How companies and brands can offer strength and support in uncertain times.
Christophe Jauquet is the author of the marketing book "Healthusiasm".
He is an international keynote speaker and advises companies on health marketing.
Our world has been turned upside down since the outbreak of the corona crisis. We lived in
a different reality for a few months. There were no more outings with friends, no warm hugs
with our parents or grandparents, no sporadic barbecues, dinners or an unexpected concert,
theater performance or day in Amsterdam.
With the gradual start-up of economic activities, we enter a period of confusion and light
chaos: the corona peak seems to be over, but no one knows how or when covid-19 will
Companies and brands have had to rethink their strategy, because
customers have started to behave differently in recent months and have adjusted their
expectations of brands and companies. Their desires changed, especially now that we are
paying more and more attention to our highest good and our greatest concern: health and
People were already excited to live as healthy as possible. But this trend, called
"Healthusiasm", has now grown even more and has become more important. If brands and
companies want to remain relevant, they will now have to take this into account even more.
They can do that by focusing on 4 themes: Safeness, Togetherness, Wellness, and Realness.
SAFEness - The reassurance of safety.
Covid-19 held the world in a grip and put our daily life, our routine almost on hold. Not
without consequences: we feared (and may still fear) for our health, do not know if and
when we can still work, our shopping carts were overloaded with (mostly) necessary
products and we retracted to the familiar environment of the family cocoon. People are
looking for something to hold on to, security, safety and protection. The four walls of our
home protected us from the contagious outside world, but not from fear. To counter the
fear of the unknown, we are now going to look en masse for something we can rely on,
something that will reassure us and help us deal with emotions such as fear.
Recently we saw what triggered us when shops reopened, for example: many
uncomfortable looks and long rows of social distancing at the entrance. Not everyone
needed something essential. For countless people, the trip to the store marked a return to a
daily, safe routine: shopping. After all, major brands and companies have been offering
shoppers a kind of escape from reality for years. A store is a setting where many people feel
good, where we can experience and discover something. We buy something and get an
instant sense of satisfaction. It triggers the happiness hormone. Just like at a restaurant,
where we are served with the necessary respect and escape the daily grind. The experience
makes the emotion. A crisis like the one we are experiencing today seems to put an end to
that experience. What's more, doing something outdoors that can make us feel good
became unsafe overnight. But we are now discovering that even the slow return to normal
activities does not guarantee us a safe feeling.
What I see around me is that people need reassurance and security. Moreover, we want to
be reassured before we can even ask ourselves whether it is safe. Even if we know that we
will have to change our daily habits differently, we still want them to feel familiar. We want
to guarantee that the products we buy and the services we use meet the applicable safety
conditions, in short #safeness. We want the safety of services and products to respond to
this acute, rational need. Safeness is a basic condition with no emotion involved. It is
something that just has to be there. I believe it is paramount for companies and brands to
find out exactly what safety can reassure people. It is the only way to meet the basic needs
of their customers.
Clothing stores adjust their return policy. By giving customers more time to return their
purchased items, they want to avoid feeling compelled to squeeze into a fitting room. In
narrow shopping streets, shoppers are only allowed to step in one direction. Aircraft builders
provide existing airplanes with air purification systems that can better combat viruses. Car
brands in China are also already finding that air purification and other health functions are
more important than other safety functions in a car. And buildings in the United Arab
Emirates are already being built so that elevators, lights, heating, and coffee machines can
be controlled via a smartphone to reduce contact with those devices.
It may seem simple to fill in a basic need. But how do you create a new normal feeling with
your customers? To what extent do the security measures allow you to receive your
customers warmly? Cafés need fun. You want to be able to hold a book in bookstores. If
shopping in a supermarket should only take 30 minutes, the pleasure will disappear
immediately. Retailers who were focused on building 'experience-oriented shops' are facing
a new challenge in the near future. Every company will have to make this balancing act
between clinical cleanliness and a warm welcome.
TOGETHERness - The power of togetherness.
About four billion people had withdrawn from home. Away from social life, away from the
workplace. For many it led to an imposed isolation. A week alone, that still works, but
longer? People missed being together. They longed for social interaction. Regardless of
whether or not we could continue to work, or whether we lived together or talked to
someone every day, the current crisis has led to loneliness for many.
Being unable to be together unfortunately also ensures that a part of our identity
disappears. Ask someone what he or she does in daily life, and the answer will be: I work in
that company and have that position. Our work largely determines our identity. Today we
are part of a group sitting at home. This has consequences for our self-image. The same
applies to the associations of which we are members. We no longer have the freedom to
play a game of volleyball every week and have a drink afterwards at the bar. There is still no
question of carefree relaxation. And at home we do it differently: we wrap ourselves in an
easy duffel, leave the mascara or aftershave, let everything run its course and interpret our
identity differently. Our personality is formed by the groups we belong to. Our clothing is an
expression of our personality. The need for both remains.
We also need other people to help us through this unknown situation. Together we are
stronger, also mentally. Connection gives confidence and is an antidote to anxiety. We see
that connection everywhere, in various forms: land borders close, and a nation withdraws
together. Big tech companies like Google and Apple are starting to work together. Strangers
make mouth masks for each other. These examples show a clear striving for a group feeling.
Nobody likes to feel alone. A group is powerful and takes care of its individuals.
In a period of uncertainty, we not only seek rational reassurance in safety, we also seek
emotional support in being together, the #togetherness. The strength emanating from a
group makes us stronger. It gives us identity and it protects us. I think companies and
brands should ask themselves how they can empower their customers by realizing
Togetherness. Because it is that Togetherness that will touch people emotionally and make
them feel better.
