The Great Awakening: the opportunity for marketers as we transition out of hibernation

Foundation head of strategy and planning Arum Nixon
By Foundation head of strategy and planning Arum Nixon | 2 November 2021
Arum Nixon

I recently read an article about the lessons we can learn from hibernating bears, as those of us in VIC, NSW and ACT come out of our own enforced ‘hibernation’. Apparently, I learned, rather than waking up and going straight back to usual bear activities as though nothing had happened (presumably catching salmon mid leap and doing their business in forests), they go through a transition period as they adapt back to normal life.

The author’s point was that we too could benefit from taking on this mindset; rather than rushing to get back to normal, we should all cut ourselves some slack, and realise that life won’t just snap back like nothing had happened.

Whilst they make an excellent point that we should all take note of, it’s also an interesting thought about human behaviour. Right now we’re in a unique period of transition, which has big implications for how we think, feel and act.

Lockdown has broken habits formed over years, and changed many of our patterns of behaviour as we come out the other side. Even if we do go back to our former activities, the routine of them has been broken, the zombie mindset. Our commute is a great example – something we did daily, unthinkingly, will likely look and feel quite different to us when we start back up.

Across all areas of our lives, things we took for granted feel more exciting, more special, or perhaps more challenging.

This is only natural. We have been cocooned in the safety of our own little bubble – our homes, immediate family, close neighbourhood, essential shops and services. These by definition are safe, familiar spaces in the face of threat and adversity – so leaving them, particularly with so much uncertainty still around, triggers some level of survival instinct.

But like bears, it’s only a transition period. It’s a unique set of circumstances, and soon enough we’ll have adapted back to habitual behaviour – whether that’s old habits returning or the fabled ‘new normal’.

For us in marketing, this heightened state of alertness as we leave the safety of our 5km-wide bubbles represents a unique opportunity – and one that I’m not sure we’ve fully grasped.

Right now the topic of attention is getting a lot of, well, attention. The research is clear – getting people to pay some level of attention to brands is key. If attention is such a valuable commodity, we’re in a potential gold rush for brands.

There are three ways we can take advantage of this limited window of opportunity. Firstly, we need to recognise it for what it is – a limited, one-off opportunity, that might not fit neatly into your budget cycle or marketing playbook. It’s there for the taking, but requires a level of bravery and decisiveness.

Secondly, we need to think in particular about what touchpoints are best placed to take advantage of this heightened state of alertness. Whilst just about every area of our lives has been disrupted, it’s the moments when people leave the safety and comfort of their personal space and into public spaces that we’ll be more alert. There are plenty of opportunities to take advantage of here – out of home and even cinema are obvious examples, but thinking more laterally there are also experiential activations, sampling, even your own retail space.

And finally, to really capitalise on this opportunity, we need to do more than just show up in these spaces. Attention is there for the taking, but we still need to take it. Now’s the time to try something different, to push the creative envelope and be brave.

For those of us willing and agile enough to take advantage, it’s an exciting opportunity – for others, it will pass by. Before too long we’ll be sitting in a tree with some honey like nothing has happened.

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