Episode 14

Living in the grey

Shifting from the hope of ‘normal’ to the dread of ‘what’s next?’

What’s happening with Customers, Now?

Living in the grey

“I really don’t know how I’ve been feeling. I try to feel one way but I end up feeling another. It’s always a guessing game with how I’m feeling. I just can’t predict what’s going to happen from one day to the next at my job, at home, everywhere else.”

This quote just about sums it up. We ran a series of projective exercises to try to understand how the spate of negative news in 2020 is impacting people.

We are seeing a pronounced shift from hope to dread: An optimism of “returning to normal” (or what pundits refer to as “the new normal”); being replaced by the pessimism of, “what’s next?”

The unknowns from earlier this year – when there were more questions than answers around Covid-19, social and political unrest – are being replaced by the experiences people have had with them.  And those experiences set new expectations for what’s to come.

Everyday…just chips away at the belief that everything will be all right.

The trauma of 2020 disrupts our sense of predictability…and without some predictability, people can’t feel safe.  We are living in the space between the last, worst thing we experienced; and the next, even worse thing we expect to happen.

We are seeing an emerging human truth of what we call “living in the grey” – an insecure, daunting reality in between negative experiences and even worse expectations.

And yet, with some perspective, “living in the grey” makes us stronger.  We are learning, as we are living through it all.  We are finding new ways to cope.  Going outside.  Slowing down. We are realizing the breadth of our impact on the world and the world on us. We are feeling empathy WITH others. We are feeling more prepared, more self-reliant and accepting.

As much as it may feel like it at times, “now” is not a binary time.  It is not good or bad.  Blue or red.  Black or white.  We are living in the grey.  Accepting the grey for its depth, richness, blending of all colors into one shade that is both light and dark, filled with hope and fear – is facing the challenge and valuing the experience to grow from it.

I felt unarmed against an invisible enemy. for the first time in my life I experienced the loneliness of isolation, the fear of the future, for the health of my loved ones and my community.

Distributing power to customers

The following word cloud expresses how people are feeling…and it’s not good. There is little hope expressed. Little optimism. People are frustrated. Sad. Depressed.

How do brands connect when people are feeling “bad” and expecting to feel worse?  A lot has been made of the “K-shaped recovery”, an economic outcropping of the widening human “empathy gap” we spoke to several months ago here. Generally, it’s the idea that some are doing rather well, while many others aren’t…and, at a scale of humanity, far more people are feeling “bad” than feeling “good,” right now.

People are vulnerable in this moment. For a brand, this presents an opportunity to take advantage of, or an opportunity to help, your customer in new ways. To show up on the side of people. To be a leader in a world despondent from the absence of leadership.

The world’s biggest brands hold more economic power and ability to influence than most governments, laws or politicians. But much of that power is held in reserve. Brands need to redistribute that power to its customers. To cede control. To do more good.

The same forces that are at play with people’s desire to control what they can in a world where they have less control (think: gardening, baking bread, etc.); are the same forces that will attract customers to brands who use their power to empower people. To improve the human – and the individual – condition. To make a bigger difference.

Brands can be islands of hope in the sea of grey…helping people to feel better and BE better – producing better outcomes – as they struggle to make sense of now.

Brands can choose to take advantage of their relationships with their customers or strengthen them. There is little grey area in between.

I’ve learned everything is not black and white there’s a lot of grey and I’m looking at the grey so that I accept things that are in the grey.”

Customer Now 2020

Nothing is changing faster than ourselves.What’s happening with customers right now and what should business do next?

Suddenly, these two questions became a lot more complicated; the answers require us to get beyond the numbers, headlines and hyperbole in search of simple, scalable human truths.

That’s why we’ve launched Customer, Now., a project to document, explore and understand lock-down, and what follows it, from the customers’ perspective.

Through our global communities, we are tapping into the human truths behind customers’ experiences in real-time; exploring their inner worlds more deeply, and creating fresh, generative insights and implications to share with our community.

There’s one guiding insight that’s immediately become clear: in this fast-changing situation, nothing is changing faster than ourselves. This is what we’re exploring through Customer, Now.

It’s not uniform change, nor is it constant. It’s an evolution of our inner lives, our relationships, family, friends, home, health, work and, inevitably, our customer behaviour. And it’s more rapid than we’ve ever seen before.

Through Customer, Now. we’ll deliver to our community an insight, and its implications, every week. With this work, we have one simple aim: to drive a brighter, more progressive, customer-inspired version of tomorrow.

Explore the episodes:

01: Community as essential as food
02: The opposite is also true
03: Survival of the Simplest
04: We before me
05: Humanity in the balance
06: Guilt in Everything
07: The widening empathy gap
08: Habits of control
09: Energy beyond the moment
10: Projecting injustice
11: Believing our excuses
12: Being authentically inclusive
13: Embracing our Truths
14: Living in the grey
15: The “Sustainability” disconnect
16: Reinforcing Myself
17: 2020 “In” Review