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Bursting bubbles: Speaking to Kiwis as lockdown lifts

group of men at beach

With brunches, bush walks, and big spending, New Zealand’s bubbles have burst. 

In a nutshell

  1. As New Zealand enters recovery, bubbles are bursting as Kiwis adjust to a new normal.
  2. Some Kiwis want to get on with it and are more likely to break rules, while others would prefer to take a more cautious approach to reopening.
  3. Brands need to manage those who want to bend the rules, lest they earn a reputation as an unsafe place to be.

As we enter recovery, we're seeing the conversation split in two directions:

The 'Let’s stay cautious' Crowd - feeling fearful of rule- breakers

Many Kiwis remain fearful about how safe the world really is out there. They’d prefer to remain careful and are nervous about rule-breakers. This group is driven by a strong sense of being part of the “team of five million.” For them, fairness is following the rules, staying cautious and continuing to make sacrifices for the greater good. 

The 'Let’s get on with it' Crowd - feeling confident to break the rules

This group were sceptical of the need for a lockdown all along, but didn’t feel they had social permission to share that opinion until now. Confirmation bias has kicked in – the human tendency to favour information that supports one’s prior personal beliefs. Since the news of ‘zero new cases’ last week we’re seeing more and more people opening up about their scepticism. 

The underlying doubt that the rules are necessary, and the subsequent social signals that a crowd of others share their scepticism, is likely to bring out the Kiwi rule-bending, anti-authoritarian attitude – because fairness for this crowd is framed by freedom and self-determination. 

Implication for your organisation

This means managing over-confident individuals who are disregarding distancing rules. Without preparing staff to manage the rule-breakers effectively, there is a risk your brand will gain a reputation as an unsafe and a threat to the recovery. A lesson learned the hard way by Jacob Henderson, owner of the Matamata bar that is now world-famous-in-New Zealand as the cause of NZ’s biggest COVID-19 cluster outbreak. 

1. Expect some of your customers and staff to feel confident in ignoring social distancing rules, and others to be fearful of the rule-breakers.

2. Be specific and clear about how your business is following the rules. Make it easy for your customers and staff to follow them. Be prepared to help your customers and staff feel safe, or risk losing those who feel unsafe.

3. Join in the team celebrations as we clock up days with zero new cases and signal your brand’s role in helping us all follow the rules to stay safe [take some lessons from Pak n’ Save’s approach].

The key takeaways? Put people first.  And, prepare to effectively manage rule-breakers or risk being a brand that gets remembered for posing a risk to the whole country.  

It's never been more important to make information-based decisions. Because although the country is in lockdown, organisations still have to make choices that will guide their actions and determine the success of what they do.

So, in this series, we’re sharing what TRA knows about New Zealanders to help inform better decision making, so that our companies can better serve people. 

Read the other articles in this series:

Kiwis or New Zealanders?
When progress is on pause, how should organisations behave?
A nation of independently minded rule-benders
When visions of a new life add uncertainty
What do Kiwis want brands to get behind?
Sex Matters.
Focus on people, not the flag
Five insights on revenge shopping in New Zealand
The inbetweeners are taking it hard
Bubble: A light word carrying a world of meaning

Carl Sarney
Head of Strategy

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