by Benoit Wiesser
Chief Strategy Officer for Ogilvy in Asia.

What if all that you’ve put into brand building and equity over the years were to be wiped clean as the forced abstinence of Covid rewires consumption instincts built over years, or in fact depletes many of them back to a zero base? What if that meant we might be foolish expecting consumers to simply come back to our category and brand after lockdowns are lifted, just because it was on their regular shopping list before the crisis? What if it was time to start all over again?

This is no marketing nightmare, but instead a reality of the post lockdown landscape and one we have to deal with. In “Fit For Growth Beyond Covid-19: Is Your Brand Ready For Zero-Based Re-Habiting?”, we point out that many of our consumption decisions come down to the rich and intangible affinities built over time in our System 1 autopilot—feeling as a form of thinking—rather than the analytical mode of System 2 thinking. With those unconscious associations partially wiped out as a result of extensive lockdowns, we are now dealing with what marketing historians might look back to as an unprecedented case of collective consumption amnesia. Which means the challenge now is not just to rebuild relevance to new needs, values and behaviours, but to reboot and re-energise consumers’ System 1 autopilot.

This involves rebuilding the saliency of whole categories, habits, and brands, in some cases from scratch; something we’ve called Zero-Based Re-Habiting. It is time to start all over again, with both the challenges and opportunities this represents. Partly this involves an understanding of the new needs and habits formed through the crisis.

For example, a third of surveyed shoppers tell us they will continue to buy purchases only made for the first time during the Covid crisis.

Partly it is about understanding the role of the pandemic as an accelerator and a re-setter of consumption patterns. But the most significant angle is the challenge of offering value(s) relevant to the new reality. We’ve determined the five Fit-For-Growth principles for brands looking to build on the recovery:

  • Serving people, not consumers
  • Health & safety as the new hygiene factor
  • Tuning into and innovating for what matters now
  • Designing for heterogeneous growth
  • Crafting recession-proof value

The Covid era has reset strategic goals. In this paper, we lay out a step by step approach to re-activating growth in the post-Covid landscape.