The coronavirus has exposed cracks in our system no sting operation ever could. The treadmill we've been on has stopped. But as countries emerge out of lockdown now and in the coming weeks, powerful advertising and marketing techniques will surge in, hoping to make up for their losses in revenue.
It will begin with the advertisements– in our newspapers, televisions, social media. Then they will come surreptitiously, penetrating our everyday Instagram scrolling through memes and influencers and hashtags.
Powerful forces will begin to capitalise on the need for comfort, playing their cards by attempting to restore normalcy and life before the virus.
Beware the manipulation to come–a manipulation that might just turn into a global brushing off of the virus as a very bad fever dream.
There is no way to erase the time of the virus or go back to the time before. Instead of undoing all the good that has come of us being locked up at home, it is worthwhile to create a 'new' normal.
The Previous 'Normal' Sucked, Anyway
We really should stop believing that our previous 'normal' was in any way positive, sustainable or good. Faceless brands piggybacked on the sweat and labour of thousands of underpaid workers to build fashion empires. For years, advertisers have been widening existing societal differences, playing our insecurities like a fiddle. Our capitalistic hamster wheel encouraged the separation of society based on where we shop and how much we cost, top to bottom.
Yet, when the treadmill stopped, most of us retreated to ourselves, untouched by capitalism– baking banana bread and taking time to breathe. We found ourselves standing up for the severely affected, collecting funds for donation, providing food for children out of school. A lot of us shed insecurities, got comfortable with our bodies and minds now that the proverbial albatross of societal standards of beauty was taken off our necks.
A Vibe Check We Needed
In the time we have spent indoors, a lot of us have realised how little we really need to live, even thrive. We've had to confront realities we were running away from, a confrontation successfully avoided by mindless consumption and ridiculous 'shopping is therapy' quotes. We've found ourselves looking, amazed, at a world that is thriving without milling human beings, a planet that is reclaiming its ground. This was a vibe check we didn't know we needed.
Our Vulnerability is Not For Sale
Our vulnerabilities and insecurities are on the brink of being mercilessly taken advantage of. Come the next few months, and advertisers and marketers are going to be ruthless in shoving all that they couldn't manage to sell down our throats. If the existence of a pandemic itself was used as a marketing tactic by many, then it's clear where ethics and morality figure in the larger scheme of things.
That's not to say the economy should grind to a complete halt and we should all go back to our caves and paint stick figures (incidentally, these are the only records we have of our ancestors so I don't dismiss it). It's to say that the worst of our faults have been laid bare and now is not the time to paper over them as we've done all these years.
Now is the time to hold on to our understanding of what truly matters, to support brands and homegrown artisans that have suffered, to frequent your local farmer's market or grocery store because they risked their safety to put food on your table.
It is a chance to make all the good things that came out of this global action the new 'normal'. In times of need, we rose gloriously to the occasion– serving the community, feeding strays, supporting frontline workers, feeding low-income households, curbing expenses, savouring togetherness with family and friends (virtually, too). We reduced our expenses, living and thriving with the bare minimum and forgoing all our shopping desperations. We supported artisans, home bakers, local farmers anyway we could without breaching the 6-feet distance. We paid attention– to ourselves, to the world, to the truth.
And unknowingly, we improved the quality of air, water and soil in just a few months. Imagine what we can do if we do all of this knowingly, willingly.
A new normal can be forged this year– allow it.