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Anju Dave Vaish

Customer Care

Unlock Your Customers’ Creative Potential

Consumers have unleashed their creativity during lockdown. Some clever brands have noticed.

Published: Wednesday, November 25, 2020 - 12:02

T his year’s unprecedented lockdown happened just as we started moving forward with our 2020 goals. There has been a lot of speculation about Covid-19 and its consequences, much of it dire, but there has also been something that has kept us all rolling: the human mindset. With constraints come new creative ideas.

Our imagination, creativity, and innovation helps to lead us far away from stagnation, depression, and pessimism. According to Nielson India, there was a 44-percent rise in social media usage during the lockdown. There also was a 72-percent increase in ad content by influencers.

This year, in the midst of us all running to meet goals, climbing up career ladders, acquiring more, selling more, or aspiring for materialistic gains, Covid-19 suddenly arrived and put the brakes on all of it. For the first time in decades, Himalayan peaks became visible from many nearby cities, twittering birds could be heard, and deer wandered into urban areas. Perhaps this was a sincere greeting from nature—and a request to humans to learn to coexist?

The whole of humanity was stirred to its core. We were given one of those rare opportunities that occur in global history: time for reflection.

Also with the pandemic came salary slashes and layoffs. People delayed purchases or refrained from buying much of anything. It was as if Mother Earth pushed all of us back into our dens and made us realize that we have sufficient material comforts to meet our physiological needs. The lockdown made all of us pause... ponder... and find our passion.

Simultaneously, we humans became engaged with our creative expressions: cooking, crafts, music, art, sports, poetry, drama, photos, videos, learning, loving, and sharing. We bought the bare essentials, and we were happy without brands pushing happiness on us. We candidly shared our no-filter, no-grooming looks as we went about our messy chores with pride. We thrived on exploring and stretching our own limits within the given limitations. During the lockdown, we unlocked our own potential.

Some brands did tap into this talent outburst by organizing showcases for their customers, earning their attention and loyalty. Now as we look beyond the lockdown to reliable vaccines and an end to the pandemic, the question is, should we simply let this bubbling creativity subside, or should we nurture it? As marketers and brand strategists, how do we continue to connect with our consumers and keep them motivated? Will we look on this time as a huge opportunity to change? Or will we revert to our conventional ways, pushing products, making more sales, and focusing mainly on profitability?

Given the looming issues of supply gaps created by the lockdown, and worries about the economy and a recession, change probably isn’t a top priority. But in due course, couldn’t we help these newly aware humans, who have finally discovered themselves without the aid of capitalism, stay that way?

Did the pandemic usher in a new learning curve for all of us?

For many marketers, these questions put us at a crossroad. But some clever brands have already taken steps in that direction, toward a business style where people and the planet both are nurtured. 

In his book The Hero Trap (Routledge 2020), purpose pioneer Thomas Kolster predicts that self-actualization will be the next thing for brands to embrace. He urges organizations to pay attention to people’s urges, i.e., fulfilling themselves through sports, art, work, or whatever helps them “become.”

Many big-league brands already are empowering their customers through choice, allowing them to express their creativity and achieve their own goals. And startups are evolving around lifestyles that people want. Coaching, motivation, and expert advice are things that people plug into. For this insight, brands can thank ever-growing data analytics, which helps them dig deeper into people’s choices and behavior.

The consumer economy is now all about style over stuff. Style no longer means an outward flashiness of possessions that serve only to sharpen society’s divisions. It’s now more about consumers’ inner journeys reflected as outward experience; people are attracted to things that will help them grow as a distinct individuals while nurturing other people and the planet.

These trends all head toward a circular, shared, and sufficiency economy. People connect more with the icons like Milind Soman, the supermodel and triathlete from India, who reinvented not just herself but also empowered many others, especially those who are often dismissed by society. 

Motivating customers and offering DIY wings are nothing new for brands. From the United States to India, I have observed many engaging brand experiences, everything from choosing my own toppings to buying meal kits, or just walking into a studio to paint. Experiential consumption is on the rise, and it’s good for both people and the planet.

Kolster (popularly known as Mr. Goodvertising) also advocates for facilitating the transformational journey, even for societal and environmental purposes. This can take the load off brands to be superheroes that must constantly win the unreliable race of purpose.

In this age of disruptive media, marketers can find tremendous scope in influencers. From the #MeToo movement to Greta Thunberg’s #Climateaction, Sonu Sood for the #IndianMigrantWorkers crisis, to George Floyd and #BlackLivesMatter and #WorldAgainstRacism, the power of expression and storytelling lies with individuals and the masses. As brand engineers, we may need to notice that transfer of power, steer along, and cheer them. 

First published Sept. 10, 2020, on Impakter.

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About The Author

Anju Dave Vaish’s picture

Anju Dave Vaish

Anju Dave Vaish is a communications strategist, concept artist, and creative director known for her unique ideas and storytelling based on empathy. With her blend of arts and science, she consults with organizations for both internal and external branding and communications.