How Brands Can Meet Consumers’ Needs in the Lockdown Era

Serving the community has taken on a whole new meaning these days

Brands should reevaluate what their consumers need during these stressful times. - Credit by Getty Images

This is a daunting and defining moment for this generation of marketers and the brands we devote so much of our time to building. Marketing was already bloody complicated, and now we’re learning a new set of brutal rules while trying to secure the future of our families and businesses.

a photo of a phone with "Did they help?" at the top

Some of us are trying to service unprecedented demand while many more are trying to keep the lights on in the face of huge restrictions.

What unites us is that we’re operating without a road map, serving markets and customers that are acting in ways that are unprecedented and unpredictable. To that end, we’re sharing some valuable lessons pooled from the collective experience of our network and our clients.

Invert the hierarchy of needs

Covid-19 has turned Maslow on its head. Brands should focus on the lower layers of the pyramid for the foreseeable future rather than lofty aspirational messages.

Research by Triptyk in the U.S. and The Outsiders in the U.K. emphasizes how worried people are about themselves, their families and their communities. Relationships 
are straining to adapt to previously unthinkable restrictions and overall trust in each other to do the right thing is in decline in the U.S.

We need to rethink the default wisdom of elevating our brands above functional physiological and safety needs in favor of higher order values. Spend time mapping how the physiological, safety and belonging needs of your communities are being impacted and how to meaningfully address them with the assets at your brand’s disposal.

a hierarchy of needs pyramid

We’ve identified three shifts for marketers to help address these needs based on analysis of thousands of different tribes of interest across the U.S. and U.K. that we carried out with our partners at Codec.AI.

Safety and security needs

Rather than add to the huge volume of noise telling people to stay at home, think about how you can help them do it. Take inspiration from U.K. garage legend DJ EZ, who performed a marathon 24-hour virtual live set, dedicating it to those working on the frontline and asking for people to stay at home as payment. The hashtag #StayHomeWithDJEZ reached over 40 million people worldwide.

Staying at home is much easier for some groups than others, so how can your brand can help those who most need it?

Belonging needs


Forget about trying to own global conversations and focus on facilitating lots of local conversations. Confinement is leading people to explore much deeper into their neighborhoods and passions. People are looking to join and create synchronous online moments of connection to give much-needed structure to lockdown life. Local businesses are leading the way here by organizing virtual tastings for whiskey and wine lovers. Think about how your brand can help these new communities convene. What content or tools could you provide?

Self-esteem and self-actualization needs

This is a time for brands to focus on upskilling rather than upselling. Social distancing is restricting people’s access to many of their favorite brands and services. From DIY beauty treatments to home baking, the make and mend mentality is a constant theme in the most engaged with content as people look to learn new skills to cope.

Think about how your brand can help people learn new skills to stay safe and/or sane. They might not be able to buy your product right now, but if you help them recreate it themselves, you’ll likely have an advocate for life. How can gourmet baking brands provide guidance to legions of struggling sourdough wannabes right now? How can all the brands that focus on care and love help people strengthen their relationships when they literally cannot get out of each other’s faces?

Brands together

This is just a snapshot of the many lessons we’re learning, and no doubt you are seeing many more. But the strategic response that individual brands take is one thing. Equally important is our collective operational response. We need to take inspiration from what we’re seeing in neighborhoods and our passion communities and pull together, pool resources and knowledge to rise to meet this challenge.

Much of the inspiration above is from lone operators and small business owners. Just imagine the impact we could have if we mobilized around a collective operational response.


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@Mildenhall Jonathan Mildenhall is the co-founder of TwentyFirstCenturyBrand, which he launched in 2018 with the purpose of helping build the most influential brands of our time.
@neilbazza Neil Barrie is the co-founder of TwentyFirstCenturyBrand, which he launched in 2018 with the purpose of helping build the most influential brands of our time.