GWI’s Viktoriya Trifonova explores research into how the pandemic changed consumers' approach to life.

The pandemic opened up our eyes to the fact that time is too short and fragile to be wasted. And now everyone’s biggest concern is how to make their days count. We’re seeing this mentality playing out not only in people’s behaviors as consumers, but also in the workplace.

The Great Resignation resulting in employees leaving their jobs in droves to search for better prospects or conditions means businesses need to adapt if they want to retain their talent in the year to come. The shifts in consumers’ approach to life should be reflected in ad campaigns and brand messaging, too.

One thing we know for sure is once you understand your audience in the post-pandemic reality, success will follow. Campaigns that give consumers the confidence to pursue their dreams and the things that truly make them happy will resonate the most.

Consumers are ready to treat themselves

The pandemic re-invented not only businesses but people too.

Consumers hit a reset button in lockdown. One thing they had in abundance was time to reflect and re-assess their priorities and to really figure out what their purpose is and what makes them happy. It was a period of soul-searching, the results of which are very clearly painted in our data.

Our GWI USA research shows notable increases in consumers feeling daring (+16%), creative (+9%), outspoken (+7%), and adventurous (+6%) – all qualities speaking to a newly revived YOLO (you only live once) mindset.

In the meantime, traits like thrifty (-11%), driven (-8%), dutiful (-7%) went down, meaning consumers don’t put as much emphasis on being careful with their spending, for example. The 55% increase in people feeling more optimistic about their personal finances is also a driving force here.

We also see signs of a pent-up demand for treating oneself and giving in to life’s temptations. When we asked consumers what had become more important to them in the past year, almost 4 in 10 said they want to indulge when they feel like it, which was the third most popular priority for them.

One fruitful way for brands and marketers to tap into this new mentality is to design campaigns that embrace this YOLO mood and inspire consumers by presenting them with limitless possibilities. Brands like Lexus and PlayStation have already done this very well with their respective “No ceiling” and “Play has no limits” campaigns. The former inspires its audience to “let go of the wheel” and come up with new ideas, while the latter aims to challenge the status quo of the real world and present players with new horizons in the virtual world.

Above all though, the travel sector stands to benefit the most from this shifting mindset. Vacationers (those that travel domestically or abroad at least once every 6 months) stand out from the average when it comes to their passion for adventure. They’re 14% more likely to be interested in adventure/extreme sports and 21% more likely to say outdoor adventure activities most impact where they go on vacation.

Airbnb is one example of a brand that’s instilling this sense of adventure into its users by introducing the “I’m flexible” button on their homepage after it found out guests want more flexibility when they travel.

Let consumers do the heavy lifting for you

The fact that consumers are increasingly using adjectives like “talented” and “creative” to describe themselves speaks volumes about where you should invest your marketing spend. Nurturing their creative genius through encouraging user-generated content is a strategy worth looking more into in the year ahead.

During the pandemic a lot of people found solace in expressing themselves on social media, with daily usage of TikTok rising 54% outside China since the end of 2020. On top of this, we found that “posting/sharing videos” is one of the most rapidly growing actions on the platform in each world region. What could be a more powerful way to entertain while spreading the word than turning your audience into your influencers?

Samsung is already highlighting content creation as its device’s best-selling point in the “Unfold your world” campaign. But this strategy can work wonders for more niche and traditional brands too. Osloskolen in Norway, for example, created the #YourPath hashtag asking students to create content for the school which ultimately led to just under 5 million views on social.

The bottom line is people are ready to let go and live life to the fullest. Brands that bring their customers on a journey and empower them to experience new things, to dream, and create are likely to reap huge rewards. Following a year of staying put, a sense of purpose and adventure are what consumers are now after.