Customer, Now.

2020 ‘In’ Review

We look inside ourselves for what breaks through.

In March of 2020, we launched “Customer, Now” as an exploration with 504 people in China, Germany, India, Japan, UK and the US, to understand how people’s lives are changing amidst the new realities thrust upon us in 2020. As a study of humanity, COVID-19 created the context of the world’s biggest deprivation study – having forced people everywhere to spend time without. Without the intimacy of human touch, the normalcy of day-to-day routine, nor the predictability of tomorrow.

Without the same connections to others and our outside worlds, we have been forced to spend an exorbitant amount of time with our inner selves — hyper-focused “in” every thought, feeling, interaction, decision made and surface touched.

Introspection, injustice, being inside, feeling insecure – 2020 has been a year pronounced by “ins”. As a prefix or word-forming element, “in” means “not, opposite or without.” It is within that definition, where we can see 2020 as a year defined by:

1. What we can “not” do more than what we can

2. The “opposite” more than the truth

3. Being “without” more than being with

Via “Customer, Now” we saw emerging human truths resulting from this inward focus.

More than a year marked by the turn of a calendar, we’d argue 2020 was a big bang into a new human cycle. The “inward“ part of the cycle will be with us for some time – living in the grey – defining our experiences and our feelings and beliefs about them. And yet, the next stage in the cycle is inevitable as we move “outward” – emerging through this cycle with a greater sense of intention, innovation, inclusion and inspiration for what we can make possible.

Despite our differences, we are an increasingly interdependent species. 2020 showed us that at every turn. Our health, our happiness, our progress relies on each other to be healthy, to be happy and to progress. Looking inside ourselves, we realize the greatest need is of one another.

What’s possible now

The main question we get from clients in regard to our “Customer, Now” work, is “what’s gonna stick?” What will change and what will revert back to the way it was?

However, we believe it’s the wrong question. Rather, brands should be asking “what’s possible now that wasn’t even imaginable before?”

In people’s forced constraints and introspections brought on by the global pandemic, they are developing heightened expectations of brands. To not just make better things, but to make things better. To take care of people. To improve peoples’ lives – individually and at scale.

Improving people’s lives isn’t an act of corporate responsibility. It’s being emotionally relevant. Being meaningful to what matters in people’s lives. Helping people have fun, feel proud, be safe, feel respected, be generous, get smarter…enriching their lives by engaging in the world around them.

The world is now spinning at a slightly different angle – one that shines more light on just how bad the old trajectories were. Customers put up with all kinds of inefficiencies, injustices and inconsistencies because they didn’t expect more. Not any longer.

Now customers expect brands to have their backs. To create better outcomes for the employees, customers and communities – the people – a brand relies on and serves. To put profit on the side of people. To build a brand to make a greater human impact. To make possible what wasn’t even imaginable before.