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Navigating the post-pandemic world for brand marketing and its future

By Florence Staples | Research executive



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March 11, 2021 | 6 min read

With light at the end of the tunnel, understanding people’s attitudes to post-pandemic life has never been more important to marketers.

Now while there are a litany of futures and strategy reports to hand that (quite rightly) look to explore what trends may have been accelerated or created as a result of Covid-19, at Opinium, we wanted to bring it back to the people themselves to answer the largest question of all: do people want to keep the changes forced upon them by the pandemic, or do they just want to go back to the way things were?

marketing strategy

The answer was surprising, an almost even split.

Think about it. 40% of the UK said that they would rather write off the last year as a bad dream. No thanks. Take me back to the year 2019.

Yet 45% said, hang on, the last year hasn’t been all bad. There are actually changes to my way of life that I would like to keep, or need to make, as restrictions are eased for (please God) the final time.

For brands and businesses this poses an unprecedented challenge. How should they communicate to disparate and opposing groups, and what should they say when they do?

To do this, we surveyed 4,000 people in the UK and segmented the population into four key groups based on their aspirations and expectations towards the future:

  • Go-getters: optimistic about the future and want everything to change from the way it was before the pandemic.

  • Necessary changers: pessimistic about the future but want everything to change from the way it was before the pandemic.

  • Better in the past: optimistic about the future and want everything to go back to the way it was before the pandemic.

  • The devil you know: pessimistic about the future but want everything to go back to the way it was before the pandemic.

Opinium chart

A ‘Roaring 20s’ rebound?

Despite the hype, the idea of the roaring 20s is not for everyone, as conservatism is still common. Over three-quarters of the UK population (78%) don’t think they’ve seen the last of the pandemic, while nearly three-fifths said their personal space will be more important than ever. Add to this the 51% of the public who state that they’re now so used to how things are changes will take some getting used to and, overall reservedness, rather than adventure, may win out.

Are demographics dead?

Of course not. However, there is a valid question to be asked on whether the pandemic has fundamentally shifted what we value in our lives, and whether this has occurred equally or unequally across different life stages.

Using Opinium’s Values Framework, we found that our segments were better defined by looking at what they value, than demographics – the traditional mainstay of communications targeting.

The most important value for the nation is security (52%), and this is significantly higher for those who want things to go back to the way they were before the pandemic. In contrast, meaning (21%) and affiliation (27%) were more important to those groups who want change.

Yet age, relationship status, having children and even income failed to completely pull apart why some people in the UK want change, and whether they feel positive or negative about the next year.

The elephant in the room

It is stating the obvious to say the pandemic has affected us all, but we’re going to say it anyway, because the focus on vaccines and re-opening seems to have stripped that away from the current narrative.

Just under half of the UK say they know a close relative or friend who has had Covid-19, diagnosed through a test provided by the NHS. And of those, roughly half say that person is still currently recovering, suffering with long-Covid or did not recover at all.

Is it then surprising, that when we looked to see if our segments were better identifiable through their exposure to Covid-19, as opposed to their demographics, we found a clearer picture?

No, it makes complete sense. To fully capture what people want for themselves, we need to start understanding what they’ve actually been through, and whether the last year has enabled them to develop and explore those values, or stifled them.

So where does this leave the future of brand marketing?

In communications, it is important for brands to understand and speak to consumer’s values to resonate with their aspirations – it means that they clearer, better liked and capture attention.

However, with attitudes towards the future so split, brands need to consider which side of the field they’re going to pitch to or whether they’re going to try to trend the line between both.

Ultimately, there will be a need to provide different styles of ‘comfort’ for different audiences, although something that unites them is an appetite for communications to be to the future and moving away from Covid-specific advertisements.

To help do so, profiling beyond life-stage is required. Capture the full impact of Covid-19 on your target audiences, and set a strategy based on how you can help them realize their goals.

If you’d like to understand what this means for your sector or brand, please get in touch at for a personalized briefing.

Florence Staples, research executive, Opinium

Marketing Marketing Services World

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Opinium is an award winning strategic insight agency built on the belief that in a world of uncertainty and complexity, success depends on the ability to stay on the pulse of what people think, feel and do. Creative and inquisitive, we are passionate about empowering our clients to make the decisions that matter.

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