Catalyst for Change

Mar 29, 2020

“There’s nothing permanent except change.”


While the current crisis is not being associated with good things (after all, it’s a crisis, right?), it can certainly be considered a change catalyst, and to what degree the changes are experienced as good or bad depends on individuals circumstances, and perceptions. 

One can imagine that when the worst of the current social health crisis subsides, and eventually ends (hopefully sooner than later), it’ll take time before we revert back to the way things used to be, notwithstanding the associated economic fallout repercussions.

In some ways, we may never be the same again, and maybe we shouldn’t be.  As resilient a species as we are, we can expect  the experience of it all to have altered our behaviors to some modicum, or at least, impacted how we feel about life – our emotional calibration. This would be true of any event causing such loss and monumental paradigm shifts.

Some say, “the only constant is change”, which is more indicative of evolutionary type change. And, then there’s catastrophe prompted change.  The catastrophe, we’d all like to avoid, but could there be some golden nuggets of positive change hidden within?

A look at just a few of the more obvious and broadly impactful changes:

Working from Home. Long before Covid-19, flexible work arrangements had become common options with many companies. A Gallup study revealed that, as of 2016, 43% of employees work remotely at least sometimes, up from 39% from four years earlier. Many companies resistant to the work-from-home option pre-coronavirus claimed that it simply wasn’t feasible for whatever reason(s). But now that virtually (no pun intended) every white-collar worker is doing it to promote social distancing or in compliance with a mandate, infeasibility as a barrier is suddenly solved. And, now that these companies have devised infrastructure to support it (were forced to), more employees will expect, if not demand, the arrangement.  It will be interesting to see if companies insist on reverting back to pre-Covid-19 working models, or will they flex into the new flex model?  It will probably depend on what kind of experience was realized in terms of productivity during this situation forced “trial”.   And if in fact we come out of this “situation” with significantly larger numbers of employees working remotely, there’s all sorts of  side impact considerations – what effect will the advent of work-from-home migration have on commuter reliant businesses (public transportation and auto sales), drycleaners, and even restaurants lunch day part business? The domino effect could have a very long tail.

Grocery Shopping. Online grocery shopping was already projected to reach $143 billion by 2025, according to Nielsen and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI). Covid-19 has likely had an accelerated impact on that now. Forced to find new ways to avoid personal interaction, many previously reluctant to shop online because, say, they didn’t trust a layman to find the ripest pears, have adapted and adopted. With this acquiescence, online grocery service sales have surged, more like skyrocketed, with downloads of popular grocery apps increasing by as much as 2000% thus far. While many will return to brick-and-mortar supermarkets once the “All Clear” is given when the Coronavirus spread subsides, it is anticipated that many, will continue to some extent with online grocery shopping. Instacart, a leading grocery delivery company, announced this week they seek to hire 300,000 over the next three month.  What might be realized in terms of unintended consequences should (when) online grocery buying surpass that of retail grocery store visits? Ghost grocery stores?

Personal Cleaning. Maybe you’ve seen the Wash Your Lyrics website where you plug a song into an engine, and it spits out 20-seconds’ worth of lyrics for you to sing while you wash your hands. It’s all part of the campaign to make us clean ourselves more effectively, and therefore more effectively safeguard ourselves from infection. Yes, it’s scary to think how few of us were washing our hands frequently or effectively enough before Covid-19.  But, now will this attention to personal sanitary detail, along with the massive amount of testimony companies are publishing about their new clean protocols, invoke a sustained consumer expectation, if not demand, for a higher level of “clean” everywhere they go and shop? And what will the manufacturing and supply chain look like to support that?  And, the cost, we all know that the consumer will bear the cost of companies upping their game.

Home Exercise. Have you heard the jokes about “gaining the Covid-19”—a take-off of the extra pounds many college freshmen gain. Not hard to imagine how quarantining might add an extra 19 pounds, evidenced by how many supermarkets’ frozen pizza, bread, and snack shelves are emptied. Also a factor is gyms and health club closures. Beyond, packed DIY meal kits, we anticipate an emergence of new businesses capitalizing on home-bound health.

Cruising. The cruise industry already had a ton of PR headaches before Covid-19 (), but after hearing the absolute horror stories of so many quarantined to their tiny window-less cabins for weeks on end to avoid the spread of the virus, it sure got a lot worse. Once the “All Clear” happens, and vacationing without restraint returns, will the cruise business be slow to regain?  Will the petri dish stigma have long term crippling effects, or will aggressive marketing and slash pricing overcome?  The growing contribution the cruise industry made to the U.S. economy is enormous. How will those billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of jobs be retrofitted into a paradigm shift?

All this to say, times they are a changing!  It’s never been more important for businesses to be insights driven to navigate them.

~ Marketing Workshop