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Where will we be after the storm?

Adam Bass, md of Golden Goose, looks at the emerging narratives in our new reality.

It’s particularly fitting that the most visible beneficiary of COVID-19 19 is videoconferencing app Zoom (now valued at $42Bn). Fitting because, in just two months, society and business has, indeed, ‘zoomed’ like the Millennium Falcon entering hyper space. The question remains though once the stars realign, what will be the new reality?

Humans are a storytelling race, we connect events into a series of narratives that become the next wave of culture. Whether it’s on canvas or on-screen, these narratives influence our choices and, therefore, impact on the commercial success of brands and consumer products. So, while there are plenty of tragedies to be told, anyone chasing long-term commercial success should align their products and marketing with these stories of a new hope.

Environmental reset

The rainbow motif has been adopted by those looking to show support for the NHS and it, rightly, carries with it associations with an ‘after the flood’ generation. It seems obvious that, once the dust has settled and the time is right, the environmental movement will play a hand that has been immeasurably strengthened by global events.

It only takes a few frolicking Venetian dolphins to tell the story of humanity’s hubris: technologically powerful, ruthlessly exploiting the globe’s resources for profit but brought to a standstill by a tiny speck of DNA. This new, cleaner world with smog-free air and transparent rivers should prove a great environmental reset and it would be criminal of governments to waste the opportunity to make the new normal a less polluted, less congested world.

In light of this, any time spent incorporating recycled or recyclable materials into the supply chain will still prove to be good investment and the momentum that was building behind the environmental movement should quickly return with a vengeance.

Heroes in flannel?

With many of the Marvel Comic Universe hero’s stories wrapped up by Avengers Endgame, how relevant are superheroes? Healthcare workers have rightly been lauded for their bravery in the face of life-threatening condition, and currently, it’s a fair argument that the entire superhero genre is largely irrelevant. Anyone who once aspired to be Captain America will have to acknowledge that real heroes wear green flannels instead of spandex.

Educational role-play and STEM learning toys should benefit from this new dawn, at least until children are old enough to enter the world of online gaming with its built-in addictivity.

Choosing to share

Stripped of make-up, haircuts, professional photographers, celebrity friends, exclusive meals and exotic locations, social media influencers (and the rest of us) have been forced to accept that, unfortunately, real life is not the glamorous fantasy world that Instagram would have us believe. Not only that but, right now, the only excuse for self-promotion is fundraising for a charitable cause.

This isn’t the death of influencer marketing but it should, hopefully, move us to an era of less ostentatious division between the YOLO and FOMO consumer. If this leads to a more authentic world with, hopefully, a greater emphasis on products that contribute to charitable causes then it will be no bad thing.

If you’re looking for a brand to licence right now, how about one associated with a charity. They need the help after all and, with authentic being the new black, it’s time to get on board.

Digitise those hobbies

Nascent technologies like videoconferencing, homeworking and remote learning have been thrust into adulthood, but there is also an interesting underlying trend of homespun video production showcasing hidden, neglected or untapped talent – whether it be your guitar playing, your watercolouring or, more likely, your cooking.

Expect to see products with some form of built-in training and video content become the norm as value-added digital content continues to grow. We have long encouraged our magazine brand clients to include relevant content along with a product and this will only increase and digitise going forward.

Any licensor should use this time to plan how to add digital value to their licensed products. Similarly, expect sales of guitars, art kits, grow your own or home crafting kits to appear on shelves – when shelves are available again.

Fashion that follows

Fashion usually leads with colours and trends that make their way from the catwalk to the discount store. With fashion effectively off the grid for three months, it’s going to be interesting to see how it reboots. I’d expect to see dress sizes overhauled at the very least as the ‘Corona Kilo’ is likely to be difficult to shift.

It’s going to be difficult for fashion to lead the way out of the recession because there aren’t any obvious trends to follow apart from grey sweatpants. With spring/summer 2020 a write off we are probably looking at spring/summer 2021 before the impact of 2020 shows in new colours and fabrics.

Perhaps its time to focus on t-shirts with a message? Yes online shopping has radically benefitted from the lockdown but who is dressing up now? This is probably the area of the economy that will be hardest to unpick.

Where next then?

Nature is incredibly creative. One tiny leaf that appears in a crack quickly develops into a web of moss resistant even to the most persistent pressure washing. Confined to our houses, restricted from all socialising and all live performance, human creativity has similarly resisted: unfurling strange new flowers of charity, heroism, kindness and digital collaboration above the boredom and estrangement. Will these new strange plants change the eco-system forever?

Fortunately for the many companies involved, the licensing industry has always been a sector that plans at least 12-18 months ahead and, in many cases, even longer.

Yes there will be many companies, ourselves included, who have taken a hit on projects that failed to come to fruition due to the lockdown, but we are still working on projects for 2021 and beyond on the basis that time, unlike us, is not standing still.

Adam Bass is md of brand licensing consultancy, Golden Goose. He can be contacted on adam@goldengoose.co.uk.

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