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(Part 2) Discovery in a Time of Coronavirus

Intro

Intro

In Human Truths in a Time of Coronavirus, McCann Worldgroup’s Truth Central investigates how brands, businesses and organisations can leverage truth to play a meaningful role in this challenging time. This blog focuses on the truth about Discovery in a Time of Coronavirus.

The quest for medical discovery is at the forefront of all of our minds at this time. Medical professionals and scientists around the world are racing to develop effective treatments and a vaccine for Covid-19.

But the desire for discovery goes beyond medicine and science into the realms of culture, creativity and imagination. 1 out of 8 people globally say they would choose books or streaming media over medical supplies or pantry items as their only item to keep in shelter.

To explore these dynamics, Truth Central looked at the opportunities for discovery that exist across all facets of our lives. From the introspective to the global and everything in between.

Discovering the self

Discovering the self

With the outside world suddenly put on hold, many are on a new journey to discover a place free from the distractions of modern life: their innermost selves. The time away from the grind of daily life has revealed new opportunities for people to take stock of who they are when the distractions are stripped away.

Spoken word artist, musician, actor and activist Riz Ahmed summed it up when he said “One of the most challenging things many of us will face is our own inner voice. Who are we without productivity? Who are we without our careers? Without our audiences? Without our social lives?”

The abundance of time spent at home has prompted people to develop new skills, pick up new hobbies, and even launch new side hustles. In our study, 17% of respondents globally have picked up a new hobby as a result of the pandemic.

However, for some, isolation poses more threats than opportunities, especially in the era of the 24-hour news cycle. Our data shows that 19% of people globally say they’ve stopped reading the news as it upsets them. A balance must be found between staying informed and staying calm.

There is no one-size-fits-all for the lockdown experience. For some, it has provided an opportunity to focus on simple joys without distraction. For others, it’s an opportunity for self-improvement. Yet, for some, isolation poses psychological and physical risks. Brands and organisations that respond with empathy and sensitivity to this range of experiences will be welcome guests.

At-home exploration

At-home exploration

Today, our homes are the setting for almost every aspect of our daily lives. In our research, we see that 42% of people globally believe their home is their sanctuary.

We’re discovering new things about our homes and finding novel ways of improving them. Those of us lucky enough to have gardens are devoting numerous hours planting veg patches or creating miniature versions of the hanging gardens of Babylon. In Ireland, the arrival of gardening and BBQ equipment to Aldi in Lidl resulted in queues so big they made social distancing impossible. The Gardaí have reportedly asked for these specials to be cancelled. This is why we can’t have nice things.

Back inside, families are finding ways of discovering the world from their own homes. Parents have tapped into creative sources to keep children entertained.

Our client, Microsoft have created DreamSpace HomeSpace. They have designed a series of online lessons that can be joined live, or on demand. These lessons equip students with basic computer science knowledge that will spark their creativity and urge them on to greater discoveries.

The value and role of home has shifted significantly for many. In the best circumstances, this is an opportunity to tap into a deeper relationship with the home and the people in it. How can your brand address the challenges of a “life from home” with expansive opportunities?

It’s all about playing to your strengths. In the two years that DreamSpace at One Microsoft Place has been open, they have welcomed over 20,000 students. Microsoft had the experience and expertise to make DreamSpace HomeSpace a reality. By adapting how they operate, Microsoft are creating change for good, at home, in schools and in the future workforce.

If you have a DIY brand, host Instagram live workshops demonstrating home improvements that can be made with items people already have. If you own a gallery, offer virtual tours or post video classes about pieces in your collection. Use the knowledge you have within your team and share it with the world.

Stats for Exploration

42% of people

globally believe their home is their sanctuary.

Reviving cultural traditions

Reviving cultural traditions

With everything but essential services suspended, many are taking a back-to-basics approach. Nearly three-quarters of the world (73%) say they are staying away from public places and are rediscovering simpler traditions.

We had become used to having a diverse menu of exercise trends to choose from. But with SoulCycle, CrossFit and barre studios closed indefinitely, many people are returning to natural forms of exercise, like jogging. Major cities are reporting an increase in socially-distancing runners.

Milk and bread–two staples in many western diets–are getting the traditional treatment too. While the proliferation of sourdough bread in your Instagram feed might make it seem trendy, sourdough is the oldest form of leavened bread. It was even used in Ancient Egypt. In the U.K. demand for milkmen has increased. While milkmen were originally needed to deliver fresh milk daily because of the lack of refrigeration, now they offer an alternative to standing in socially distant queues outside the corner shop.

