Mar 10. 2 min read

Extreme times call for extreme optimism

What Corona has in stock for consumer brands

Branding people are optimistic and opportunistic by nature. So, it’s only natural that the Corona crisis pushes us to re-think not only our position but the position of business in general in face of these cataclysmic changes we are witnessing on what appears to be the ultimate reality tv of the absurd and horrific.

So, with that said, forgive my bias for optimism and let’s fast forward a few months as we will dig ourselves from under the rubble.

Alternative to what?

We are already witnessing many brands manufacturing in China looking for alternatives such as Turkey, India, Bangladesh and Vietnam. Corona in many ways was just the excuse, the catalyst for this change. China was no longer the cheapest alternative as their own middle-class has been steadily growing pulling the entire supply chain upwards. Even before Corona, you could hear the grumblings of the effects of rising costs.

In the meantime, they are still looking for offshore production options, but eventually they will look for re-shoring options, meaning bringing back the production to the 1st world.

The return of borders

But this is not just about finding alternatives for cheaper manufacturing. There is a stronger play for returning to borders. More than fear of infection, we have been made to feel vulnerable and in times of vulnerability we want to return to our safe space, whether that be the womb or the perceived safety of borders.

The Cost

While our gut feeling tells us to immediately return to the shores of safety, it will take a little longer for people to understand the cost of such a move and how it will affect their life, especially in the way they consume goods that have been manufactured elsewhere for their entire life.

Shopping has long become an alternative to therapy, it is how we deal with our unhappiness. Sure, it’s also how we choose to self-express, but our need for self-expression only exists because without it we are unhappy in this rapidly moving steamroller of modern life. Oh, and also because that’s what us branders tell consumers so they will buy more.

Either way you look at it, the narrative will have to change. Or perhaps it’s already changed

Local production means mindful consumerism

We are not sure what the exact reaction will be when someone sees a t-shirt at Wallmart that is 8x more expensive even though our wages will have remained unchanged, but we can anticipate. We will grumble because that is what we do as Western beings, but we will buy it if we need it. We will be more cautious and conservative.

We will buy what we need and not need to buy.

In a way, the real problem has always been the over-consumption of Western society and the remedy, as violent and destructive as it appears to be, will affect how we view consumption in the broadest sense of the word.

Brands will need to convey quality and value

Impulse purchases will decrease. We won’t buy a shirt at Asos or Zalando’s just because our girl / boy friend was mean to us in the morning and we need a little pick-me-up.

This shift will force us to be more discriminating in our purchasing habits. Quality, longevity and mindfulness will become key factors in our decision process.

This will also give rise to new brands who weren’t part of the old guard. Brands made in the U.S, U.K, France, Denmark etc…will stand for something, something even greater than what they stand for.

But in the meantime, let’s stay safe, wash out hands and continue elbowing each other rather than expect a handshake.


Some of my clients, past and present.