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Lightbox Loves: Comfort and Control in the Age of Poly-Crises

Before Covid hijacked headlines, the likes of the heightening climate crisis, cost of living crisis, social inequality and political uncertainty would have all been classed as era-defining in their own right. However, as people face an onslaught of one crisis after another, people are being forced to cope with the next news headline long before they can process previous events that have affected the nation.

This constant state of poly-crisis has meant that people are rejecting the tumultuousness of their external experiences and instead are turning inwards to safeguard their sanity and preserve their sense of mind. In fact, the7stars’ QT finds that happiness levels are at an all-time low since pandemic restrictions were lifted in the summer of 2021. In June 2021 alone, referrals to psychiatrists increased by 24% as people became more in tune to their personal internal state.

Doing so has granted people at least one of two things – control and comfort.

A retreat to a more personal world has allowed people to compensate for a lack of control on the outside, looking inwards to personal measures of value, success and progress. This has given rise to the likes of the anti-ambition movement as well as a surging uptake in AI (e.g. AI face filters has 14.9B views on TikTok), where users can gain more control in creating their own world, not only as a form of escapism from the uncertainty but also to grant themselves self-authority.

As people experience a loss of control, their trust towards establishments and brands has also diminished, with the7stars’ QT revealing that Brits’ confidence in almost every UK institutions from the NHS to the government, have all declined. Additionally, a 2021 survey by Havas has revealed that more than 7 in 10 of people don’t believe promises that brands make. In turn, trust has transferred towards de-centralised forms of influence such as smaller scale influencers. Brands can strive to dissipate feelings of distrust by demonstrating honesty and openness, dropping pretence and instead allowing brand loyalists to become a part of their brand story. This can be achieved through non-hierarchical ways of communication and the employment of authentic messaging.

The ongoing sense of uncertainty in society has also shaped people to become creatures of hedonism and comfort. One way this has materialised is through the resurgence of nostalgia inducing products and services (e.g. the return of typewriters and vinyls), with 69% of Gen Z’s saying they find comfort in the familiar.

As a coping mechanism, people are leaning towards their internal instincts to navigate decisions as opposed to adopting practical mindsets. This has meant that consumers have a greater tendency to buy impulsively, giving in to indulgences such as junk food, cigarettes, and alcohol. In fact, just under 7 in 10 of ‘buy now, pay later’ Gen Z users have now racked up debts across multiple platforms in a bid to use retail therapy to self-soothe. As comfort becomes more significant, brands will do well to think beyond the sphere of what they offer consumers on a materialistic level. Instead expressing genuine intent to help people as an establishment and aggregating wider brand values will go a long way in supporting consumers through tough times.

Source: the7stars QT, Canvas8