18% of people globally say they will focus on their faith as a result of the outbreak. And so, the faithful billions are learning to adapt religious traditions. The Vatican cancelled public participation in its Easter celebrations, but they streamed and televised them on multiple platforms. With Jewish families unable to gather for Passover, many hosted virtual Seders. While Muslim communities around the world came together for Iftar Online during Ramadan.

There is a hunger for tradition and ritual. At this time of radical change, simple acts of communion, exercise, and faith are providing an escape. What role can your brand play in respecting, celebrating, and enhancing the value of cultural traditions as a means to find solace in this time of crisis and beyond?

Stats for Cultural Traditions

73% of people

say they are staying away from public places and are rediscovering simpler traditions.

18% of people

globally say they will focus on their faith as a result of the outbreak.

Revealing society's fault lines

Revealing society's fault lines

As streets of cities across the world empty and hospitals are overwhelmed with the ill, the fault lines of societies are being exposed.

In the U.K., as the number of hospitalised doubles on a daily basis, there is every indication that ethnic minorities are succumbing to illness from Covid-19 at a higher rate than others. The same is true in the United States where disproportionate numbers of African Americans are falling ill.

Here in Ireland, the pandemic has highlighted the conditions of those living in direct provision, where 1,700 people are sharing a bedroom with one or two non-family members.

Collectively, the pandemic is exposing the structural inequalities that persist within countries as well as across regions.

The coronavirus pandemic is revealing the systemic and enduring inequalities of societies around the world. We know that 73% of people globally expect brands to promote diversity. Given the urgency of the crisis, organisations that detect inequities and respond by filling the gap will earn trust.

Stats for Society

73% of people

globally expect brands to promote diversity.

Seeing new heroes

Seeing new heroes

“Not all heroes wear capes” has never been more apt. Today’s heroes have an entirely different uniform. Medical staff wear PPE. Cleaners were masks and gloves. Supermarket workers wear collared t-shirts behind a wall of plexiglass. Local authority workers were high vis jackets as they keep our now quiet cities running.

Now deemed essential, many of today’s heroes are those who had been taken for granted. Nurses, teachers, cleaners, postal, factory and supermarket workers. Coronavirus has made us appreciate and celebrate them all, but it has also shone a light on the difficult conditions they often work in.

Amazon workers have staged walkouts for a lack of protective gear. Asos employees in the U.K. have referred to crowded distribution centres as “cradles of disease”. Here in Ireland, three clusters of Covid-19 have been identified in meat processing plants.

Truth central’s research found that 59% of people globally believe the best thing brands and businesses can do to help in the crisis is look after their employees. Brands must protect their employees to protect their reputation.

The crisis has revealed those working hardest for the safety of all, even in normal times. Once things begin to re-open, how can we continue to focus on and support these essential heroes of society?

Stats for New Heroes

59% of people

globally believe the best thing brands and businesses can do to help in the crisis is look after their employees. Brands must protect their employees to protect their reputation.

“When it Got Real”

“When it Got Real”

We all watched as the coronavirus spread from Wuhan and China to beyond, infiltrating one nation after another. But despite watching it all unfold, for many, things only “got real” when the virus hit their own country.

As the virus raged in China and they adapted to a new confined and isolated reality, the rest of the world carried on as if it was somebody else’s problem. As reports from Italy and Iran painted a grim picture, we largely continued with life as normal.

Here in Ireland that all changed with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s address on Friday March 12th. People gathered around computer screen in work to hear the speech that would launch lockdown in this country. But, it was his moving address on what had been a very unusual St. Patrick’s Day that made it “real” for most of us.

“This is a Saint Patrick’s Day like no other. A day that none of us will ever forget. Today’s children will tell their own children and grandchildren about the national holiday in 2020 that had no parades or parties… but instead saw everyone staying at home to protect each other. In years to come… let them say of us… when things were at their worst… we were at our best.”

Leo Varadkar, March 17th 2020.

Brands and companies were quick to react to change the tone and messaging of their advertisements to reflect the new reality. Guinness, for example, adopted a viral poster created by freelance copywriter Luke O’Reilly.

We have learned that discovery is frequently responded to with denial. With one country after the next demonstrating strikingly similar behaviour, a well-established pattern has emerged. Organisations with a global footprint are well-positioned to recognize these patterns and anticipate their shortcomings to provide a clear path to evolution and renewal.

We have learned that discovery is frequently responded to with denial. With one country after the next demonstrating strikingly similar behaviour, a well-established pattern has emerged.

The virality of fake news

The virality of fake news

As we said in our Connection in A Time of Coronavirus Blog, technology has supercharged our ability to communicate with each other while in isolation.

