Here’s why marketers should consider leaving Covid-19 fads in the past

    The following is a guest post by Mark DiMassimo, founder & creative chief, and Lesley Bielby, co-CEO of DiMassimo Goldstein (DiGo). Opinions are their own.

    Have you noticed that the pandemic keeps “ending” but never seems to end? This is down to a disconnect between human priorities and the priorities of one particularly troublesome crime family of viruses. In short, people are ready to move on and the virus isn’t.

    Consumers are expressing this ready-to-move attitude in every way they can. Masks are coming off, even when health authorities say they shouldn’t. Booster roll-outs are busts from flagging participation. And Covid-19 fads – not so long ago the darlings of the pandemic marketplace – have fallen out of favor. Hard.

    Let me remind you of a few things you likely want to forget. You were at home, a lot. The idea of “whipped coffee” took on a special level of appeal. The New York Times even covered the whipped coffee craze back in April of 2020, coverage which seems to have marked both the peak of this fad, and its end. Whipped coffee has rarely been reported or talked about in mainstream media since.

    In 2021, TikTok fanned a global blaze of passion for “feta pasta,” so big that the The Washington Post reported on it. TikTok was even credited as the cause of a global feta cheese shortage. Whereas feta was feted during that pandemic year, feta has now fallen back to Earth. Feta is just feta again.

    As I sit here at my desk in my home office, I gaze across the room at an inert piece of furniture gathering dust. It is sleek and metallic and stationary as stationary gets. I won’t divulge the brand name, but it used to be a connected exercise bike and it became essential home office equipment near the end of the first year of the pandemic. 

    Few of us could have missed that Peloton was a huge success during the pandemic, the shining star of a category constellation that burned bright when gyms were closed or under mask mandates and when working from home was the white-collar rule. Of course, the company’s stock has had the sort of fall one expects to see in the Tour de France, where every year it seems one rider goes down hard and takes half the pack. As an example of how far Peloton has fallen and how fast, the company’s signature product production is now outsourced, leaving the company as a marketer rather than a manufacturer. The company has recently turned to giving employees pay incentives just to boost morale as it tumbles.

    At this point you may be thinking, “Well, isn’t that just what fads do?” Well, yes. But there’s reason to believe there’s more here and that more falls into three categories:

    Storms of behavioral change drive whipsaw shifts in consumer demand.

    Pandemics are perfect storms of behavior change. What we did yesterday, we couldn’t do today. Everything changed. Where we worked, how we exercised, how we shopped, entertained, traveled, played, socialized, dated, dressed, worshiped … the pandemic changed everything.

    Behavior change is hard, and consumers rewarded companies that helped them achieve these necessary changes and ones that helped us make the most of them.

    Companies like Peloton helped their members to stay more fit and active during the pandemic. The took socially isolated and unfocused proto-hermits and gave them a reason to move, someone to encourage them, a social activity, and a way to compete with themselves and others. They could do it from the safety of home. Peloton was handsomely rewarded.

    Today, my connected bike sits unused. We’re sure that many can relate with how, after sitting alone doing Zoom calls in a home office all day, the last thing you want to do is know the last thing I want to do after sitting by myself and a day of Zoom calls in my office, is to walk five feet and then exercise in my office. I can go to the gym now. I can go outside. I can be with people in real space. I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with this bike. It’s taking up space.

    Trauma/PTSD and the power of negative associations

    It has been estimated that pandemics leave 30% or more of affected populations with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It’s likely that the Covid-19 pandemic exceeded this number, given that this was the most connected, reported, in-your-face pandemic ever. In fact, Psychology Today has reported that Covid-19 has already contributed to a higher prevalence of PTSD. 


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