Self-isolation has changed many parts of life as we know it. However, the one thing it hasn’t changed is our need for connection—whether it’s to others, to an idea, or to a brand. As we navigate a world of uncertainty, life as we know it has changed. The moments of connection that we used to find through a coffee catch-up or an event with friends have been replaced with video calls, DIY projects, and Friday nights at home with Netflix. At Studio Messa, we’ve always believed in the power of experience to forge powerful connections between people and brands. Even during the pandemic, this hasn’t changed, but the way of doing so has. By understanding the emotional mindset of audiences during COVID-19, as well as the shift from physical to online touchpoints, brands can adapt their experiences that speak to these needs—and cultivate genuine, lasting relationships with consumers along the way.
Masaki Hanahara's Passing Of Time
CREATING A SANCTUARY FREE FROM FEAR AND ANXIETY
Before the pandemic, anxiety and fear were already emerging as key cultural challenges for our generation. We’ve only seen this surge in a time of uncertainty and constant change. A recent report by WGSN found that 69% of adults are concerned about the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, both on their overall mental wellbeing and their financial future. These emotions have flipped the switch and put us in our most primal state: survival mode.
In an age of anxiety, consumers are searching for ways to feel safe and secure. Brands can be the architects of peace.
It used to be that we could answer this need with holistic brand experiences that helped consumers find a sense of calm, like yoga retreats or spaces inspired by biophilic design. But now, brands need to find new ways to help cultivate this sense of sanctuary in their audience’s space. Therapeutic experiential activities, such as ASMR, cooking or mindful crafting, instil the feeling of calm and serenity that consumers so desperately crave right now. And there are a number of brands leading the way in this space by providing virtual experiences that both stimulate and soothe the mind. Monterey Bay Aquarium has offered relaxation in the form of live cams of the coral reef. Hypnotic and mesmerising, these live cam feeds provide a calming escape from reality, while also connecting the brand to more people around the world. Self-care is another area that brands are tapping into to create a connection with audiences during the pandemic. Cultural institutions have been quick to pivot their offering to address this need. In mid-March, Art Basel launched its first Online Viewing Room, which allows users to browse thousands of renowned artworks online, with plans to launch virtual reality walk-throughs of their exhibitions in the coming months. This reimagining of the traditional gallery and store spaces will continue as more brands find creative virtual alternatives to make up for the decline of in-person visits. At Studio Messa, we have also been working on this with Atelier at Home, Studio Messa’s virtual space for creative exploration. Our team has continued to take time to experiment with new mediums and techniques, tapping into creativity as a form of therapy amidst the uncertainty.
Monterey bar Aquarium
REIMAGINING PHYSICAL EXPERIENCES FOR VIRTUAL SPACES
With more time on our hands than before, people are exploring new experiences to replace those that have been put on hold. This presents brands with content marketing opportunities to engage with their audiences in real-time and provide much-needed entertainment for consumers’ newfound free time. Travel brands have been some of the first to bring their in-person activations online. Airbnb Experiences recently launched virtual tours: a collection of digital content experiences that bring groups of strangers together from around the world in shared moments, from guided meditation sessions in Scotland to Korean makeup beauty tutorials. We’re also seeing the acceleration of new technologies, such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Unable to go outdoors, AR and VR allow brands centred on physical experiences are finding new ways to bring their product to consumers, rather than the other way around. Despite putting their live shows on hold, brands like Cirque du Soleil are using technology to reimagine the Cirque experience during the pandemic. Via Immercirque, a 180-degree virtual reality series housed on the Cirque Connect hub, the brand takes audiences behind the scenes to view the training, make-up and costume preparation that goes into shows. Cirque du Soleil have also tapped into VR technology via an app that lets viewers step on-stage during some of the show’s most thrilling moments. Meanwhile, travel brand Viator has launched a #RoamFromHome series that uses 360° photography and VR to bring consumers closer to destinations around the world.
TOGETHER IN ISOLATION
Self-isolation has only fuelled the need for solidarity and togetherness. With screens as our main source of communication, consumers are searching for opportunities to stay connected to their loved ones, and the world around them. Brands who connect people to one-another will, in turn, forge a stronger relationship with their audience. Always a master in their craft, Nike are on the forefront of creating experiences that resonate with audiences. Nike constantly finds ways to connect people through their product, and we at Studio Messa have seen this first-hand while working with the brand on the Phantom Launch Event and the Nike Free Studio pop-up. Nike’s ‘Play for the World’ campaign was one of the early leaders in this space. With an emotional message that invites consumers to play for the world by staying indoors, Nike’s campaign united people worldwide, whilst establishing itself as a brand that genuinely cares about the world and those in it. This message was strengthened with their ‘You Can’t Stop Us’ campaign, which showcases people from around the world working out in their homes, from athletes like LeBron James to regular fitness enthusiasts.
Nike Play Inside, Play For The World
But it’s not just the big brands doing this. Using live video streaming, groups like The Sofa Singers have emerged to bring together hundreds of people in real-time for 45 minutes of simultaneous singing via video calls—sparking joy and human connection. We’ve also been exploring the idea of distant togetherness with Studio Messa’s ‘Together in Iso’ content series. Every week, we invite our community to check in and ask the Studio Messa team a question about what we’re doing during self-isolation. These moments create a feeling of shared togetherness, and stay in touch with our team members and the broader creative community. Despite not being able to go outdoors, the need for connection remains. These uncertain times present hidden windows of opportunity for brands to explore new ideas, find unexpected sources of revenue, take new risks, and build a stronger connection to the community. The brands that do this with empathy and ingenuity will emerge on the other side with a stronger bond to consumers than ever before.