The Future For Active Lifestyle Brands Post COVID-19 May 19, 2020

COVID-19 has created a global humanitarian, health and economic crisis that has drastically changed our lives. Knowing things will never be quite the same, we’re in an extremely emotional and challenging environment.

But to reach what’s in front of you, you must let go of what’s behind you. It’s time to inhale the future and exhale the past.

Understanding emerging consumer perspectives and proven recession marketing strategies provide an opportunity to better engage with consumers for rapid recovery in the post-virus economy.

A brand can’t defend against global consumer hibernation, but it can give you an opportunity to be ahead of the competition during recovery.

Satisfaction can arise from consumption, but we can also experience a sense of satisfaction with less or non-consumption experiences. We see this thinking emerging today, with consumers’ interest in smaller brands, brand transparency, self-aware consumerism and brand social consciousness.


NAVIGATING COMPETITIVELY IN
SITUATIONS OF UNCERTAINTY

A global pandemic and recession is a challenging business environment, to say the least. Navigating this time requires eliminating sensationalism and managing uncertainty by establishing boundaries or guardrails to work within. The first step is to separate the pandemic environment (the cause) from the economy (the effect). Let’s start with the economy, as surprisingly, there is a greater vision for solutions based upon historical economic downturns.

THE ECONOMY

There will be a recession. The only questions are how deep and wide, and what the shape of the recovery will be. So the two most important boundaries are duration and intensity. Duration is predictable. Economic activity can’t completely recover until there is a vaccine readily available.

Right now, effective brand behavior requires short-term actions, long-term vision and continual optimization. Challenging environments require competitive performance. In Formula One, races are never won on the straightaways, they’re won on the difficult curves. So while challenging, our current environment offers considerable opportunities for brands that can lean into it.

Marketing, and more specifically advertising, has both short-term and long-term impacts. In a recession, marketers only need to let their competitors damage themselves by going dormant or significantly reducing spending. It’s been long understood that share-of-voice leads to market share. Short-sighted competitors will cut back on marketing, surrendering share-of-voice to the brands that stay active while brands that often recover in a position of strength are doing everything they can to maintain marketing spend and grow market share during a recession. Every incremental dollar invested in share-of-voice delivers significantly more rebound ROI, making it a sound investment if funds can be allocated.

During the 2008 global financial crash, brands that leaned into marketing increased share-of-voice by 8% and experienced an annualized market share growth of 4.5% on average. Logic supports that brands maintaining their marketing spend will gain cheaper share-of-voice and rebound to profitability faster while increasing market share.

*Chart for illustration only

THE PANDEMIC ENVIRONMENT –
PAUSING AND SLOWING DOWN

Time is the only constant in our lives, and it has stretched out and slowed to a glacial pace during our shelter-in-place orders. Doing nothing, it turns out, is harder for many of us than doing truly hard work.

According to Psychology Today, many people will struggle with a loss of identity during this time. The concept of “self” is formed in a network of interdependent roles, relationships and valued experiences. We have lost much of our self.

As we emerge from our hibernation, we will all be more focused on investing time, recognizing it’s not about arriving but the experience itself and finding a deeper sense of identity.

We will once again do the things we previously enjoyed and pent-up demand will encourage us to explore new activities and purchase products that can enhance experience.

The feverish pace we once embraced will shift as well.

Slow Adventuring has already been a movement in Europe.

This trend eschews the quick-fix, adrenaline-pumping hits of convenient adventure experiences, in favor of slow, immersive journeys. It emphasizes living in and traveling through wild places and natural spaces – experiencing nature in its own timeframe.


NAVIGATING CONSUMER NEEDS

Our horizon has changed. Globally, we’ve been taken down to the “survival” level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Unsecure employment, potential illness, disruption of supply chains and shelter-in-place orders all increase our feelings of uncertainty.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

(Pre COVID)

Materialistic Lifestyle

Need: Esteem


Prior to this pandemic, most Americans measured their success by what they had compared to others. This feeling encouraged a strong desire for social currency and sharing. Badge brands like Canada Goose promoted self-esteem, status and financial freedom. Focus was on the destination and how little time we could invest to get there.

(During COVID)

Home Bound Lifestyle

Need: Safety & Belonging


We’ve had to fight for safety needs never considered just weeks prior. Toilet paper and hand-soap became highly valued. Simple pleasures like a walk outdoors have become a welcome reprieve. “Being in this together” and shuttering-in with family has reinforced our need for belonging.

