04 Nov 2020 20:15 IST

Brands find new ways to connect in times of isolation

Those that leverage the intersection of isolation and inclusivity will emerge from the pandemic stronger

The key driver of trends and consumer behaviours have been continuing to increase the tension between identity and inclusiveness. Before the outbreak of the pandemic, we yearned to amplify our identity while at the same time we wanted to magnify belonging to a group with common interests, shared values, and so on. We refer to this recuperation of identity and inclusion as the age of I.

Covid-19 has remodelled this landscape by recreating a new value mindset. This modification is bound to have ramifications for business. And as we sink in for the extended haul of the pandemic, we morphed into an age of isolation and inclusivity. These two opposing desires - the need to be confined and the need to persevere are changing the way we live. Businesses are leveraging the new force of being apart and together at the same time. Be it family, friends, work, school, and yet, more than ever, yearning to belong or to be part of a group, to be social, to be connected. This leads us to believe that our world is imbued with a sense of inclusive isolation.

Isolation has created unusual powerful trends: it is not quite negative. However, isolation has come to flag safety from Covid-19. Of course, being isolated and shut-in away from others is appalling. But isolation has helped us be more competent and productive. Businesses such as Indo Innovations are winning as we are becoming ingenious when it comes to our working spaces. Meal kits, such as Punjab Grill, Smoke House Deli, Tres, and YouMee, have enabled cooking from home as a cost-effective alternative to meal delivery.

Delivery of goods and video streaming brands are making isolation attractive. Brands such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ Hotstar, Zee5, and Sony Liv address our anxieties about going to the movies. These are subscription brands and the subscriber receives things regularly by being a member of a particular group bequeathing recognition and status.

Brands that leverage the intersection of both isolation and inclusivity will emerge from the pandemic stronger, with sustainable growth and a loyal base of customers.

Growth, Isolation, and Inclusivity

Flywheel is a classic example of a brand that is successfully optimising the intersection of isolation and inclusivity. You may be biking or strength training at home, detached from the collective energy of an in-person class but you also belong to a group. For the isolated who are stressed out, there are Flybarre, Flyfit, and Flyrecover classes. There are dozens of different groups to which a member can belong, including instructor groups and teams. The brand is also rolling out distinct products with reduced prices of its standard bikes and treadmills.

Diving into Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) such as EdX, Udemy, SWAYAM, addresses the forces between isolation and inclusivity. These online platforms are encouraging people to learn skills while at home for a better career. Shankar Mahadevan Academy offers online courses to alleviate the isolated soul with its music classes.

We didn't intend to be isolated, but we are and we need to be. The consequences of isolation are climactic. Behaviourists and sociologists alike believe that many of the habits we acquired during our isolation will continue to remain. Brands that seize and optimise the benefits of both isolation and inclusivity have leverage. No one wants a trade-off to live only in isolation.

Isolation and belongingness

Gaming is yet another category that is leveraging the isolation-inclusivity mind-set. The competition is no longer who sells the most number of gaming consoles. Now the battle is focused on services - the libraries of digital games held in the cloud.

Brands are engendered with with multi-dimensional constructs. Uni-dimensional consent is not a roadmap to sustaining profitable growth. Particularly in an ambiguous world, good enough is not enough. We want brands to support us to optimise both our need for the safety of isolation and our inherent, compelling urge of belongingness.

Brands in this new age of isolation and inclusivity, demand new ways of thinking. The purpose of any brand is to satisfy customer needs profitably. We live in a transformative and cathartic time where the strongest brands will deliver the best conceivable ways to deal with our fundamental desires.