Lockdowns are causing yet another ripple in our social structures. Many are alone and/or lonely – and not by choice. Hopefully in 2022 these periods of forced isolation will decline if not vanish. Over the past two years we have invested in various coping mechanisms – online parties, quick holidays when permitted, pets, staycations – you name it. And yet our established social networks have generally diminished because of the lack of proximity. For the lucky ones new relationships have sprung up – again based on proximity or perhaps due to frequency of online interactions. But spare a thought for the grandparents who haven’t or won’t see their grandkids. For the young adults who have not been able to meet their special someones. For the kids who will not have a kindergarten bestie because there were no playdates.

(Also for the authors like me who can’t do a book launch party for their new book, but in the overall scheme of things that may not be so huge.

Loneliness and anxiety about the future are real. If you are dealing with these issues, I would advise you to seek help – counselling is very useful or if you prefer to explore on your own first, then there are online courses that teach you coping techniques. Mail me if you want a reference.

But this is a marketing newsletter. And where there’s a trend there’s an opportunity.

Trend 1: Rise of influencers

When we don’t have our usual quota of personal interactions, we channelize our interest into celebrities, or fictional characters like anime heroes. Think high school crush – one-sided relationships, but deep and rather obsessive for one party. They’re termed parasocial relationships. An interesting spin-off is that “followers” of a particular character may find this a shared interest and widen their social interactions to embrace fellow fans.

Trend 2: Pet Rock

When we can’t find sufficient humans to socialise with, we start attributing human tendencies to inanimate objects. In 1975 ad executive Gary Dahl launched “Pet Rocks” – rocks that came in a cardboard box with breathing holes, and an elaborate training manual. A million of them sold. Today people build relationships with Siri or Alexa, or an app like Google and refer to them as he or she. Adults proudly talk about how their mood ring or exercise watch “tells them” to run or sleep.

Trend 3: Plants and pets

Not into rocks? No problem – humanisation of pets works too. Globally the pet care industry is booming as dogs and cats become everyone’s favourite Zoom background. If pets are too much commitment, how about a plant?

Trend 4: Mental health, Spiritualism

Products and services that help address the symptoms and causes of loneliness are seeing a big uptick in interest. These could be online courses, apps, online group activities and anything in the wellness and self-care space.

My first experience with the theory of mindfulness was when working on the positioning of Happiest Minds with Ashok Soota. The concept was new to me back then and I admit I was not a convert. Now I’ve signed up for an online Udemy course to better understand the principles.

Meanwhile Calm is a unicorn while it’s rival Headspace has its own show on Netflix. Not to be left behind there’s a Catholic inspired app Hallow.

Trend 5: Wellness/self-care

I used to apply lotion to dry skin. Thanks to my daughter I now know that this is self-care. She’s working on a “pamper hamper” with https://thebirdsonglife.com As we move up Maslow’s hierarchy and focus more on us as individuals, anything that is centered on the self will see an uptick. Self-care is also recommended for those suffering from anxiety – and India ranks 4th in the world for prevalence.

Trend 6: Rise of the Alone

Ipsos research  in 2020 showed that 50% of Indian respondents thought they would be lonely that year. Some are alone by choice, and others by circumstances. Both kinds would like stuff designed to be consumed alone. But the lonely – defined as those who feel they have no-one to discuss important matters with – react differently to consumer cues. For example, there’s research that they prefer “minority endorsed” products over “majority endorsed” products, at least for private consumption. China has made Singles Day (11.11) a gigantic celebration. The YouGov-Mint-CPR Millennial Survey showed that 25% of them did not want to marry. Among households with monthly income less than Rs. 10,000, 40 percent millennials said they were unwilling to marry. COVID may be creating this uncertainty but from a marketing (and social) perspective it’s a trend to watch out for.

Hope you enjoyed reading this newsletter. I’m happy that you’re amongst the discerning marketers of India who read enriching content regularly ? Wishing you a year overflowing with health and happiness for Pongal/Lohri/Bihu. May you have a great harvest of leads, conversions, customers – whatever fills your pot.

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