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When visions of a new life add uncertainty

Woman walking down the street ruffling her hair

People want their old lives back. Visions of a new life just add uncertainty.

In a nutshell

  1. New Zealanders, feeling a mix of fear and optimism, are craving normality
  2. We’re also seeing a slow climb in sadness since lockdown
  3. Organisations can help by supporting Kiwis now and offering hope for the future

The headlines are replete with forecasts of a brave new world: “Things won’t ever be the same again”, “We can’t go back to business as usual.” The thought behind the headlines is laudable as regards a better future where we take care of the planet, we share wealth equitably, where common purpose, collectivism and social caring prevail.

And by way of disclosure, I concur on all counts. What I question is whether these messages are what people want to hear just now – maybe when we come out of this, but just not now. 

Craving normality in abnormal times

Why? We are sharing insights to help organisations as they steer their companies and their brands through the trauma of the lockdown and whatever follows. What we hear from the many people we talk to each week is that there is not a battle cry for a new world. Instead, people crave normality. They are in the early stages of mourning for what they’ve lost. A promising career promotion, a trip of a lifetime, the deposit ready for the purchase of a first home, the plan to start a family, the training for the marathon.

More than anything, people want things to go back to the way they were before their world turned upside down. Because remember Kiwis were largely happy with life. New Zealand's ranks 8th in the world for happiness (in case you are wondering, all those above us are Scandinavian countries).

Our COVID-19 Conversation Monitor shows that fear and optimism are dancing around each other with optimism coming out on top on the 20th and 26th March and April 4th. Whereas we are seeing a slow climb in sadness since the lockdown.

The language that many organisations are using – payment holidays, allowing service “pauses” – is providing confirmation that this is a temporary blip before “normal” life resumes. 

What does hope look like?

But organisations and brands can do more that use the right language. They can offer hope. Dreams are on hold whereas hope is the currency of the moment.

People are telling us: “I hope we come out of this OK”, “I hope we can get back on track”, “I hope it doesn’t last too long and we miss the opportunity to …”

Just as employees are looking for strong leadership so Kiwis are looking to our organisations and brands to talk to them of hope and of re booting lives.

  • What does hope look like for your organisation? 
  • How can you use the language of optimism and Kiwi resilience?
  • Are there ways you can support people now, and also get them thinking about how you’ll help when it comes right.

She’ll be right – but only if people hold onto hope.

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?
A nation of independently minded rule-benders

When progress is on pause, how should organisations behave?
What do Kiwis want brands to get behind?

Colleen Ryan
Partner at TRA

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