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Are Consumers Ready For Brands Pedaling A 'New Year, New Me' Message?

by The Dieline on 01/05/2021 | 4 Minute Read

Are you ready to start your New Year fitness regime? Lose the pounds that you piled on over the festive season? What about giving up alcohol for a month or going 100% plant-based? Stub out your last cigarette? 

After Christmas, the media are full of stories and regimes designed to motivate us to turn over a new leaf. And there are thousands of products, services, and charities that are ready to capitalize on our good intentions.

But 2021 could look and feel a little different. The past few months have been pretty tough thanks to Covid-19, and we’re not all feeling as driven as we did at the start of 2020. Some of us have sought solace in the odd glass of red or bar of chocolate during the long, lonely nights in lockdown—and we’re in no mood for someone to place us on the New Year naughty list. 

So how should brands approach this unprecedented period? How can they make traction with their consumer base without sounding thoughtless, especially when we might not be ready for a "New Year, New Me" ethos? We put these questions to experts in brand strategy and design across multiple sectors, and here’s what they said.     

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Rowena Curlewis, CEO, Drinks Design Specialist at Denomination

The lockdown has had a noticeable impact on consumers’ relationship with the drinks sector. Those trusted brands representing stability and reassurance have proved hugely successful, as people have been less inclined to reach for the latest Instagrammable drink.

Brands need to distance themselves from the idea that being good to yourself means abstention and self-punishment. Why should veganism, for example, be about what you can’t have? We see more vegan wines come to market, but many still fall back on earthy design cues that seem more suited to the 1970s. Progressive brands will use design as a means to communicate with a wider demographic. Out with "lentil-y" thinking and in with modern cues that speak of a kinder, softer world.  

Those brands responding to the increasing appetite for light wines that taste good while having minimal environmental impact will do well, too. So, expect to see more reduced-weight bottles and lower ABVs, as they develop wines and their brand identities in response to modern thinking about wellbeing and sustainability. 

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Alex Moulton, Chief Creative Officer, branding and design studio TROLLBÄCK+COMPANY

Brands that are committed to supporting our physical and mental wellbeing will be well-positioned in 2021, and yet I expect that the typical ‘New Year, New You’ message won’t have the same ring this January. 

Last year’s resolutions were clearly paused, along with all sense of normalcy. But we shouldn’t aspire to return to "normal." We are in the midst of a cultural transformation, and I encourage brands to use this moment to create a meaningful impact. 

While working with environmentally responsible interior design specialist West Elm, we coined a phrase that guides their strategy and seems distinctly appropriate for this discussion: Looking good + doing good = feeling good.

This simple idea is a powerful framework to engage audiences with actions and messages that get to the heart of the matter. Because in 2021, we just want to feel good again.

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Kat Towers, Head of Culture, creative design agency LOVE 

Consumers are emerging from a decade of peak burnout—politically, socially, and economically. In some ways, the pandemic is the tip of the iceberg. 

Thrust into a new normal, lockdown reprogrammed many parts of our lives. Before we came to a grinding halt, hustle-culture ruled, the non-stop hyper-productivity and fetishization of busyness. Brands created the unrealistic expectation that we should spend our free time refining ourselves physically and intellectually.

Post pandemic, consumers are no longer chasing the idea of perfection and are turning away from the relentless pursuit of being the best towards being the happiest. January will still be a significant time for communication as consumers look to put 2020 behind them, but this year has taught brands that pivoting is critical.

Pandemic isolation has left consumers craving community, and brands that harness this by creating spaces for consumers to connect, physically and virtually, will win out. Wellness will wrap its arms around the toxic world of health and fitness. On-demand CBD will replace skinny teas, and workouts will get accompanied by an element of entertainment. Over the next few years, enjoyment will become a political act against the mechanism of capitalism—and the keyword for brands.

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Kate Fahie, Senior Strategist, creative brand agency STORMBRANDS

As the vaccination gets rolled out, brands have an opportunity to reflect on how the past year has impacted people’s expectations and behaviors and, therefore, brand relevance and equity. We could see a surge in hedonistic pursuits after being restricted for so long. But more likely, the benefits of a grounded life will stay with us. Brands will need to make sure they’re chiming with their target consumer’s mood.

And generally, that mood is kinder, more positive, and honest. Many of us have a new perspective on life. Being separated from family and friends has thrown into relief just how much all of that stuff matters. It has also revealed what we can live without. Relentless consumerism, the endless quest to be your fittest, best-looking, and most-successful self have now been replaced by something more introspective.

Most importantly, people’s BS detectors are on high alert. The spiraling of fake news throughout the pandemic means trust will take time to re-establish. Right now, it’s more about empowerment and knowledge-sharing. Consumers are demonstrating a more measured approach than before, so it’s the agile brands that understand this and maintain a dialogue with people on a meaningful level that will come out on top.

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