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Culture 2021 — The Cultural Rate of Covid-19

February 2, 2021
By Elliot Rylance

2020 was a year no-one saw coming and while the impact of the pandemic is plain to see, the effects have been immeasurable in more ways than one.

However, some comfort can be taken in the response and adaptation seen by industries and communities alike in response to drastic change.

With the closing of doors comes the inevitable cliché about new doors opening and for good reason. Brands can step into 2021 with a better sense of the new landscape, having new avenues to explore and some even seeing digital endeavours bear fruit following actions made in the past six months.

Adaptation has been a breeding ground in revitalizing old cultures and establishing new ones during this time, which is seeing change take place at different priority levels. Our ‘needs’ are cementing the rise of video conferencing platforms, re-prioritising our shopping lists with face masks and sanitizers, and forcing us to rethink societal constructs like commutes and places of work we once thought essential. Our ‘wants’ are shifting and influencing new cultures and communities, from the surprising blow-up of chess on streaming platforms, to influencers finding connection and creative collaboration over forgotten Sea Shanty singalongs. What’s old or new has found new meaning during this time and new ways of culture and connection are being created and adopted.

Many things paused last year but culture did not. Entering 2021 with the same restrictions, but now with new realizations on their adaptability, people are continuing to shape their lifestyles and communities to best fit their bubble and we are seeing that reflect in our culture.

There’s no doubt that previous ways will re-emerge with the pandemic in the rear-view, but things will be different and for many, they may even be better. The new normal is already starting to feel a little more normal and we’ll continue to see what we thought were stopgaps become more commonplace and even influential moving forwards.

Head of Brand and Consumer Culture, EMEA, Lauren Winter, has authored a trend report looking deeper into how the cultural landscape has mutually shaped and been shaped by Covid-19, and how it will continue to evolve. “The cultural rate of Covid” report offers a snapshot on how brands can understand the cultural shifts and have a dialogue with consumers with a new mindset.

Here are a few highlights from the report:

2020 saw us Reset and Restore

Expectations on ourselves, our lifestyles and how we relate to brands have been reset. Our routines adjusted to new standards, daily commutes dramatically shifted and how we connected and communicated changed almost overnight. We’ve seen this influence culture on both wider and granular levels, from new cultural powers becoming more mainstream such as the livestream industry (99% up year over year) to changing consumer preferences on products and services we thought were important (68% of us say this has changed). (Gen C: A New Virtual Sanity – Culture over Consumption report, FleishmanHillard, 2020)

However, an increase in digital dependence has been managed and offset with the restoring of lost values and a new compassionate collective. New home habits and the harking back to basics has seen more than just the rise of dough and interest in baking. Home comfort quickly expanded into genuine desire to support and restore local communities and businesses too. The great pause of the initial outbreak allowed us to rethink our priorities and take stock of the culture we want to be a part of.

Re-learning through Resilience

The calendar might have updated, but it’s hard to ignore that the start of 2021 doesn’t seem all that different from 2020. Brands and news alike sowed the seed that the new year would in fact bring about an emergence of change, however people are bunkering down and re-establishing everything they learnt from 2020.

Responding to new variants and lockdowns with a rallying cry of resilience, people are practicing more self-acceptance than before and re-learning how to enjoy some of their favourite pastimes and travel destinations in new contexts.

But we are also seeing re-learning move from a hobbyist movement to one that is looking more seriously at longer-term goals, future professions and personal life. Parents are taking up the mantle and seeing the benefit of playful ‘edutainment’ education and dating has slowed down and turned more intentional for more reasons than social distancing. A focus on re-learning has shifted into more meaningful things people had hoped would resume by now and is seeing us demand more from our situation and ourselves.

Re-emerging into 2021 and beyond

While there was certainly a great pause, Covid-19 didn’t stop culture, it pushed it in new directions. Invigorating areas that many thought dormant and unpopular, while ushering in new faces that have been knocking on the mainstream door for years. New hobbies might be short-term coping mechanisms, but some are proving to be long-term discoveries into our passions and cementing new cultural forces such as esports and ecommerce.

Emerging into this year, we are continuing to re-define what life looks and feels like, from how we move around and use our cities to our shifting expectations of brands and how they relate to us. How we re-define and integrate these cultural changes will influence how we all re-emerge, not just this year, but for years to come.

Until then brands need to stop waiting until the world ‘opens up’ and continue surveying the cultural landscape so they can help people feel supported in their current status.

View the “The cultural rate of Covid” report here.