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(Part 3) Connection 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 Connection in a Time of Coronavirus.

Our social connections are being affected by the Covid-19 pandemic in deeply complex ways, with repercussions we have yet to understand. On the one hand, we have been forced to shrink the distance from those we live with, and on the other, we have been cut off from our friends, colleagues, social circles, service providers, and neighbours.  However, if this pandemic has taught us anything so far, it’s that the human need for connection will find a way to be fulfilled.

To understand these tensions and the opportunities they provide, Truth Central investigated key trends, exploring how brands, companies and organisations can bring people together in ways that build genuine connections and create change for good.

Dangerous Connections

Dangerous Connections

One of the more immediate, and abrupt, changes in our daily lives due to the coronavirus pandemic has been the reduction in physical contact and connection. Our hands and their touch, once a vehicle for self-expression, love and care are now seen as carriers of a deadly virus.

The small actions that kept us close, could now put us in danger. The handshake at the start of a meeting. The hug of greeting from a friend. The comforting hand of a parent on your shoulder. Dancing with a stranger. Kissing your significant other. The removal of these moments is affecting our connections in profound ways.

In a climate where close contact is the enemy, brands that are evolving their services to be contact-free or reduced-contact where at all possible are leading the way. These gestures are clearly welcomed by consumers who are actively looking to minimize any associated risk.

LFH: Living from Home

LFH: Living from Home

In an astounding feat of collective behaviour change, citizens of the world are conducting full lives from home. This could not have been imagined a few months ago. Yet, digital innovations, internet access, and human ingenuity have enabled many to establish routines that replicate aspects of ‘normal’ life.

Teachers and fitness trainers have quickly mastered technology to provide on-demand classes. Others are reconnecting with dormant passions like cooking, learning recipes from their favourite chefs on Instagram Stories.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people are adapting to working from home. From avoiding the commute to having lunch with loved ones, the benefits of working from home are becoming apparent. However, as long video meetings with dodgy connections become more common, the novelty could soon wear off.

The impact on the big technology platforms facilitating this epic wave of connection is still unfolding. As technological connectivity is turbo-charged across sectors, big issues like privacy and technology
regulation are being impacted.

Addressing the new landscape of connections from home is not a one-size-fits-all solution and requires a nuanced understanding of who people are, their cultural context, and how a brand fits into their new lives. Brands that have adapted quickly to re-establish a sense of connection among people isolating at home have provided a welcome relief for the world’s consumers.

As technological connectivity is turbo-charged across sectors, big issues like privacy and technology regulation are being impacted.

Connections in the Void

Connections in the Void

The conditions of coronavirus containment have pitted a global drive for physical health against key components of well-being, including connection. Connection is particularly important at key moments or milestones.

Unsurprisingly, Gen Z have been particularly creative in how they’ve adapted to celebrate key moments in lockdown. Students all around the world haven’t let school closures rain on their graduation parades.
Elementary school students in Japan recreated their auditorium in Minecraft to host their own celebration, complete with a stage and ample seating.

Last year, 77% of people globally agreed that to be connected to someone or something today requires technology, a figure that’s sure to have risen since the outbreak. But, for those who are not part of
online communities, quarantine conditions have resulted in a growing sense of isolation.

To meet that challenge social bonds that had previously dissolved have found solidity, with people around the world finding creative ways to strengthen their communities and battle isolation.

As people look to replicate beloved offline experiences, how can brands help facilitate and ease the transition to a digital-first means of connecting? And, how can they ensure that everyone feels included and involved on new platforms? Can technology also be used to empower those not currently part of online communities?

Stats for Connection

77% of people

globally agreed that to be connected to someone or something today requires technology, a figure that’s sure to have risen since the outbreak.

The pandemic that launched a million memes

The pandemic that launched a million memes

Laughter may not be the cure to coronavirus, but it has been the medicine of choice for countless people and communities around the world. Few cultural phenomena have evolved as rapidly as our collective obsession with memes. 1 in 5 people globally say that one of the potential upsides to the coronavirus outbreak is that “there will be lots of good memes.” Every cloud…

Memes aren’t just funny and shareable images; they’re social commentary, collective creativity, and can provide a sense of community.

The power of memes is now being harnessed to spread key information to combat the coronavirus. In a housing estate in Tallaght Dublin, street artist Emmalene Blake is painting memes to communicate messages about physical distancing and staying at home. One of her pieces that referenced Cardi B’s viral coronavirus video was posted by the rapper herself. Memeception is real.

As the role of memes expands beyond younger audiences to become an inter-generational medium, brands should be aware of the power of memes as a gateway into the collective psyche. This does not necessarily mean they need to create them, but by speaking ‘meme’ through retweeting and amplifying the sentiment felt by
consumers, they can demonstrate they understand their audience and stand with them.