Digital platforms have been set up to assist local merchants and restaurants with e-
commerce or takeout services. When barber shops were still closed, customers were given
online video instructions to help us cut our hair. One with more success than the other. More
than 12 million people gathered on the mega-popular Fortnite for Travis Scott's virtual live
performance. Other virtual meeting places like Minecraft drew 45% more visitors, and were
even used by schools in Japan and America as a campus replica where students could meet
virtually. Google Chrome extensions allowed to watch streaming services such as Netflix
together with friends and chat with each other. Brewdog made all bars around the world
virtual, so people could still be met at a café. Virtual tours are possible in the Louvre
museum, Vatican City, and on the Faroe Islands. Defected Radio, the London house record
company, organized a weekly dance festival for 3 million music lovers at home dancing.
TikTok brought a #happyathome digital festival where artists such as Alicia Keys and DJ
Khaled gave performances. Tinder dropped their "proximity" functionality and signed 15%
more daily messages.
But resorting to digital solutions for that #togetherness has limitations on our social health.
Digital contacts can fill a temporary void or provide an extra dimension to social interaction.
Digital solutions can temporarily increase social contacts and you can take pleasure in
knowing the size of your network, but above all, people often long for real contact. Or at
least the contact should feel as real as possible, or togetherness should make us all feel
WELLness - The potential through self-development.
"Learn French in thirty days.", "Become a writer? Take this online course! ”,“ With these tips
you can be a gardener in no time. ” You can hardly name them or there is a course, online
tool or app for every aspiration. Before we had to throw ourselves back into the safety of
our cocoon at home, people were - more than ever - engaged in self-improvement. The
technology, digital tools and platforms have been giving us the opportunity to fulfill this or
that aspiration for some time. In other words, we can reinvent ourselves thanks to
technological (r) evolution. If someone wants to refine their writing talent, it is enough to
first register for an online writing workshop and then write a book, have it printed,
published and distributed. If you have the ambition to measure yourself in a quarter
triathlon, there are countless training schedules ready to help you with that. We are used to
using technology to realize our ambitions. This is no different for our aspirations that are
linked to our health. Just think of the activity trackers, running apps, smart scales or digital
blood pressure monitors. In a period when it was physically difficult to see a doctor, the
supply of digital health tools also increased noticeably.
Our need for self-development could easily manifest itself in recent years, because our
functional and emotional needs were already being met. This evolution opened up the
space for the question: what do we want to achieve for ourselves? What aspect of our
personality do we want to further refine? Or "how do you become a better person"? How
do you become someone who contributes to the general well-being of the world and
society? These are questions that companies are also trying to formulate more answers to.
If companies want to offer their customers added value today, there is no better solution
than to focus on experiences that give the feeling of self-fulfillment: if we come face to face
with gorillas, we are more committed than ever to animal suffering. Thanks to our personal
coach, we have never felt so healthy and with the Nutriscore we are more aware of what
food we are to be eating more than ever before. Consumers choose companies or brands
that help them feel better.
The pandemic now again demonstrates the importance of our functional and emotional
needs. A basic condition such as safety no longer seems to be guaranteed, and there was
very little sense of togetherness. But people continue to strive to get the best out of
themselves, and are now increasingly translating that into striving for optimal health and
happiness. A crisis like this is therefore a trigger for many people: it is the time to work on a
long-delayed plan. More sports, less drinking, quitting smoking, walking, healthy cooking ...
we even use it as a weapon against the virus. Even though it is impossible to beat it from a
virus, we want to fight back by boosting our immunity in many ways.
It seems clear to me that what was one of the most important societal trends before the
pandemic is even more in focus today: we want to do everything we can to be as healthy
and happy as possible. I am convinced that if companies and brands manage to help their
customers do this, they will not appeal to the minds or emotions of their customers, but will
touch a fundamental value: Our health. Because that is what Wellness is all about: getting
the most out of ourselves, in a transformation to be(come) the best possible person we can
More than 2,500,000 people have taken the well-attended - temporarily free - well-being
course at Yale University. Energy Lab's start 2 run app also had twice as many users in March
and April as in the first two months of the year. The Keep Moving platform helps people to
run the Dusseldorf digital marathon "virtually together", just as the 10 miles of Antwerp can
also be run virtually with Golazo. The Mayor of New York cleared 160 kilometers of car-free
streets so that there was more room for people to exercise outdoors. Large chains such as
Swissôtel, but also small local yogi and personal trainers, brought a host of live streams with
yoga classes and workout sessions. And who hasn't seen the public balcony workout in Italy?
But churches and synagogues are also starting to offer their believers wellness-oriented
videos. Several meditation apps, such as Headspace, Calm and Talkspace, currently offer free
programs and nutritional applications allow people to ask questions about how to boost their immunity. In the UK, 3 million people have bought a vegetable box directly from a farmer since the pandemic started. More than 40% of people say they have eaten and drank
healthier during this lockdown period, according to a study at UGent.
In recent years, more and more companies have included wellness in their offer. For
example, today you will find an fitness in a hotel, a coworking place, an airport, a petrol
station, and sometimes even at home. Also, food, mental health, sleep, stress, and circadian
rhythm are increasingly being absorbed by companies and brands in all kinds of sectors. The
customer journeys are expanded from the direct touchpoints to other aspects of the lives of
their customers on which a company wants to have an (in) direct impact.