In a chaotic cultural landscape, Crowd’s Rachel Rapp and Amy Nicholson present three mindsets that create opportunity in uncertainty…
The last few years have been turbulent across the globe. From climate paralysis and political fatigue, to the cost-of-living crisis and the impact of AI, chaos has become the new normal. Finding what’s good in permacrisis – Collins’s Dictionary word of the year, 2022 – can feel overwhelming.
Luckily, at Crowd DNA, we’re partial to a bit of chaos. As our fundamental human needs shift in response to uncertainty, how we interact with brands also changes, and we think that creates opportunity. Using trends analysis, semiotics and conversations with our KIN network, we’ve identified three mindsets that brands can adopt to make sense of the mayhem. These are: hand holding, distracting, or embracing uncertainty.
You can get a taste of how to execute against each mindset below. It’s our introduction to how brands can show up for consumers in these incalculable times. There are certainly more mindsets out there to be defined – but we hope these begin to inspire you to think about what’s right for your brand.
Three Mindsets To Meet Shifting Human Behaviour In Uncertain Times
1. Hand Holding
Hand holding plays into our human needs for comfort and security. The trick is to offer reassurance and stability by grounding your brand’s touch points with scenes of everyday reality, universal experiences and simple language. While we typically see hand holding in fintech, banking and insurance (industries that are looking to support consumers during the cost-of-living crisis), we’re now seeing brands from other categories presenting themselves as reassuring and stable, too.
Hand Holding: How To…
_Dial up references to familiar rituals. We see this mindset in the Food Love Stories campaign from UK supermarket chain Tesco, emphasising everyday realities – eg a family barbecue. Meanwhile, at London Fashion Week, Burberry took over a London cafe to serve up comfort food (a surprising collision of egg and chips and designer fashion). Both brands are speaking to the need for security through relatability.
_Incorporate community values and the idea of coming together. The Levi’s 2023 campaign was about people gathering at a funeral in their trusty 501 jeans, with themes of togetherness, support, and to give a sense of belonging.
_Offer a casual, friendly tone of voice. Ganni’s use of informal emoticons suggests a relatable, peer-to-peer relationship with consumers, while Ikea’s language of togetherness creates a sense of camaraderie that cultivates trust and connection.
There’s often a craving for distraction from the uncertainty, and brands can offer this with momentary escape. Playing with time – harking back to simpler eras, using nostalgia, or transporting us toward a brighter future – are key tropes within this mindset. After all, an escape from the present is the ultimate distraction from uncertain times.
Distraction: How To…
_Emphasise intentionally retro aesthetics and allude to nostalgia. The latest design for toaster pastries, Pop-Tarts, is a nostalgia trip back to their iconic 1960s packaging, allowing consumers to be distracted from uncertain times with comforting memories of the past.
_Tap into the surreal. The wellbeing supplement brand, Dirtea, evokes dreamscape imagery that defies reality with a product that actually levitates and positions itself as a portal to a utopian world that distracts from the uncertain present by letting consumers escape.
_Reference futurism through digitised worlds. Coca Cola has catapulted us to the year 3000 with their new release that allows a taste of the future, created using AI, all while using 2023’s Colour of the Year: Digital Lavender. This emphasis on futurist realities invites us to disengage from the present moment.
This is where brands are really getting stuck into the mess by either doubling down on difficult topics, or making light of uncertainty with relatable humour. Here, we see brands lean into the chaos, by being on the consumer’s side as they find light in the darkness. And, in the more extreme examples, challenging the status quo by forcing the audience to confront an uncomfortable and uncertain future.
Embracing: How To…
_Get people laughing by playing with the bizarre. Heinz has released its first global ad campaign in 150 years celebrating ‘irrational love’ for the brand, like the idea of putting ketchup on ice-cream, or Heinz tattoos. Elsewhere, product comparison website, Compare The Market uses a witty tone of voice to parody the temperamental British weather. Both are finding humour in the unpredictable.
_Lean into the confrontational and uncomfortable. Balenciaga’s Mud S/S 2023 showcased a dirty, post-apocalyptic world, while Isamaya Beauty has recently presented an extreme otherworldly makeup style. These encourage us to rethink our current way of living by physically immersing us in the darker side of uncertainty.
_Reframe the narrative around uncertainty. The travel planner service, Journee Trips, plays with the language of excitement and mystery to maximise the idea of discovery and adventure; celebrating not knowing your destination until you reach the airport.
Which uncertainty mindset best fits your brand? Or do you tap into another mindset altogether during these turbulent times? To find out more about the opportunities within chaos, please get in touch.