Home IMJ Features Opinion: History in the Making or History Repeating Itself?

Opinion: History in the Making or History Repeating Itself?

Whether we know it or not, we are facing the dawn of a new age after 11 months of global upheaval and uncertainty. But we need to ensure that we have learned from the lessons of the past, writes Sinead Mooney.

When we live through the recessions, the depressions, the boom years, the Celtic Tiger, we often don’t realise we are living through such historic events until they have passed us by.

Four years ago, we did not foresee how the rise of the protest vote would impact our world resulting in a fragmented US and the UK’s exit from the EU.  It all happened when we were not looking, managed through manipulation of the media and resulting in a sharpening of our senses and how we consume media.

So too with the current situation we find ourselves. We are so busy trying to keep our heads above water, the anxiety at bay, our children educated and ourselves and our loved ones healthy, we sometimes forget the enormity of what we are living through or the fall out of what life will be like when it all ends.

The Great Reset

Soon, we hope, comes what is being called the great reset, some linked to conspiracy theorists but mostly what will life be like after. After being stuck in doors for months, after being limited to 5km, after no flights for over a year, after homeschooling, online shopping, closed restaurants, bars and nightclubs….. what will life be like after?

We must look at the roaring 20s of the previous century as there are similarities as the world emerged from World War I and the Spanish flu pandemic. There was growth and modernism.  Growth was driven by suppressed spending during World War I. It is likely we should see a surge in spend on items we have been missing and longing for. Will we choose retail outlets over the comfort and convenience of shopping online?

I suspect we have now incorporated digital into our everyday lives, online shopping, banking, cashless payments are unlikely to reduce back to pre-covid levels.  But are we willing to totally forego the experience of touch and seeing items we want, I would argue not entirely.

We would hope to see that as there is a return to those businesses that have been most deeply affected, we as consumers will support them.  Employment will rise and there will be a sense of optimism as the doom and gloom of the COVID period becomes a more distant memory.  We will as humans want a reward for all our sacrifices, we will want to travel, eat out, meet and socialise.  No doubt the younger generations in particular, who have been cooped up when they should have been spreading their wings, will need to let off some steam and deservedly so.  To this end will we see this generation embrace the day and cast aside more serious goals for the more experiential aspects of life.  This is likely to bring an air of frivolity and perhaps excess among this generation, who were more health conscious and socially aware than previous generations, as they reassess what is important to them.

So too culturally, we should see creativity that has been repressed in lockdown, now having time to shine.  We will see emergence of our novelists, artists, designers to breathe new life into a post COVID period.

The Dawning of a New Age

Whether we are ready for it or not, now is the dawning of a new age.  Few get as excited as research houses at these times.  It can be seen across decades when you look back, but as researchers we are watching and waiting for those movements in attitudes and behaviour to assess what it means to society and how it will all land.

If research tells us anything, it is that things change and what a catalyst to change this has been.  As marketers we need to stay close to our customers, communicate with them in a meaningful and relevant way as they navigate new journeys.  Journeys that may now be taking a completely different path.  We at RED C are helping our clients navigate these changing customer journeys with RED Phoenix to help them emerge from the ashes of this pandemic stronger and ready to fly.

But this exciting time of change comes with a historic warning.  At the end of the roaring 20s of the last century came the great crash of 1929.  If we have learnt anything then we know history has a habit of repeating itself.  Surely we have learnt that? Surely….

Sinead Mooney is a co-founder and director of Red C Research