‘We all had plans’: Future Now Episode 1 Recap

By AdNews | 19 August 2020

The last six months has seen the world turned upside down. In business as in our daily lives, our behaviour has changed rapidly. Future Now’s launch episode, hosted by AdNews publisher Assia Benmedjdoub, brought together Facebook’s head of connection planning ANZ, Helen Black, with behavioural psychologist Bri Williams and partner at McKinsey and Co, Jenny Child, to make sense of it all.

“I was watching the movie Apollo 13 recently, and it struck me that these astronauts had a plan of going to the moon, and then something cataclysmic happened to them. And that’s analogous to what has happened to our society this year,” explains behavioural psychologist Bri Williams.

“We all had plans of how 2020 was going to roll and instead of us shooting for the stars, we have come back to basics to work out how we are going to survive this, in our personal lives and in business too.”

Facebook’s Helen Black says the penetration of digital behaviour across generations is something that has really struck her as we’ve adapted to change, like the boom in online shopping. 

“I think about my parents. They're both 80 and in the last few months they have shopped online for the first time, they’ve switched from a newspaper to an online subscription, and they've even started video calling my kids,” she says, pointing out this behaviour isn’t just happening in Australia but across the globe.


For McKinsey partner Jenny Child, finding equilibrium with our home and working lives will be especially intriguing: “The number one question CEOs are getting in every Town Hall is ‘What's going to be our go forward work from home policy’? So making sure your employee base is comfortable with the next step is going to be really important for productivity.”

For People Patterns managing director Williams, whether behaviours become permanent really boils down to where reward exceeds effort: “Either in business or in your personal life, if the reward for doing something is greater than the effort, then that's more likely to lay down the neural pathways and we're more likely to continue that behaviour.”

Black says for people it will be a case of balancing the trigger, the friction and the reward, citing going to the gym vs online fitness as an example. The trigger is the same at 7am, being able to do it in her bedroom removes the friction, but sometimes she still misses the reward of the buzz of a busy gym. 

She explains: “What I find fascinating is how marketers have been adapting to this. Take an online fitness brand like SWEAT, who have been actively building their communities and getting people to come together in online forums, so that it feels like the energy of the gym. 

“It’s all about making these behaviours more sticky.” 


Black points out that it's important to remember the pandemic is impacting people in many different ways, with some businesses flying while others struggle. The same goes for individuals, including along economic and gender lines. 

She explains: “One of the things that really jumped out at me was from Facebook’s Industry Micro-Shifts research in partnership with Kantar, which said far more women than men are feeling financially insecure about their future. Yet, far more men than women are seeking financial advice and guidance right now.

“So I think it's incumbent upon marketers to move beyond some of those, ‘all Australians’ sweeping statements and being really sensitive to a multitude of different circumstances.”


Economist Child explains people are uniformly saying supporting local businesses is something they want to do and is something businesses should be leaning into in their messaging.  

She also warns CEOs feel under equipped to tackle the mental health challenges of their workforce presently: “It's a real gap and they need to figure out very nimbly how to keep buoyancy amongst employees.”

Black points to the myriad ways Australians have come out to help one another: “This has been one of the heartwarming things that's popped up for me. I think of initiatives like Buy Them A Coffee to give a caffeine boost to healthcare workers. 

“There’s a growing recognition that individual micro actions and business actions can aggregate to a greater effect.”



Black has also appreciated the agility of brands, and outlined the need for nimbleness and flexible marketing. She cited New Zealand’s The Warehouse Group, which moved quickly to deliver its online offering through a personalised digital catalogue. 

Child flagged the importance of thinking differently about budgeting: “We keep saying that the quarter is the new year. And sometimes the month or the week is the new year. So annual cycles of how we set budgets and how we think about allocating resources are just completely out the window.” 

Williams recalled a quote she had recently heard that pointed out that there is no margin in needs.

She explains: “This is really important at the moment since a lot of businesses have pivoted around ‘needs’, because ‘wants’ have sort of washed away. Consumers have gone back to basics. But as time goes on, we're going to be moving back into the wants category.”

To help prepare your business for the future, you can tune into Episode 1 right here. Or to grab some snappy takeaways from the discussion, download the highlights here.

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