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What will matter in a meta-normal, post-Covid-19 world. 

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Has what matters to you changed this year?

In a nutshell

  1. Instead of focusing on what behaviour will persist and which won’t in the meta normal world, organisations would be better to ask what matters to people.
  2. People are aching to make progress and get moving again - they want some good things to come out of this post Covid-19 era. 
  3. They want organisations to be clear and passionate about who they are, because they themselves have emerged clearer on who they are.

Has what matters to you changed this year? Before Covid-19, though things did not stand still, the momentum of normal life felt like standing on travelator: moving forward on a clear path, destination in sight. After Covid-19 feels more like being beamed into an alternate universe. 

There have been other uncertain times, other shifts in the fabric of society, resulting in periods of social and political upheaval. The surrealist art movement emerged in the twenties as a response to uncertain times. Surrealist artists questioned societal structures by challenging reality, their works connecting directly to viewers’ emotions and unconscious experience, rather than a rational translation of it. When reality shifts our unconscious and emotions come to the forefront. 

Surrealism posed the question of what matters to you. This question is left hanging in the air in our post Covid-19 meta normal. The other frequently used term, ‘the new normal’, doesn’t feel like it captures the extent that this pandemic has tilted the axis of our lives. ‘New normal’ might be adequate if you are only asking whether some behaviour changes will persist. 

For example, will people continue to shop online as much as they did during lockdown if the behaviour is not forced by necessity? Did they do it long enough for it to become a new habit? Look at the problem we have with the tracer app. People use it a few times if there is an alert level change or some comms about the app, but it drops off very quickly because it hasn’t had time to hard wire the habit. Behaviour change nudges aren’t designed for a world that has tilted – they might work for quick wins and fixing the obvious pain points, but is that enough? 

From a behaviour change perspective, social norms have become a more pertinent model. We were in this together, we didn’t know how to behave, we had to suspend some of our natural disposition of breaking the rules to conform, comply and obey. 

So, what matters to you? 

Instead of focusing on what behaviour will persist and which won’t in the meta normal world, organisations would be better to ask what matters to people. Ultimately, that will determine their choices and their behaviour. We know that being beamed to an alternative universe stirred up our brains. All the evidence shows that removing the scaffolding of everyday life - not in a gradual way - drove our brains into overdrive with rushes of creativity, deep reflection and change in perspective. Lockdown life tilted reality, it felt surreal. 

Despite this tilted reality, some things stay the same. Our data is showing that people’s mindsets have not shifted – if you described yourself as traditional, you still do. If you said you had unique (rather than mainstream) tastes, you still do. Our baked in Kiwi codes haven’t gone away. We still have an enduring connection to nature, for example. Returning Kiwis endorse this connection, citing it as a reason to come home. And, human needs stay the same – we still value social belonging, for example, but the cultural context has changed so how that plays out has shifted.  

In these surreal times, if behaviour is driven by necessity and the adage that ‘the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour’ may no longer be practical, how should organisations connect, if not by engaging unconscious and emotional responses?  

Three mental spaces are important to address for organisations wanting to connect to people in the meta normal. 

1. Be clear and passionate about who you are 


Anxiety is everywhere which is driving people to consider what matters. Empathy has surfaced and we’ve adopted ‘Be Kind’ at a broad level. Organisations have had to make moral based decisions. So, an organisations purpose has an elevated role in the mental image we hold of them. 

But the idea of purpose has become grounded; grandiose claims of ‘world peace’ are not on code. Instead it’s more a question of who are you, what do you stand for and are you passionate about it. The meta normal, like surrealist art, is bold and turned up to eleven. There’s no appetite for halfhearted anymore. Some of the organisations who have recently adopted Aotearoa have accepted they won’t please everyone. Taking a position is better than not taking one. 

2. Hit the accelerator and make a wake as you power ahead 


The shock of the meta normal means people swing between loss and nostalgia versus a sense of a fresh start with the clock ticking; there is the feel of urgency in people’s conversations.  

Loss makes us realise that we only have one life and to appreciate what’s good. Personal nostalgia has a positive impact on us: enjoying good memories creates positive emotions and motivates us to move forward and create new positive experiences (personal nostalgia is different from era nostalgia – ‘the good old days’ – which is indicative of sadness/depression). 

People want to see optimism in the organisations they interact with. They want to see energy, drive and forward momentum. Make them feel like riding your wake is like hitching a ride into the new reality.  

3. See them and let them see you 


Time has taken on new value – whether it’s time not commuting, time to spend with the kids, time to breathe. We’ve discovered we can give up a lot, so we’ve developed better filters. This means we don’t have time for things that don’t match our values and needs. Relevance to peoples’ lives and what they value matters – they want to know that you see them. 

It works both ways. They want to see you, so they can trust you. If I am going to identify with your organisation, if you feel like a good fit, then I don’t want you to fail me.  

The bar has raised 

When reality feels distorted, we retreat into the inner world of emotions. During lockdown, time felt bent, like one of Dali’s surrealist, melting clocks. Brands and organisations that connect at this emotional level are forging deep relationships. People are aching to make progress and get moving again - they want some good things to come out of this post Covid-19 era. They want organisations to be clear and passionate about who they are, because they themselves have emerged clearer on who they are. They’ll choose the brand that feels like the right fit.  

It’s not a lot to ask, but the bar has been raised and people are looking to organisations, corporates and brands to step up. 

This article was published in the latest issue of Frame magazine. To request a copy, get in touch with us on hello@tra.co.nz.

 

Frame magazine

 

Colleen Ryan
Partner at TRA

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