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  • Eric Sleeth

Why Brands Need To Create Comfort In a Crisis

Updated: Apr 24, 2021

Busy Women in pyjamas working on laptop in bed

With living in the fear of a pandemic, a polarized society, and an uncertain future, people can be forgiven for seeking comfort. Comfort in marketing is not a new trend but there have been a huge surge in anything “comfort” — food, nostalgia, clothing, blankets, home luxuries. These behaviours will continue well beyond the pandemic because the psychological wear and tear of fear has been and is accumulating and impacting consumer behaviour?

So what is Comfort Marketing? (It’s not marketers working in the sweatpants while social distancing)

At its core is reassuring consumers that are looking for the value of a branded product (not the generic versions) that have stood the test of time. This approach of bringing back vintage characters, jingles, products and the like from the past to evoke fond memories of a time when things were better.

Growing Fears

This is not the first modern virus we’ve faced. In the past two decades, the world battled Ebola, SARS, H1N1 and other major strains of the flu. Those all left tragedies in their wake and created some feeling of uncertainty but they didn’t have the same level of societal frenzy and economic disruption that COVID-19 has. So why the difference? While the spreadability and fatality rate made them less severe, a major reason for the frenzy was being spoon-fed fear every day on social media, mainstream entertainment, and the news.

Unfortunately, fear is accumulated over time. What might start a distant worry will grow and grow until it becomes full-blown fear and anxiety. At which, point fear is a vicious cycle; fear draws more attention amplifying the fear thus drawing more attention.

In addition to these fears, we are no isolated from each other. If you are working from home, the majority of the contact you will have is through a screen. You are no longer part of your tribes. Seeing friends and family is reduced, no longer being face to face with coworkers, recreational activities cancelled, even kind interactions with a stranger at the store are gone. People are now feeling alone, fearful, even major parts of their identity are gone. What this means for brands is that they should use this opportunity to help people feel more comfortable, create a sense of belonging to a tide, and provide balance.

According to an article published in the New York Times, we are dealing with “Touch Deprivation” and according to surveyed epidemiologist, 39% believe it will take 3–12 months before people feel comfortable with hugs and handshakes. What are we missing from hugs? Hugs release Oxytocin — which makes us better problem solvers, boosts immune systems, creates closeness, reduces stress, and more. Unlike dopamine, which give instant gratification, oxytocin gives us lasting feelings of calm and safety.

Time to Get Comfy

During times of uncertainty, like during a recession, people do tighten their purse strings but economic analysts will tell you that people still do splurge. Why? Because they are looking for comfort. Whether that comfort comes in the form of nostalgia, or it takes its form of people wanting to buy from brands they can depend on. In a way, seeking small certainties in uncertain times — things they can control.

For marketers, this isn’t the time to reevaluate your value proposition or radically alter your messaging. This lockdown is not the time to reinvent; rather it’s time to go back to the basics. Show your customers that they can depend on you, that you will stay the course, and they can be certain of the value that you provide in their lives whatever that value may look like.

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