Got the City In Lockdown
We’re just over two weeks into the UK’s period of lockdown so with more access to on demand entertainment than ever before we thought we’d check in with the streaming generation* to see what they been up to with their time, what they’re missing and how they anticipate life changing when our lives begin to return to normal.
Here are the five key things we learnt:
1. Mental Well-being is the Primary Concern
The impact on mental health and well-being was the most widely held concern amongst 18-44 year olds with 65% agreeing. For most this was less about isolation from friends, where social media and video calling are filling a gap - 36% claim to be spending a lot more time on video calls). Rather there is a real desire to keep occupied and positive to avoid dwelling on the daily news. It’s no surprise then that we have seen a whole range of activities being taken up over the past two weeks to try to keep occupied and relieve stress, from yoga to home cooking.
2. How to Stay in Shape?
Whilst ‘keeping fit’ was less of a concern, a fear of putting on weight was mentioned by 58% as a prime concern whilst staying at home. For those with children, PE with Joe Wicks has fulfilled a key role, not only keeping children entertained but also allowing mums and dads to keep active at the same time. However, it was interesting to see that around 1 in 5 young adults without children claim to have taken part and, beyond Joe Wicks, we had mentions of all kinds of online fitness apps being used for the first time. However, for many it’s not about a desire to emerge from isolation with a Love Island physique. The daily walk or cycle has become a key part of many people’s routines with 1 in 3 claiming they are exercising outdoors more now than before lockdown began.
3. Let me Entertain You
For parents, however, one concern dominates all others – how to keep the children entertained! 66% parents agreed this was a key worry for them during the lockdown period. Interestingly, parents of older children seem more relaxed about this as teens become more self-sufficient and with a much wider range of devices to keep themselves entertained. However, for those with younger families, this remains the overriding concern - 79% for parents of pre-school children and 71% of those with KS1 or KS2 kids saw this as key worry.
The withdrawal of all those activity classes and after school clubs really has left a big hole that parents feel under pressure to fill. As a result, not only did we see parents of young children taking up activities like online baby classes but initiatives like Elevenses by David Walliams had been taken up by 1 in 10 parents of young children keen to add some structure to their day.
4. Content not Commerce is King
With many leading brands having to close e-commerce operations, it’s no surprise that only 17% claim to be shopping online more during lockdown. The recent trading announcement by Asos seems to reinforce that, even for pure play .com players, being all dressed up with nowhere to go puts a real dampener on sales. For those who haven't seen it Slackline's recent analysis on changing category dynamics on e-commerce is a fascinating insight into consumer behaviour at the start of the crisis.
By comparison 37% claim to be gaming more and the same number spending more time watching streaming services such as Netflix or Amazon Prime. Features like Netflix Movie Party have also proved popular with 15% of those with Netflix claiming to have trialled this feature. Younger adults have also engaged with streamed performances from their favourite artists, seeing it as a way both to keep entertained but also to support performers they care about whilst they're off the road. It's interesting therefore to see brands like Pepsi getting involved with Global Citizen's One World Together at Home festival.
Whilst many of us in marketing circles have been rightly praising brands which have ‘done the right thing’ , we found that many initiatives had passed this audience by. Initiatives relating to the NHS such as dedicated store opening hours (24%), Uber offering free Jump rides (11%) or Pret offering free drinks (11%) had reasonable levels of awareness. However, other notable initiatives e.g. Unilever donating €100m worth of soap and sanitiser (3%) or TK Maxx donating all perishable goods to food banks (5%) had very low cut through. Whilst we didn't ask about the negative PR stories (e.g. Mike Ashley or Richard Branson) , it will be equally interesting to see whether the furore around these will also have subsided by the time the crisis has passed and we're after that next deal on a holiday or school trainers for PE lessons...
5. An Unwelcome Break
When we asked this generation what they missed about normal everyday life, socialising with friends again in person was the biggest gap, mentioned spontaneously by 22%. However, other elements which bring structure to everyday life were also popular mentions, particularly the gym or fitness classes (14%) but also restaurants / coffee shops (7%), shopping (6%), work (6%) and, of course being Britain, the pub (5%). Sports and cultural events also had strong mentions with football and cinema both mentioned by c. 1 in 20.
So, whilst we have seen many a grandiose statement on "how life will never be the same", the overriding sense was that it was precisely the normality of life before lockdown that most people were missing. The key question once we emerge from lockdown won’t therefore be whether there is a pent up demand for the leisure sector but more whether people have the disposable income to afford it.
It was clear that most people have an optimistic outlook on how quickly lockdown restrictions would be eased. 40% of those interviewed believed it would be over by end of May and 70% by end of June, with most hopeful that the summer will see an end to restrictions and also no doubt planning that their summer holiday plans may still salvage something from 2020.
Whilst, it’s obviously too early to start making predictions on what life will be like after Covid-19 when we haven’t even reached the peak of the crisis, we did get a sense of a divide emerging from those we interviewed. On the one hand, those that feel that this period of ‘deprivation’ has given them a new sense of perspective, placing more value on time with loved ones and with grand intentions to live life to the full once they emerge from a period of isolation. However, on the other those who feel that everyday life will take a long time to get back to normal either due to financial pressures or fears of the infection re-occurring.
Inevitably, once the day to day routine starts up again, the reality will be somewhere between these two poles. However, they present a tricky tightrope for brands over the coming months. On the one hand, being seen to portray a sense of confidence and optimism but on the other not being seen to be so frivolous and carefree as to be inappropriate.
* We interviewed 500 adults aged 18-44 using Measure Protocol's UK panel between 2nd and 4th April
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