As the role of memes expands beyond younger audiences to become an inter-generational medium, brands should be aware of the power of memes as a gateway into the collective psyche.

Quarantine for the 1%

Quarantine for the 1%

How this pandemic and the resulting lockdown is perceived is directly linked to privilege. While many see it as an opportunity to slow down and reconnect to what’s really important, others who are suddenly out of work worry about how they will keep their homes and feed their families.

The pandemic is shining a stark light on inequality around the world. Reports are circling of wealthy families buying out small hotels, fleeing to serviced vacation homes, or loading onto private yachts with extended family members. Here in Ireland, a wealthy family bought out a small 9-room hotel outside Dublin for €25,000. Meanwhile, in the same city, charities that like Peter McVerry Trust are scrambling to find additional housing for homeless people who cannot currently safely isolate.

How do brands strike the balance between helping, raising awareness, and providing delight while being mindful and respectful that many people are suffering because of this crisis?

Those who are doing this successfully are using their position to benefit the 99%, not the 1%. By donating profits or director’s salaries to employee wellbeing or charitable funds, or using their resources to innovate and develop solutions to the pandemic, brands can use their privilege to create change for good.

While many see it as an opportunity to slow down and reconnect to what’s really important, others who are suddenly out of work worry about how they will keep their homes and feed their families.

Privacy in a pandemic

Privacy in a pandemic

In Truth Central’s Truth About Privacy they found that 57% of people globally are willing to share their data as long as they understand the benefits. In a time when governments across the world are using surveillance tools to slow down, or attempt to stop, the spread of coronavirus, consumer perceptions around privacy may evolve.

How privacy is perceived can vary according to place and culture. For example, In China, trading personal privacy for technologic advances is accepted, whereas, in the U.S., Americans would forego tech for privacy.

In South Korea, the government is using mobile phone data, credit card records, CCTV footage, and public transport cards to track and publicise the activities and movements of confirmed coronavirus patients. Whereas in the U.K. a more community-based form of surveillance (and often shaming) has emerged. #COVIDIDIOTS–
which draws attention to people violating lockdown rules–has trended on social media.

While many of these initiatives are saving lives, they also pose questions that extend beyond the end of the current crisis.

Brands and businesses collect and harness large amounts of user data on a daily basis. With the rise of ‘living from home’ more data is being collected from people’s homes. Brands must use that data ethically and transparently to inform real-time solutions that benefit not only their business, but the consumer.

Stats for Privacy

57% of people

globally are willing to share their data as long as they understand the benefits.

Craving humanity in an inhumane crisis

Craving humanity in an inhumane crisis

Truth Central’s seminal study, Truth About Global Brands highlighted how people are seeking a greater sense of humanity in a world perceived to be increasingly inhumane. We expect that this sentiment will have increased in the current crisis.

1 in 3 people globally already feel closer to their loved ones as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and another third of people globally agree that people are looking out for each other more now.

People in the U.K. line their streets to clap for frontline workers. Around the world, neighbours are leaving books and board-games outside their homes for others to borrow and swap. In Italy, neighbours have made beautiful music over balconies. Here in Ireland, local GAA clubs and volunteer organisations are making sure that those cocooning have everything they need.

As consumers seek humanity in all aspects of life, how can brands reflect this? All action should be rooted in empathy. Brands can and do play a human role in people’s lives, and that role could be even more important now.

Spread laughter and joy. Remind people to spend quality time together. Encourage people to look after their physical and mental health. Find the human approach that is right for your brand and tell a compelling story about you can help your consumers to connect.

Stats for Connection

1 in 3 people

globally already feel closer to their loved ones as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and another third of people globally agree that people are looking out for each other more now.

Unity in the crisis and beyond

Unity in the crisis and beyond

We know that crises have the power to unify. It often takes a common enemy to remind us how connected and interdependent we are. The Blitz spirit is famous for a reason. In the face of daily onslaught British people “kept calm and carried on”. The same sense of solidarity can be seen today on a global scale.

Nations around the world are united in seeking a solution to this pandemic. Medical professionals and scientists around the world are trying to find effective treatments and racing to produce a vaccine. Governments are sharing personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies. Manufacturers have overhauled their assembly lines to produce much-needed visors and ventilators.

In the long-term, this spirit of collaboration could erode some of the nationalistic and protectionist policies that have dominated politics in recent years. Half of people globally agree that the world will be forever changed by the coronavirus pandemic. Individuals, governments, societies and brands are in the position to make that change a positive one.

Half of people globally agree that the world will be forever changed by the coronavirus pandemic. Individuals, governments, societies and brands are in the position to make that change a positive one.

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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