The New Reality | Suddenly, It Feels Like It’s 2025. And Things Look Good.
It feels like five years have been compressed into the last ten weeks. Rising trends have accelerated to become what feels like the norm, and new ways of doing things have burst into the open. Marketing, businesses, and brands have been turned upside down, and we are now experiencing the new reality.
There’s an old adage about how a frog will sit in a pot of gradually heating water until it boils alive, but if you put it into a pot of boiling water it would jump straight out. We are like the frog. We don’t notice an incremental change, but when things happen quickly it’s hard to ignore. And things have changed so fast that much of what has happened is hard to ignore, such as the contrast between then and now.
These are some of the changes that were either coming our way or have sprung up from nowhere. What ties them together is that they’ve had a profound, positive impact on how business works and customer attitudes – and hopefully will continue to do so.
Now we all trust digital services
Growth in the trust of digital services has been created by necessity. The most important services, such as medicine, have been forced into digital, and if you’ve learned to trust a doctor online you might find it easier to trust a retailer, a real-estate agent, or a bank.
At a basic, subsistence level the need to buy groceries has pushed people who have never shopped online into fully embracing it. Many won’t want to return to the old ways of buying.
Businesses that didn’t have an online presence have scrambled to build one, accelerating digital’s dominance. Marketo’s sister company, Magento, is reporting big increases in demand for its commerce solutions, often from companies that didn’t need it before coronavirus.
Until now, technology has generally moved ahead of society, which has often struggled to keep up with the pace of change. Suddenly it’s the other way round – society can’t get enough of technology, and we’re learning to put aside our doubts faster than ever before. The new reality is leading the way.
The business of volunteering
Gasfitters delivering food packages. Irish postal workers checking the elderly and vulnerable. Fashion brands producing masks and gowns. Corporations and businesses are helping out in ways that go beyond cash donations and the need to present a responsible face. This combination of practical and philanthropic is resetting expectations of what can be done.
Post-pandemic, it’s going to be tough for any business that’s volunteered services to take them away. There may even be an expectation from customers that brands, having shown what they’re capable of, should do more.
Fewer big events and more free stuff
Every major business event has been canceled, and many have been replaced by online versions which are often free. So no, we don’t get the interactions, the networking, the opportunities. But in return for nothing more than an email address we get a vast quantity of content, ideas and inspiration.
Will it be worth putting on large events? The corporate events industry has long been under scrutiny for the resources it consumes and the waste it creates. The cost, waste and associated travel, especially in light of the massive reduction in emissions created by the pandemic, makes them tougher to justify. And having had the doors opened for free, will anyone want to pay?
Events will not disappear. We value our social interactions too much, and post-pandemic they’re going to be even more important. But it seems likely that many will have to work a lot harder to justify their existence, and many will be replaced by virtual equivalents.
Goodbye presenteeism. Hello, flexible working dream.
We’ve been traveling towards increased remote working for years. Research from Global Workplace Analytics shows home working in the US has grown by 173% since 2005, but pre-pandemic only 3.6% of the workforce did it more than half of the week. Post-crisis, Global Workplace Analytics reckons it will up to 30%.
It’s been a long time coming, but now employers can see that it’s not necessary to have everyone where they can be seen, all of the time. Enforced remote working has shown that it’s possible to carry on without having anyone in the office, and that trusting staff to manage their own time isn’t such a bad idea. Flexible working can now finish off presenteeism.
Employees want it and have shown what many already knew: that they can be responsible, productive and present without the need for constant supervision or even turning up for work. The side-effects are welcome: less commuting, fewer cars on the roads, less energy used in mega-offices. And with up 60% of desks always empty, there are better ways of using all that space.
Doing more with less
Before the pandemic brands were assessing and often cutting massive agency budgets, taking creative work in-house or finding more effective ways to produce content. Lockdown has put an immediate end to wasteful, costly practices, removing at a stroke the resource of a huge film crew or big teams.
It’s forcing creatives to be more creative and the result has been some rapidly executed, brilliant work, and possibly better than would have been made with more money and time. Brands have taken to producing their own work: Kraft Heinz employees made a commercial, complete with a voiceover from a plant worker.
We’ve seen what can be done with less, and reverting to the big budget, big teams model is going to be harder, for agencies and clients. It’s made honesty a core value, something that often gets diluted by lengthy production and too much money. Leaner, smaller, and smarter has been approaching for some time. Now that the new reality has arrived, there’s no going back.