Hi there, what crazy times. Writing has been hard while navigating all these changes, and in the past four weeks, I’ve been through different emotional states, finding it really hard to do anything else than what was required. With so much noise around me (there is a COVID-19 related Tweet every 45 milliseconds) I decided to listen to different perspectives. Webinars by Canvas8, ITV, Kantar, Marketing Week and FutureLab helped me get inspired and make sense of my own thoughts regarding culture, media, business, marketing and the future.
Even though we’re all going through the same thing, this global sense of unity and solidarity is also met with varying personal experiences. Depending on social and economic situations, health risk levels and support networks, the current situation is affecting us in different ways.
Like any other type of long-tail event, this pandemic has sped up changes that were due to happen in the long-term, but it’s human nature to adapt to survive and then go back to how things were. That’s why I’m thinking about this in terms of acceleration. Culture is changing rapidly and there are many emerging behaviours: some of them will undoubtedly stay here for good, some will continue to evolve according to our needs, and others will characterise this specific moment in time.
The impact of this crisis is multilayered, so I’ve updated the sections. I’m interested in changes at a personal level in our daily life, how society as a whole is experiencing this and which aspects have been accelerated under the circumstances. There is also a creative highlight that celebrates and appreciates the creativity we are seeing during these times. Let’s get into it, and thanks for joining me again.
🏠 DAILY LIFE: QUARANTINE CULTURE
‘Quarantine culture’ has created a shift in our daily life, driven by three different elements:
Home, redefined: We’ve transformed the home so it could accommodate all our activities, both in terms of physical space and meaning. Sociologist E. Goffman believed that social activity happens in two different regions, the front (where we put a performance by acting out in a more formal and stylised manner) and the back (where we relax and use less formal modes of behaviour and speech). Now we need to do both from the same space, therefore erasing socially constructed meaning of what the home is for.
Extreme digitisation: everything that can be digital, from birthday celebrations to docs appointments and even wine tasting, is digital today. We’re breaking all sorts of misconception around digital: associations of it being of less quality (webinar vs physical event) or unreliable (bosses with trust issues had no other choice than to trust their employees) or cold (hello to all the kids and pets making impromptu appearances on their parent’s Zooms).
A conscious des-accelerating: every rich country worships the ‘cult of busy’, but now our diaries are free of commitments. This is, of course, not stress-free: we’re about to get into a recession and our livelihoods depend on making money. But we have no other choice than to slow down.
The takeout: as we open our most intimate space to others, we become more compassionate and understanding (I salute you, full-time working parents). This would be a good time for brands to rediscover their human side.
🌎 SOCIETY: TIME AND SPACE
This article called the pandemic ‘a time warp’, and I started thinking that the reason why everyone feels this pandemic is a bit surreal is that we’re going through a weird configuration of time and space.
Einstein discovered for us that time and space constitute each other, and as social scientist Doreen Massey said, they are key elements of social and cultural life.
We can see it in the new Spiderman meme, showing that we’re stuck in a new type of continuous present where there are no future plans, and every day just gives way to more of the same.
We can also feel it as our world got downsized to what’s within walking distance, and is now constituted mainly of our home and immediate neighbourhood. Living in London, Tokyo, Paris or Santiago constitutes of fundamentally the same.
In this context, balconies, windows, and rooftops are the new public squares across the world, reminding me of Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of habitus. It refers to when individuals find new solutions to new situations based on their gut feeling and intuition, which are collective and socially shaped. We don’t know who were the first people to play music to their neighbours from their balconies, or who started the claps for carers, but they feel natural and people are adopting them all around the world. These practices bring communities together and allow us to collective create symbolism and stories.
For brands: strategy usually looks at the target audience in a very individualistic way - that’s why brands that have built communities around them are equally praised and envied by the rest. To expand your target audience to community and society you need to contribute to the culture, not co-opt.
Every global crisis brings social mass societal shifts, and this slide from Canvas8 shows how different crisis paved the way for new paradigms in society with long-term effects (worth remembering it was a report published during World War II that led to the creation of the welfare state and the NHS in the UK)
We still don’t know what covid-19 will bring to the world, but the Financial Times surprised me last week arguing for a New Deal of the 21st-century where the government takes on a more active role in the economy to ensure access to public services and job security.
What I’m already seeing is an increased level of public scrutiny towards companies and billionaires. Two examples: there is a spreadsheet collating the actions UK Businesses have taken in regards to their workers during the pandemic, and Forbes has a ‘Billionaire tracker’ showing their actions during this time. Too many multi-million dollar companies are not paying taxes that could benefit society, and it’s costing us lives. This could accelerate a new era of accountability, where transparency is all-encompassing: from comms to supply chains to operations.
For brands: There are brands with social responsibility programmes, and there are brands that are socially responsible. This situation should accelerate a commitment to sustainability and we should expect to see a ton of certified B Corps in the next few months.
🌟 CREATIVE HIGHLIGHT
Who would have thought that toilet paper was going to be at the forefront of panic buying behaviour? Certainly not a situation thas has happened in countries with bidet in the bathroom :) ‘Give a Sheet’ is a website where quarantined artists are selling artworks using sheets of toilet paper as their canvas, and 100% of the money collected goes towards funding the activities of the COVID-Solidarity Response Fund for WHO.
Using toilet paper for a good cause counteracts the hysteria and perfectly encapsulates this moment in time.
I also was talking to a friend about how challenging it will be to remember to lockdown when every day feels more or less the same. She suggested I start a journal of my experience (which I’ve done) but also found out ‘My Lockdown Diary’ a 32-page pdf for children to fill in.
🕶 Bonus track
TikTok of the week: ‘Families spending quarantine together’ is one of my new favourite TikTok sub-genres. This one showing how every single member of the family is losing their mind in a slightly different way is so relatable.
Whatever you do with your next ad, don’t do this
Families doing amazing stuff: an adaption to Les Mis with fantastic lyrics and the best low-budget version of The Simpsons intro ever created
Thanks so much for reading, and if you want to share any thoughts on this week’s edition, just hit reply to this email and I’ll get back to you, or connect with me on Twitter.
Cultural Patterns is a newsletter by Florencia Lujani about culture, creativity and strategy. If you’ve enjoyed it, consider subscribing :)
Unfortunately, the cuts in advertising budgets have impacted me, and my freelance contract has been cut short. I’m now available for work from next week, so if you need strategic support and you think I can add value, please get in touch with me on Linkedin or reply to this email. Thanks.