We don’t have a crystal ball but, working with our KIN network of creators and connectors, we are starting to formulate creative springboards for life after the lockdown...

With so much of the world still in lockdown, there is a shortage of reliable data out there for longterm strategic decision-making post-pandemic. But you’ve got to start somewhere. For us, that somewhere includes checking in on the perspectives of our KIN network – Crowd DNA’s proprietary global network of creators and connectors.

KIN provides us, and our clients, with access to people who are at the leading edge of their cultural space, their commercial endeavour or their community. This means we can not only look ahead, but also understand local, on-the-ground change as it happens. 

From families to work to experiences – with so much in flux, it’s a significant time for brands to consider what they should continue with, and what they should change. Here are some provocations from our KIN network to use as points of inspiration in brainstorms, scenario planning sessions, or whenever else you need a quick shot of creativity.

Piercarlo Panozzo: food entrepreneur, writer (Bologna and Shanghai)

Piercarlo is an Italian and Chinese food and beverage entrepreneur, an academic and writer, currently reaching the end of an MBA program. We spoke to him about his latest research endeavour, a paper exploring the digital transformation in the food and beverage industry pre- and post-Covid-19.

Food innovation previously only seen in science fiction 

“The crisis has already accelerated the digital transformation in the food and beverage industry all over the world. In the future, we’ll see new technologies transforming the eating experience in ways previously only featured in sci-fi movies. Cloud kitchens, real-time traceability of produce, mood food, drone delivery methods, lab grown meat – these are just some of the innovations that can lead to a more affordable and safe restaurant experience.”  

‘Smaller entrepreneurialism’ will lead the way 

The pandemic means digitalization is worthwhile for smaller restaurants and retailers, not just the big chains with IT and research departments. There’s a real democratisation of digital tools going on, which means smaller entrepreneurs are transforming the industry through verticalization of supply chains and educating consumers about ingredients and sustainable eating habits.” 

Fine dining goes back to basics 

“Post the pandemic, the economic downturn means we’re entering into an era of ‘making do’ food consumption. It will be closer to nature, and more resourceful – not only for everyday food, but also for higher-end restaurants. Dishes will have simple ingredients, executed in a down to earth manner. Advanced techniques replaced by ancestral cooking. The quality, provenance and seasonality of ingredients will be the chef’s primary focus.”

Cassie Harner: drag performer, artist, aspiring coder (Cleveland)

We spoke to Cassie about the changing face of the entertainment industry before, during and after Covid-19 – from long distance drag parties and the networking opportunities therein, to what brands like Instagram can learn from webcam modelling sites when this is all over.

Breaking boundaries now includes breaking time zones

Now that distance isn’t an issue, there are artists from around the world all able to perform together online. I did a show in Birmingham, UK – and I love watching all the acts being put on from Cleveland to Berlin, Chicago to LA. My hope is that when we open up again, we’ve made these distant connections permanent and can perform together in new places.”

What big brands can learn from webcam modelling sites

“Brands need to engage differently with people, both now and post-pandemic. Perhaps they can take inspiration from webcam modelling sites, where there’s often a built-in tipping system for performers. Imagine if sites like Instagram had tokens, too. It would be such an easy way to support someone – just a dollar at a time.”

Burlesque dancers and sex workers deserve respect, too

“One problem with my form of performance is that burlesque is considered sexual content, so it’s often disqualified from grants or aid. Legal sex workers, like strippers, are also denied emergency funding. But people are yearning for entertainment – and yes, sexual content, too. If one day the world realizes who we turned to for comfort during lockdown, maybe entertainers of all forms can score a living wage and respect for what we do, free of stigma.”

Kate Nightingale: consumer psychologist, lecturer (London)

Kate is a future of retail consultant, specialising in consumer shifts and brand psychology. She had lots to talk to us about regarding life after the pandemic – including personalisation, online experiences and the appeal of impulsiveness.

Our spending habits will change post-lockdown, but for how long?

“One way people are reacting to existential threat is to indulge and become more impulsive. It is already happening and once restrictions are lifted, we will see even more of it. What we’ll spend on will differ – but for some, it will be about something more mindful. Experiences will end up being even more important than they were already with initial preference for their slightly cleaner versions, with hygiene top of mind; quickly followed by getting dirty and more involved, simply because we can.”

Covid-19 will supercharge consumer expectations  

“Another way people react to existential threat is to become more prosocial – meaning trust and authenticity, but also certainty will be things they look for in brands. Sustainability and wellness will be given new life and meaning. There will also be more micro-behaviours, depending on the type of customer profile and location, so all brands should be more personalised and not just take the general outlook”.

Brands need to up their game in line with new digital retail behaviours

“We haven’t recently had access to the usual level of multisensory stimulation, but our brains are seeking it. Online experiences are currently not designed to deliver this, though science shows us that we can easily create all senses online. Brands which succeed in doing this, utilising more emotive and sensory language, upping their storytelling to get to telepresence, or adding more escapist content, can win with customers long-term. Perhaps, because of the crisis, we can even achieve a new standard of online experience.”

Cath Shanks: skateboarder, youth coach (Manchester)

Cath is a skateboarder from the UK. She’s concerned that many of the skateparks that have closed will struggle to reopen, especially the smaller, charity-funded spots. She spoke to us about Covid-19 vs skating, and what happens when skaters re-imagine their living rooms.

A lesson on re-looking

“People are having virtual games of skate inside their homes: videoing a trick and sending it to someone, who then has to film themselves doing it and vice versa. Carpet skateboarding is now a thing. People are calling each other with new tricks to land on the carpets in their living room skateparks.”

Payback loyalty, without fuss

“I wish big companies would put money into local skateparks to keep them afloat during these uncertain times. It’d be even better if they did so without asking for anything in return, like branding the park. It should just be a token of support for the community. The same community that buys all their products and keeps them alive in the first place.” 

From 28 markets and counting – across the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia – we work with our KIN network of leading edge collaborators to help brands stay at the forefront of culture.

Briefs they work on range from trends exploration to brand strategy and product and experience innovation. Since Covid-19, we’ve collaborated with them on identifying cultural signals that will impact on categories, pinpointing innovation opportunities and modifying brand comms to meet with new audience expectations. 

To find out more about how to work with KIN, do get in touch