January 1st 2020 marked the beginning of a brand-new decade. And whilst it has definitely been a history-making year, for the majority it hasn’t lived up to the hopes and resolutions made in January. Instead, it has been filled with a huge array of environmental and societal tragedies – all under the cloud of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Creating a year filled with challenges, changes and uncertainties.
As humans, we fundamentally don’t like uncertainty and change because it disrupts our ecosystem of what makes us feel good, secure and comfortable. Research from the University of Cambridge found that after surveying nearly 7,000 people across ten countries in May, the highest level of concern was found in the UK. At the7stars our own Lightbox Pulse research supports this, with levels of apprehension (55%) and worry (51%) in November being the highest emotions Brits state experiencing as they look ahead to the coming weeks and months.
So it’s no surprise that during the course of this year when we’ve examined the results from our consumer tracking study, the QT, that the overall happiness levels of the UK have never been so low. In May, as the UK continued lockdown, feeling ‘less happy’ went from 21% in February to 55% in May, a 162% uplift. Then as restrictions began to lift in June, happiness saw a small uplift of 26% feeling ‘more happy’. However, this was short lived with feelings of ‘less happy’ climbing through August (47%), October (51%) and reaching the highest recorded peak in November (56%) since tracking began in November 2016.
Despite feeling low, Brits have an incredible resilience and set of coping mechanisms. From humour that can be seen with the huge number of memes and jokes surfing the Internet, it’s fair to say that 2020 has been hosting its own tragi (comedy) club. Through to escapism in media, with 1 in 4 increasing their usage of podcasts/audiobooks, through to 1 in 3 increasing watching TV programmes live as seen in the7stars QT. Another form of escapism is nostalgia; with the7stars Lightbox Pulse highlighting that half of Brits are looking back at 5+ years ago and to their childhood and participating in nostalgic hobbies to provide them with comfort.
As the year comes to an end Brits are going to be looking for ways to distract themselves and lift their mood, so brands that help tap into consumers’ coping mechanisms (humour, escapism and nostalgia) will be in the best place to build resonance and a relationship going into 2021.