The global pandemic and ensuing social restrictions have meant that within a short time, many things have changed. Citizens have lost control in many aspects of their lives and are developing new behaviours and habits to regain control. Illuminate Asia wanted to help our clients understand this better; so we conducted independent research:
- Participated in a global collaborative initiative, "Not Everyday Life" comprising of 323 in-depth interviews in 42 countries (13 interviews in Indonesia).
- Conducted 2 focus group discussions with housewives in Indonesia.
After talking to consumers about their concerns and coping strategies, we identified 11 key areas which were mapped using 2 axes (personal vs community and functional vs emotional) into 4 quadrants.
1. Functional and Personal Quadrant
a) Digital Divide - Inequitable access to internet and technology is a concern; with elderly and less tech savvy consumers struggling to adopt new technology. But the situation has led to an increase in use of technology overall, even amongst those less confident. Online shopping has increased dramatically, as has the range of purchase channels; and small entrepreneurs converting to online.
b) Economic uncertainty - We see lower incomes (often not sufficient to cover daily needs, with no ability to save) and ongoing concerns over job security and price rises. Thriftiness is the core coping mechanism, with more careful spending. But some still need to rely on savings or community support; and look for other forms of income (starting new businesses or modifying existing business models).
c) Fear of getting sick - Many have concerns about hygiene quality; whether they are cleaning well enough. Some are fearful to go out in case they catch the virus or become a carrier. There are enhanced health & hygiene rituals emerging; using masks, hand sanitizers, antibacterial products, and washing hands and showering more.
2. Personal and Emotional Quadrant:
a) Loss of Freedom - The inability to leave the house gives rise to cabin fever, whereby people easily feel bored at home. During Ramadan, the inability to pray at mosques or worship together is acutely felt.
b) Decline of mental health - As seen in many parts of the world, Indonesians are vulnerable to stress and uncertainty, as well as becoming accustomed to new routines. People ease mental health by use of social media, online shopping, digital entertainment and gaming. A few put effort into limiting time reading the news, as a way to avoid stress. And for some, even an excursion to a local shop becomes a recreation.
c) Inadequacy & loss of purpose - Consumers complain of a feeling of loss of purpose in life, feeling useless and a lack of commitment, discipline and creativity. Some feel emotionally tired and feel inadequate in new roles (homemaker, teacher etc). But some Indonesians are taking this time as an opportunity to reflect, learn and improve themselves. They have become more experimental and innovative; trying new things from new cooking recipes to new hobbies.
Also, religion is being used as a way to seek solace during this time; as a way to find inner peace and positive mindset. Indonesians claim they have become more disciplined in performing religious practices such as prayer and joining online gatherings.
3. Community and Emotional:
a) Loss of connection - With social distancing, there is a real loss of connection, physical human touch and there is less ability to rely on the social structures and support groups. As a way to cope, people are turning to technology to maintain connections with loved ones via video calls, social media, messaging.
b) Household tensions - As families are forced to spend more time together; often in a confined space; there are more family tensions and arguments; as many struggle to balance multiple (often new) roles of caregiver, worker, educator. As a way to cope, family members are having more discussions and negotiations and giving space when needed.
c) Disinformation - With so much information to absorb and many hoax news stories, consumers find it overwhelming and confusing; which leads to additional anxiety. It requires greater energy and processing to filter out the real information.
4. Community and Functional Quadrant:
a) Chaos & discrimination - There is a fear that the pandemic will further divide society leading to social unrest caused by economic.
b) Lack of trust in authority - Inconsistent messaging from the government and a lack of transparency (especially at the start of the pandemic) has resulted in unfulfilled expectations for many; that there has been too little action too late.
Indonesians are known for their resilience and community spirit when facing adversity. So too now we see those more privileged recognising the importance of caring for and supporting those with lower incomes; via food or monetary donations. We see local communities coming together and developing their own initiatives including donations, local cleaning and education about hygiene procedures.
CONCLUSION - What does it mean for brands?
I. Use an empathetic tone. It's important for brands to be empathetic and to resist the temptation to talk about themselves; but rather focus entirely on how they can help consumers to overcome their fear and anxiety. Sincerity is the key as consumers can see through superficial attempts to exploit the pandemic. The tone of voice is also important and should be friendly, optimistic, compassionate and not manipulative or fear mongering; but should stay true to your brand's essence. Here is a great example of the Bird's Eye communication.
II. Understand the consumers' need for control - Think about the role the brand can play; what can it do to bring a benefit to people who are anxious, unsure, financially restricted and physically confined - recognise this tension; adjust product and service offers; adjust pricing and contractual conditions; think about how your brand can help people in their new day to day life. Be present, be helpful, play a relevant role and where possible, give resources and help to navigate new daily life.
III. Help customers ease their mental burden - Mental health is increasingly important, and brands can have a role to help provide escapism and comfort; consumers are more experimental, so it is an opportune time for brands to launch new products. Brands can provide simple tips to manage mental health; and don't be afraid to use humour, people need a laugh.
IV. Be a good citizen - Enable the brand to make a positive, active impact to the community to do something real and meaningful to help the people impacted by the crisis. Where possible, the band should help consumers to be altruistic within their local community, and to take care of the marginalized.
V. Don't go dark - Now is the time to communicate as consumers are spending more time consuming media. It is important to build brands now for post-pandemic conditions, as without this, brands risk losing an opportunity to create meaningful relationships with consumers and a loss of brand salience and equity.
VI. Still be distinctive in brand communications - It is interesting to note how similar much of the global Covid-19 advertising has become in terms of tone and messaging. Here is the example of Covid-19 advertising.
For more information, here is the link to the YouTube to watch the session and also to the podcast to listen: