How Adland Has Evolved During the Pandemic
The world has lived through some seismic changes over the last two years, and QuickFrame has been monitoring them closely as they relate to adland and consumer behavior. Some of the changes to consumer behavior will no doubt prove temporary — like the carless roads we briefly experienced in 2020 — while others will be long-lasting.
Consumer behavior has changed radically over 2020 and 2021, thanks to the necessity of staying indoors. Some of the most obvious changes we have witnessed are:
- the adaptation to, ease, and necessity of online shopping and deliveries
- the rise of self-care, presented as a necessity
- the boom in streaming services and home entertainment
While these began out of necessity, our thinking about what constitutes a full life has definitely undergone a shift. You’ve likely heard many brands and figureheads describe this shift as entering a “Post-Pandemic New Normal”. And during the summer of 2021, it really did feel like we were following coming out on the other side of this crisis. But as variants reared their ugly heads, and cases skyrocketed once again, the idea that we’re anywhere near a state of “post-pandemic” disintegrated. And until the World Health Organization declares the COVID crisis to be endemic, it is premature to even try and pinpoint exactly what a “new normal” will look like.
What can we do though? Understand the changes that have already occurred, and try and predict exactly what that means for the coming years. And since we’re marketers and advertisers, our focus will be on how consumer habits have rapidly evolved, and how you can leverage these changes with your brand.
- What are Consumer Trends Have Been Shaped by the Pandemic?
- What Industries Are Bouncing Back ?
- What Ad Opportunities Have Emerged?
- Rising Video Marketing Opportunities
- The Effective Video Types for an Evolved Adland
- How Adland Has Evolved During the Pandemic: The Takeaway
What Consumer Trends Have Been Shaped by the Pandemic?
What are the consumer trends that we saw over the last two years that have impacted our everyday lives? Many prognostications were made over the last years, and many actual trends emerged as surprises (banana bread and tie dye, anyone?).
But it was amply clear that consumers wanted authenticity as they grappled with new realities and values they might have set aside, such as the enjoyment of making things themselves and being somewhat self-sufficient.
There are always opportunities for savvy marketers: many were the small, family-run mills in rural America that suddenly found themselves overwhelmed with demand for flour at the height of the sourdough craze.
Some of the most fascinating consumer trends to emerge around COVID have to do with:
Quibi, a service that promised short bites of glossy content delivered over phones, seemed like it might have been right for our distracted minds — but in fact died a quick death. It turned out that consumer attention spans did not in fact shrink over the pandemic, but increased. We wanted to be taken on involving narrative journeys. Podcast consumption increased, as did binge watching.
Absorbing, long form content on Netflix and other streaming services captured the public imagination. Viewers wanted escape, to get lost in characters and complex stories as a nightly ritual. This created its own demand that spilled beyond any particular show (that is, when one object of fascination was over, viewers immediately sought another).
The pandemic turned the world into a giant water cooler, where the flavor of the month could be discussed and analyzed — whether it was “Tiger King” or “Queen’s Gambit” on Netflix, “Mare of Easttown” on HBO, or “Ted Lasso” on Apple+. Tone did not seem to matter; popular shows could either be dark like “Mare” or light and comforting like old episodes of “Friends”.
The mandate of every popular show was just to provide escape from the world and depressing headlines, and also to be absorbing enough to make it feel like being at home was not the end of the world. Content needed to provide a portal to a different reality, when large events like concerts and standup performances were out of the question.
Some services launched successfully during the pandemic, like HBO Max, with TimeWarner famously putting many of its hitherto-theatrical releases on the platform. Consumers, in other words, have grown used to being able to access high-caliber entertainment at home.
At the same time, they did spend a lot more time on their phones, too, sharing funny memes, GIFs, and amusing clips. TikTok became massively popular.
It seems like there are two categories of media consumers are interested in: high-quality dramatic and comedic content on the one hand, and simple, homemade, short content on the other. These satisfy both the need for escape and the need for connection.
Data Privacy Regulations
Massive changes are happening in the realm of data privacy regulations, with states like California and New York enacting sweeping changes. Even the most casual web user is now aware of the queries on websites that ask how many cookies one will accept, and how much data one is open to sharing. These changes will seem long-overdue to many — but represent challenges to marketers, who will have to live with less granularity and decreased targeting capabilities.
You as a marketer will have to find creative approaches to appeal to a wider audience, while still driving action, crafting campaigns that have broad appeal but also feel personal to the consumer.
Rising Inflation in the United States
While signs are strong that the U.S. economy is recovering and the current administration’s strategy of stimulus is working, rising inflation is causing concern. If it continues indefinitely, it could impair consumer spending. President Biden has spoken reassuringly to the effect that he expects inflation to be a short-term phenomenon and ease on its own.
He has also made it clear he or the Fed will intervene if it continues to rise. It does seem plausible that rising inflation rates are a short-term byproduct, as the world’s largest economy reopens. If this is not the case, though, it will present significant challenges for marketers and consumers alike.
The Return of In-Person Retail
Many eCommerce brands managed highly successful launches (or else companies pivoted to e-commerce) during the pandemic. It was genuinely impressive to see how many fashion brands — as well as COVID-specific businesses, like mask manufacturers, ghost kitchens, and food delivery services — were able to launch and capitalize on consumer needs during a very strange time. How will these fare now that in-person retail is promising to return?
Will consumers keep availing themselves of home delivery services, forgiving the chance that products may not be exactly what they expected, but can be somewhat easily returned? Or, will they prefer the relative certainty of knowing what they are coming home with, not to mention what will surely feel like an adventure, such as going back to personal shopping?
The ease of clicking on a button and having goods arrive as if by magic on your doorstep may be hard for consumers to abandon. As with other industries, a balance between old and new shopping methods will likely eventually be reached. Even web companies like Warby Parker have opened brick and mortar shops so customers can try on glasses in a traditional fashion.
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What Industries Are Bouncing Back?
Industries which offer services that cannot be easily replicated at home are expecting a resurgence. Those include:
Health and Wellness
It’s not hard to picture large swathes of consumers anxious once more to receive massages and pedicures, not to mention attend yoga classes, go back to Soulcycle, and so on. Many, though, will also have adjusted to working out at home and will want to avoid going back to gyms for the near-future. And there are some surprising hybrids emerging: according to Fortune, “nine in 10 Americans who exercise regularly say they will continue with at-home workouts even after they feel comfortable returning to the gym.”
Just as offices will likely provide a mixture of remote and in-person work, gyms will have to cater to both kinds of consumers: those who enjoy the convenience of the home workout, and those who can’t get motivated (or feel like they are having a real workout) without in-person training or equipment. Apps that cater to therapy and workouts on demand, for example, are likely here to stay, and may become integrated or interspersed with in-person sessions.
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The wellness industry was in full bloom before COVID, but consumers’ sense of anxiety and need to confront underlying loneliness and other mental health challenges was certainly exacerbated over this last, trying period. Many attained some new self-knowledge during the pandemic (via therapy, meditation, exercise, or new diet) and will be trying to hang on to their newfound perspective. Others will want to shift weight they may have gained from a lot of home cooking and baking during the past year.
In any case, consumers have been through momentous challenges and will continue to look for meaning, a sense of inner peace, and value in the current reality. The idea of wellness can be defined beyond the obvious. The arts, for example, should expect a renewed sense of vigor and urgency as many casual museum-, concert- and theatergoers realize they have missed these experiences.
Of course, some people will realize they didn’t miss these at all, but they are likely to be in a minority! As new challenges, like the spread of the Delta and Omicron variants, are inevitable, outdoor seating and amphitheater-style events will hold broader appeal than enclosed theaters.
Fashion and Beauty
This industry may well experience a boom, as consumers who have keenly felt the lack of social engagement get excited about dressed up again to emerge into the world. The fashion industry may certainly be excited at the thought of millions of people setting aside their sweatpants and needing some new, more tailored offerings, as well as outdoor wear, now once more a necessity. Not all the lessons of the pandemic will be immediately tossed aside, and comfort will be important. In any case, while the clothes may be slightly more accommodating to pandemic weight gain, the industry is poised to start selling again.
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Similarly, the beauty industry is poised for a comeback, though the products it’s selling will be different from the ones that dominated in 2019. The idea of beauty has evolved over months of Zooms. “Skincare” and “natural beauty” became the logical focus during the pandemic; as the world reopens, that aesthetic will still dominate on billboards and other ads.
Bars, Restaurants, Movie Theaters
Venues like these offer the sense of communion and togetherness that we’ve all been lacking will likely experience a boom, too. These venues will likely have to supply assurances and also options to consumers. It will be incumbent for venues to provide peace of mind, as well as entertainment and fellowship. But one upside of the pandemic was that it was possible to attend nearly anything virtually. It’s possible that plays, for example, will continue to provide livestream links around the world, for those who cannot attend in person.
In some ways, of course, the pandemic was extremely trying, but in others it could be liberating. In the restaurant world, while COVID was certainly a crisis, consumers were also impressed with the rapid adaptation, quick thinking, and and casual affordability many venues displayed.
The feeling that you could grab a cocktail to-go from your favorite restaurant, or a meal kit at home from a high-end kitchen, was very appealing. Consumers will probably continue to want the choice between indoor dining and curbside/to-go options.
According to the US Travel Association, more than two-thirds of American adults are ready to travel again. Travel agencies, websites, airlines, and hotels will have to appeal to consumers across the spectrum of caution. Some will be more cautious, others will be more devil-may-care — and these different types may well be traveling together as couples or families.
Even if the pandemic is contained in a year or two, COVID has opened our eyes to the world of threatening pathogens that exist out there. It is unlikely we’ll soon return to the sense of innocence we had in 2019.
With many consumers having been frugal during the pandemic and focused on a mix of essentials and experiences that give them a sense of wellbeing and mastery, some spending patterns may have changed permanently. It is a given, though, that consumers have been starved for a sense of novelty and excitement, and they now have savings to spend on experiences that promise enrichment. One survey reports that more than 50% of U.S. consumers expect to spend extra by splurging or treating themselves.
What New Ad Opportunities Have Emerged?
Just as niches suddenly appeared during COVID (mask manufacturing, for example), niches will continue to emerge that cater to the mindset consumers have had throughout the pandemic. There will be opportunities in the world of educational technology to help students readjust to life in school amidst the uncertainty of COVID, like finding new ways to help them catch up on lessons missed due to illness and shutdowns.
Some students will have found out they learn better remotely, and new schools and educational models may emerge that allow this as a primary educational method, alongside or instead of traditional class time.
Similarly, COVID opened our eyes anew to ecological concerns of climate change and the ways in which we are all intertwined — as well as the urgent need to make changes in our lives. Ecologically-inspired tech looks poised to boom. And sustainable technologies, which understandably took a hit during COVID (given the necessary shift to disposables) will reemerge with a renewed sense of urgency and vitality.
There will also be opportunities for pandemic-launched businesses to branch out and capitalize on audiences they have built. For example, popular recently-launched podcasts can now take their act on the road, perhaps broadcasting from outdoor venues.
Stand up comics who were able to find novel ways to perform (e.g., in drive-ins) will probably continue to perform at alternative venues like these, in addition to regular ones. The pandemic upended many things, but not all of the all changes were unwelcome. It’s likely that, for example, drive-in theaters will continue to see high attendance because they are, in fact, fun.
The Effects of Social Justice Movements
The movements for diversity and equity that gained prominence over the time period of the pandemic are not a passing fad. Rather, they will have profound implications in every sector for years to come, particularly in marketing. Consumers will continue to have high standards for brands and campaigns and expect them to reflect the values they hold dear, whether these are aligned with ecological causes or socially-just ones.
Increased scrutiny of online marketing and videos, their messaging, and their production, is here to stay as well. Marketers will have to remain alert to the desires of consumers and align themselves with their values. You can safely assume that the rate of social awareness and change unleashed by COVID will continue. Tone-deafness, or a sense of trying hard but being slightly off with messaging, will remain a difficult trap to avoid — no need to cite campaigns that have gone viral for all the wrong reasons.
Rising Video Marketing Opportunities
The pandemic is far from over. There will be spikes and dips in the curve for some time. But with vaccination rates rising globally, there is a sense of light at the end of the tunnel–even if that light can sometimes look very distant due to setbacks concerning the Delta and Omicron variants. As much as brands and individuals want to discuss the pandemic in the past-tense, we must remain vigilant to the realities of consumers.
But that doesn’t mean their aren’t rising opportunities for video marketing as consumers become more accustomed to certain aspects of normality, like simply getting out of the house once and awhile.
The Resurgence of Out of Home Advertising
As we all get used to leaving our houses again, it stands to reason that Out of Home (OOH) advertising will experience a resurgence. About 95% of advertising executives believe that digital OOH (any advertising that consumers see when out and about, including billboards, posters, and digital place-based advertising) will grow in the next two years, perhaps reaching a value of $50 billion dollars.
OOH advertising will be crucial to marketers looking to keep the attention of consumers. This attention was relatively easy to capture during lockdown with content on phones and integrated into streaming content, but now we are heading back in the world.
From a consumer point-of-view, though, OOH Advertising is compelling too now that, well, everything outside the house is more compelling. It will almost certainly benefit from the fresh eyes consumers are bringing as we spend less time in lockdown mode, so long as it directly addresses all the changes in attitude brought on by the past two years.
One hurdle is that over the course of the pandemic we did all become glued to our phones. Will anyone look up? OOH can overcome this hurdle — indeed, capitalize on this — by augmenting and working in sync with mobile ads, creating an immersive marketing environment. And timing and placement will be of paramount importance. What consumers see during their morning commutes, for example, will impact what they buy for dinner.
Now that we have all become more sophisticated (or at least constant) consumers of visual content, OOH Advertising will have to bear in mind all the viewing we’ve done over the last year. Consumers are thoroughly addicted to absorbing stories and characters and also funny memes.
OOH Advertising that absorbs consumers in a situation, question, or implied narrative or else is funny and attention-catching should pay off for marketers. OOH Advertising has no sound, so should not have dialogue or an overt, elaborate narrative, but can find other ways to hint at a story. It can even be a part of the general excitement about the world opening up, again.
A clever OOH ad can achieve the Holy Grail and be shared on social media, or have consumers enjoy interacting with it, as in the Burger King app that allows you to burn its rival’s ads: Augmented reality ads that turn OOH advertising into a game or an interactive experience are far more likely to break through consumers’ resistance or lack of interest.
What won’t work, clearly, is boring product advertising, which now seems hopelessly dated (“cheugy,” as the current slang has it).
The Return of In-Person Live Events
Americans can’t wait to get back to concerts and live events, particularly comedy and theater. Outdoor events will likely predominate, as they feel safer. These events present many branding and video opportunities for savvy marketers, given the presence of an enthused audience whose tastes can be anticipated, based on the performance they are attending (whether they are country music fans, there to see some edgy standup, a classic play revival, etc).
Just as with OOH advertising, the challenge is to make marketing an experience in itself. Clever, targeted marketing at events such as concerts and sport games presents a chance to make a real impact on consumers.
The Return of In-Person Retail for Holiday Shopping
Holiday shopping has always been a chore (albeit a very lucrative one from a sales perspective if your holiday video production is in order). Consumers were denied the chance last year, though. They may want to make up for lost time — and its renewed novelty could make it an event. Some will never be comfortable with online shopping, of course, and this is the opportunity to engage them. Having been frugal throughout the duration of the pandemic, consumers are in a mood to spend, and engaging video marketing near the point of sale could prove highly convincing.
The Effective Video Types for an Evolved Adland
With all the rapid and overwhelming changes going on around us, how can video marketers stand out? Here are some specific recommendations:
Testimonials are the bread and butter of video content for health and wellness (think skincare ads), and for good reason. According to marketing analytics company Spectoos, testimonials “are the most effective form of content, coming in at an 89% effectiveness rating.” Testimonials are the equivalent of a friend telling you to check such-and-such out because it worked for them — always compelling.
User-Generated Content (UGC) taps into the power of authenticity and firsthand experience, allowing your customers to share their experiences using your products, creating a real sense of community around your product and appreciation for it.
Some possible forms of user-generated content are:
- Cooking or baking videos (for supplements of food)
- How-to videos
- Routine videos (how a product fits into and improves a user’s daily routine)
These could be great ways of reassuring anxious gym goers about returning to your gym or yoga studio, and of course stand the chance of being reshared and reposted across platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok. Hopefully, this will show off the loyalty of your audience.
When it comes to gyms and the mix of at-home and in-person workouts, how-to videos (for example) would be an excellent way to sell gym equipment to consumers, create loyalty to your fitness studio, and make customers feel like they have the best of both worlds — a personal trainer and the convenience of home workouts.
Educational Videos are ideal for brands whose products are innovative or on the cusp of a new trend. Vitamin, supplement, or skincare brands may find these especially helpful in educating consumers about the science behind their products, and their competitive edge over other brands.
Explainer Videos fit well with a genre of content we have become used to on Instagram, breaking down processes into simple steps. These kinds of videos, when applied to products, can help empower consumers and make them feel like they are making the right choice. This video for Colgate, made with QuickFrame, is a great example of an explainer video being economical and educational, subtly highlighting the product’s best features.
Product Spotlight Videos call attention to a particular product’s features in detail. You can use them to shine a light on your brand’s cult-favorite product, or to give one of your lesser-known products a boost. Product Spotlight Videos can be highly detailed or simple. This video for MVMT Watches, made with QuickFrame, is on the simple end of the spectrum, but is nonetheless mesmerizing and highly effective.
User-Generated Content (UGC), as noted regarding health/wellness, helps send a message of reliability and authenticity. Hearing real customers’ testimonials and seeing how they have loved using a makeup product (in particular) is a powerful way of assuring consumers that this is a product worth their time and money. This is especially true if consumers are not going to try on makeup themselves: they are likely to rely on others’ honest opinions.
How-to Videos are important for fashion and beauty because they can show a clear “before” and “after” with regard to a product’s use. This Aveeno how-to video is concise and convincing. How-to videos can give consumers a sense of knowledge and empowerment regarding a product, and are therefore a great way to drive conversions.
Cause-Related Brand Videos relate to the desire of consumers to support their values and causes they believe in. Really showing what your brand does to support social justice in an honest way can be a real magnet for consumer loyalty. Covergirl, in this great video, found a visual way to underline its message that by choosing Covergirl makeup, customers don’t need to choose between “the beauty products we love and the values we believe in.”
These videos must be done in an authentic way and align with a company’s actions, or else can be vulnerable to claims of hypocrisy. But done well and with sincerity, they can forge a powerful, emotional connection between consumers and your brand. Cause-related brand videos feel right for the moment (if they are truthful, of course) and can quickly let consumers know what you stand for, as well as giving consumers a sense of optimism around your brand and the future.
How Adland Has Evolved During the Pandemic: The Takeaway
Regardless of the industry you are in, the last year has completely changed the game for marketers. As we continue to make our way through an evolved adland, look for opportunities to lean into our new ways of life, both online and in-person.
Whatever your video needs, QuickFrame is paying close attention to how adland is evolving, and we have the capabilities to craft video that stands out — even in these most turbulent times.
Traditionally, the video production cost has been too expensive, or ads are too slow and too subjective to be scalable. That’s why QuickFrame created a corporate video production solution that unlocks more audience-specific, high-performing videos faster and more cost effectively than ever before. To learn more about how you can affordably create videos amidst the continued uncertainty of the pandemic, check out our Solutions.
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