What We’re Saying

Is there joy in the headwinds?

7 March 2024

It is true and very real to say that the world is in constant change.

For years, VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambitious) was utilised as a model to bring meaning to the unknown, a method to carefully examine, understand and articulate market turbulence. That was, until we met the pandemic, which created a scenario that made VUCA seem insufficient.

Looking back at 2022, it was the year were we all collectively tried to get on with life. The pandemic was pushed to one side, the headlines, public advisory notices, and countless Covid 19 case counting stopped, and the world tried to reset, to get back on track. Our gallant efforts have been met frequently with more to digest: war on Ukraine, rising inflation, economic uncertainty, and tech sector disruption for example. For years now, we have been wadding through uncertainty. Has this constant stream of uncertainty meant we’ve lost our tolerance for vulnerability? What impact does this have on society?

BANI Markets

More recently, Jamais Cascio introduced a different model BANI. BANI stands for brittle, anxious, non-linear, and incomprehensible and it somehow fits better, in the context of today’s markets.

Things that are brittle, are easy to shatter and subject to total and sudden failure. This has led consumers to look to wring every bit of value from a system. As consumers we’ve become much more conscious of our spend, of the terms and conditions of contracts, policies, subscriptions, and membership packages. This is evidenced by one quarter of all Irish people stating that they plan to cut their gym membership in 2023.

This brittle nature can also be seen on our jobs market. Once secure jobs in tech giants such as Twitter are no longer guaranteed, senior positions are not synonymous with security anymore and frequent career changes are normal.

As beings, we’ve also become more anxious, wrestling with a fear that any choice we make, might be the wrong one. This has led to over analysing options, seeking allot of data ahead of deciding, on the premise that any choice can be potentially disastrous. It has also led to consumers deciding not to take action. For instance, in a UK study, 41% of adults stated that adopting a sustainable lifestyle has become too complicated and difficult.

To make our decisions even tougher, we are also acting in a non-linear fashion. We have become disconnected between cause and effect in time, proportion, and perception. Nothing has a single meaning, and everything appears to have multiple destinations. When we lose linearity, the ups and downs are not proportional, the outcomes, good or bad, often overestimated. This makes it impossible to identify a clear start and a clear end to any well intended plan.

Our markets have also become incomprehensible, extremely difficult, if not impossible, to understand. It has become very hard to distinguish signal from noise. Everything happens so fast, that it seems more and more that we understand less. This has led to consumers trusting less and questioning much more. It has also led to a low attention span from consumers, meaning brands need to really work hard to cut through the noise in market and land a clear message in a simple and engaging way.

THE COST OF LOOSING OUR TOLERANCE TO VULNERABILITY IS JOY

In the context of a market, it’s easy to see how we might lose our tolerance for vulnerability as we appear to be in a constant state of checks and balances, without anything feeling balanced at all. If you look at our economic activity however, we’ve a lot to look forward to. There is a lot more certainty, than meets the eye. Consumer savings are up (+8.6% on pre-pandemic), unemployment is the lowest it’s been since 2007 (4.4%) and GDP is set to overtake inflation this year. An economist might say that there is joy in the headwinds, so why doesn’t it feel like that? Why are we still behaving like cautious kittens, afraid to leap?

Well known American professor and researcher, Brene Brown may have the answer. Brown describes joy as the most vulnerable, human emotion and when we lose our tolerance for vulnerability, as evidenced during the Pandemic, joy becomes foreboding. As humans, most of us experience foreboding joy. We believe if we allow ourselves to feel joy, we are inviting disaster in. Having been through so much, on a continuum for so long, it’s rational to think that we are terrified of being blindsided by pain.  This has led us to push away joy.

BRANDS HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO SUPPORT CONSUMERS REACTIVATE JOY

As we are living in a BANI world, uncertainty is set to continue. Brands have a big role to play to support consumers feel more at ease in this fragile world. That involves getting consumers out of their heads and into their hearts- to help them reactivate joy, connecting with others and appreciating simple moments of pleasure again.

Joy is an input and done well, it is sudden, unexpected and has a high frequency that expands our thinking, filling us with a sense of freedom and abandon. Its this freedom and abandon we need, to help us rebuild our lives and our tolerance to uncertainty. There is joy in the headwinds if we design it in!

 

Want to improve your brand’s appeal in reactivating joy? Or maybe you just want to hear more about our approach? Feel free to reach out to me at grainne@mccp.ie and work with one of the leading branding agencies in Ireland.

Gráinne Morrison, Strategy Director, MCCP

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