This presents a multitude of opportunities for connection, but it also creates a fertile environment for misinformation.

The scope of fake news and misinformation could negate the brilliant efforts being made to contain the virus around the world, especially unfounded claims about a supposed cure. In Iran, one of the worst affected countries, a rumour circulated that alcohol could treat COVID-19. This rumour led to 37 deaths and sent 270 people to the hospital after being poisoned by bootleg alcohol.

On French social media, some people argued that coronavirus could be cured by cocaine. This claim had such a big echo on social media that the French authorities had to intervene to dismiss it.

But misinformation is not only spread online. Indeed in a televised address from the White House Briefing Room, President Donald Trump suggested that injecting disinfectant and UV light could possibly treat the virus.

Fake news is a virus. It is the antithesis to scientific discovery and progress, and the pandemic has shone a clear light on it. The only viable treatment is expert opinion and oversight.

As people around the world are overwhelmed by the revelation of new discoveries, the role of the truthteller is paramount in the global conquest of the crisis. 38% of people globally say brands should help people understand the truth as a result of the crisis. How does your brand embrace its duty to shed light on facts and dispel myths and falsehoods?

Stats for Fake News

38% of people

globally say brands should help people understand the truth as a result of the crisis.

The unified race to discover a cure

The unified race to discover a cure

1 in 5 people say that life will only go back to normal when we have a vaccine or cure. Scientists and companies around the world have swiftly mobilised to increase our ability to test and monitor the disease, and find a cure.

United by a common goal, the scientific community are collaborating in unprecedented ways. As the New York Times recently observed, while “political leaders have locked their borders, scientists have been shattering theirs, creating a global collaboration unlike any in history. Never before, researchers say, have so many experts in so many countries focused simultaneously on a single topic and with such urgency.

In addition, a not insignificant body of research has been produced in non-medical areas such as the social sciences, to understand the long-term impact of the pandemic, underlining the need for cross-sector collaboration.

Technology leaders have also stepped up to tackle solutions to the virus. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, for example, said his foundation will spend billions of dollars to fund the construction of factories for the most promising efforts to develop a vaccine to combat coronavirus.

As the global community is united with a common goal, companies and professionals are creating cross-sector collaboration the likes of which we have rarely seen. How do we maintain this spirit of partnership in the service of progress throughout and after the crisis?

Stats for Connection

1 in 5 people

say that life will only go back to normal when we have a vaccine or cure.

Rediscovery of the natural order

Rediscovery of the natural order

According to the BBC over 100 countries worldwide had instituted either a full or partial lockdown by the end of March 2020, affecting billions of people. As a result, human activity screeched to a halt. Planes remain on the ground, cars lay still in driveways, public transport scheduled are reduced, and takeaway coffee cups have become the thing of “remember when” dreams.

As pollution rates drop around the world, it will be hard for anyone to attest that human activity is not the cause of climate change. Air quality could become even more critical as The Guardian reports that preliminary studies have suggested that air pollution levels is linked to significantly higher rates of death in people with Covid-19.

Stuck inside and forced to plan their shopping more (or face daily queues), consumers are considering their consumption more carefully than ever. We are buying less, using less and cooking more.

With little better to do, those who had not already Marie Kondo’d their houses (I bet a few of those things you got rid of could spark a bit of joy right now) are clearing out their wardrobes.

A reduction in mass-consumption can only be good for the planet, but it will also have a devastating impact on businesses and therefore people’s livelihoods. Large apparel companies like the Gap have cancelled all summer and fall orders, which will have a devastating impact on supply chains and people’s lives in places as far-reaching as Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia.

As humans retreat to their homes, animals have started to reclaim their territory. Goats have taken over a town centre in Wales. Deer are grazing on the green spaces of housing estates in London. In San Francisco coyotes have been visiting the Golden Gate Bridge. And here in Dublin, Sam the fox has made the normally bustling Grafton Street his home.

Efforts to battle the pandemic are reducing human activity, giving the natural world space to flourish. Sustainability has long been a buzzword in many industries, but the pandemic has brought its realities into sharp focus, reminding us that we are part of, not apart from, nature. As the world opens back up, how can we re-think business models to create change for good? How can we show that we respect our connection to the natural world in meaningful ways?

As humans retreat to their homes, animals have started to reclaim their territory […] And here in Dublin, Sam the fox has made the normally bustling Grafton Street his home.

We use digital, content and brand communications to create change for good in the world, every day at McCann Dublin, even when working from home. Talk to us about how encouraging connection in the time of coronavirus could benefit your business.

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