it’s the thought that really does count.

And if you were planning to get me a present, don’t.

Give it to the Trussell Trust instead.

Guest Author

Sophie Lewis

Chief Strategy Officer dentsuMB


Sophie is the CSO of dentsuMcgarrybowen. She joined the agency from VMLY&R two weeks before lock-down and since then has brushed her hair maybe twice. An award-winning strategist, she spent seven years at BBH, working on Levi’s, Baileys, Vaseline and Flora/Becel, joining the board in 2004. At Mother, she ignited her love of retail, where she was the planner on Boots ‘Here Come the Girls’, to this day still the best qual response the brand has ever had. She became Group Planning Director at JWT, working on Nestle Confectionery and winning Debenhams, before moving to AMV BBDO in 2008 to work on Sainsbury’s. She wrote the ‘Live Well for Less’ strategy, including planning the acclaimed ‘Christmas in a Day’ campaign. As well as winning many plaudits, her tenure coincided with 36 quarters of growth for the retailer. She is mother to twins, Minnie and Arthur.

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