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Industry Contributor 11 Aug 2020 - 3 min read

Is Australia really undergoing a Covid reset? No, a concerning culture clash is coming

By Amanda Windus, Managing Director Brisbane - The Lab Insight & Strategy

The new report from research companies The Lab and Nature, “Brand New Australia”, reveals that 62% of Australians believe COVID-19 is the reset that we all needed. But has it really been a reset? The research suggests not, instead it shows COVID-19 will be the trigger for a cultural clash, as Australians stand divided on what they want their future to look like.

As some of us have begun to return to the daily rhythms of our pre-COVID-19 life, on the surface it seems things haven’t dramatically changed; yet the world feels entirely different. It’s not only the global magnitude of the event that has made it significant, but also the way these events have forced a greater clarity in peoples’ perspectives.  

It’s called into question the beliefs and values our social and political systems have been built on for so long. One that has ultimately proven fallible in the face of a global pandemic. We’ve been reminded everything and everyone are inextricably connected, that our collective and individual actions have great consequence on others and especially mother nature.

My Takeout:

While the war-time solidarity and expression “in it together” has been the 2020 mantra, our research has revealed sharp differences in people’s COVID-19 experience. Opposing thoughts and feelings are coming to the fore in how we move forward.   

Sixty per cent of Australians want to protect and hold on to life as they knew it pre-COVID-19 and believe “it’s every man for themselves”. While the other 40% of Australians are keen to embrace change and see the pandemic as an opportunity to re-evaluate how we’ve been living.

So where will we go? What if certain attitudes take hold? What if some ways of thinking become more powerful than others? What might Australia look like? This polarisation has set the stage for a battle of ideas that will be felt at all levels of society.

Brands and businesses have a crucial role to play, with over 80% of Australians expecting them to lead the way. Helping us shape and realise our visions of the future. However, to lead with purpose and turn values into action increasingly requires getting off the fence and taking a stand on broader societal issues.

We’ve come up with four potential future scenarios for what a brand-new Australia could look like, imagined through the lens of consumerism. They envision the outcomes that might unfold, depending on how Australia resolves two big questions. Will we quickly revert back to individualism, doubling down on the system and forgetting what’s transpired. Or will we sit with the discomfort of COVID-19 and its reverberating affects to instead envision new and better alternatives?

Imagine if we were to spark new ways of doing things that benefit the greater good.

Post-crisis we reconsider what our lives were before and seek to make changes. ​​ Environment and humans come first​​. We seek the greatest good for all. ​People buy less and are more considered about what they do buy. They judge the worth of companies and brands by their broader impact on people, the environment and profits.   ​

What if we spark new ways of doing things, but with a greater focus on the individual?

Digitisation rapidly accelerates and changes the global landscape. The result is a hyper-choice society​​, where experience and “human benefit” is king: ultimate choice, ultimate convenience, hyper personalised and at speed​. New fields of study, manufacture and consumption are built. ​​

Imagine if we fight to retain the systems we already have, continuing in our individualist consumer ways?

Governments spend big to reboot our economies. It is business as usual, but on steroids. The market is king. ​​Those who can spend do, those who have less seek ways around it. The very top, and very bottom, of the market do well. ​​The middle dies. 

What if we fought for life as it is today, but while trying to achieve greater social cohesion?

Australians turn inwards, believing once again in “the lucky country”. We move toward local, small scale and lower rates of consumption. Communities become king. ​​People become the brand​. ​

While we may not be able to predict the future, we can envision and create it.

We see three big shifts in consumer attitudes that have been amplified by COVID-19, which brands and businesses can proactively plan around to future-proof themselves:

1. Help people do and achieve. People still seek purpose and want to show their own identities, but with a worthier intent. Aligning on passions, values and personal beliefs, successful brands become conduits to helping people achieve passions and create social or environmental good.  ​

2. How you do business matters. People will seek to minimise the human and environmental cost of business. Companies need to find ways to build and create more resilient ways of living and doing business, plus new ways to create value beyond just profits.

3. Be ready to flex. As spending becomes more fragmented between online and offline, and people are more dispersed, you need to be ready to serve/deliver to location. Experiences, brands and products are expected to meet needs anywhere. How do you and your brand maintain a connection with them? 

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Amanda Windus, Managing Director Brisbane

The Lab Insight & Strategy

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