Kevin McHugh

VP, Strategy, dentsumcgarrybowen

thought leadership

Empathy is core to the way we work at Dentsu – our ability to better understand the feelings of others enables us to make more effective communications that have emotional resonance. 

As our strategy community took stock of what emerging trends and themes will shape the way brands and people intersect in 2021, there was no avoiding the collective experiences that re-shaped our society last year. 34% of Canadians say their lives have become worse over the course of the pandemic (Angus Reid Global). From society-changing social movements to a lack of trust in media, the events of last year are creating behavioural and emotional change at a rate and scale that we’ve never seen before. 

At the core of this change, we uncovered two intertwining themes: trust and trauma. These forces have been a catalyst for change as many of us are rebooting how we navigate our society, and our expectations from brands and institutions. We’re seeing the effects of trauma manifest in five macro trends that are shaping people’s attitudes, behaviours and expectations this year:

Content conundrum 

In a world where content consumption is drastically increasing, while alternative external stimuli are decreasing, people are turning to brands to get the empathetic content they need to keep going.

Reclaiming our health

As people continue to feel the effects of isolation, anxiety and uncertainty, they are now putting their physical and mental health (as well as their children’s) on a pedestal and asking brands to support them in their quest for well-being.

Behaviour change 

As habits take up to 254 days to form and many are now passing this milestone, permanent changes of behaviour are on the horizon – from the way we drink to the way we date.

Business reset 

While some sectors and businesses have been impacted more negatively than others, pivoting and adopting new practices to satisfy emerging customer’s needs was on every organization’s agenda.

Start afresh 

“If not now, when?” was on everybody’s lips this year. And many have taken the opportunity to self-reflect on how they really want to live as well as the world they want to live in.

The way Canadians are navigating this collective trauma is especially interesting.

While trauma of any kind certainly brings hardship on our daily lives, it’s also one of our greatest sources of resilience that is giving us the opportunity to reboot and build ourselves and the society we really want. Isn’t that the whole point?