This experience has also allowed most of us to pause and examine personal growth, priorities and time investments.

(Post COVID)

A New Enlightened Lifestyle

Need: Self-Actualization


No doubt we have the resources and desire to rebound upwards in Maslow’s Hierarchy. Recognizing that our material goods and esteem are more fragile than perceived, we will drive towards self-actualization. We will move beyond status and achievement to fulfillment and being, finding deeper levels of enjoyment in experiences that reinforce identity.


NAVIGATING ENLIGHTENED CONSUMERISM EXPERIENCES

Surprisingly, the values of the Enlightened Lifestyle are not new and are elements of what was coined “Buddhist Economics” (first published in London in 1966).

Buddhist Economics was considered a call for an economics of consumerism contentment, sustainability and quality of life experiences. It suggests moving away from the Industrial Age way of thinking and society’s passion for “things” and look to find what truly makes you happy.

Mattannuta, knowing the right amount of consumption, is a defining principle of Buddhist Economics. It’s your awareness of the optimum consumption point where enhanced overall well-being (including our natural environment) coalesces with the experience of personal satisfaction.

TRUE-SELF BUDDHIST ECONOMICS


A Wise personal consumption

B Freedom from harming others, nature, or society

C Sustainable resources and product use

D Harmony with human nature in work ethic

E Integration and unity with nature

EMERGING CONSUMER BRAND INTERESTS


A Smaller agile brands with small footprints

B Fashion functionality and athleisure products

C Experiences over product ownership

D Transparent brands with a strong sense of ownership and pride from customers

E Eco, social and human sustainability

F Personal well-being and healthy living outdoors

G Brands that are culturally relevant and make consumers feel good


LEANING INTO THE CURVE FOR A WIN

As consumers plan to get active and outdoors again, they will be purchasing products to engage in new experiences that will enhance their sense of self and take them to a new level. There will be pent-up and new demand for active-lifestyle products. How do brands not only appreciate this short-term opportunity by garnering a greater share of the purchases but also use this event as a brand-building opportunity?

The answer is converting and engaging consumer interests longer term. By recognizing when and how the pandemic and resulting economic climate will change our marketing landscape, we can lean in for a larger, more loyal and engaged brand community.

*Chart for illustration only

THE RISE OF OUTDOOR EXPERIENCES IN TRAVEL

Consumer behavior pre-COVID was already shifting away from the need for things to experiences that increase satisfaction and shape identity, travel being the foremost example of this. Trends have been pointing to the idea of Transformative Travel that promotes wellness, connection to self and embraces the healing power of nature. And consumer preferences have been shifting towards localized and slow travel that reduces carbon emissions and increases enjoyment. The pandemic will rapidly accelerate this movement.

The luring authentic culture of local outdoor spaces will be rediscovered, with airline destination travel recovering slowly as consumers weigh risk/reward of prolonged communal travel.

THE REVIVAL OF ACTIVE LIFESTYLES

Active-lifestyle enthusiasts will return to their interests with renewed passion and desire to invest time and resources.

Consumers are already flocking to hiking trails and state parks. In Minnesota alone, the DNR reported that fishing license sales are up 48 percent over 2019. The outdoor industry will see a surge in growth and interest in the coming months that will be driven by the need for safety and changing consumer preferences that drive to self-actualization.


· Emphasis on finding freedom and embracing a renewed sense of self


· Preference for brands that symbolize skill, craftsmanship & authenticity


· Priority will be given to brands that value people and the communities they live in


· Desire to support brands that are honest


· Preference will be given to brands that play fair – they don’t want to be used for profit – especially during the pandemic


· Brand generosity and charity efforts, especially close to home, will be highly valued


· Increased desire to shop locally and in independent stores

As states begin to reopen, consumers will look to gear up and equip themselves to try new hobbies and reinvest in the activities that provide deep levels of fulfillment. Brands that capitalize on emerging consumer brand interests and maintain their share-of-voice will be well-positioned for recovery and future growth.


AUTHOR

Scott Mitchell is CEO and Founder of Adventure™ – a marketing firm that generates traction for active-lifestyle brands using a unique combination of end-to-end strategy, collaborative product design and award-winning creative execution.

scott@adventurecreative.com