Megan Keane

Associate Director of Integrated Strategy | dentsu Americas

As coronavirus has disrupted American life, it has become very clear that our underlying social fabric may never bounce back to the way things ‘used to be.’ This crisis has made it impossible to ignore existing inequalities in America, accelerated the waning allure of mega-cities, and has already left a mark on the next generation.

Below we dive into each of those trends and what they mean for modern marketers.

The pandemic is deepening the inequality that enables its spread.  
Coronavirus has been regarded as ‘the great equalizer’ – viruses don’t care about your race, class or background. In reality, the virus takes advantage of those already vulnerable: people living in crowded households, on the poverty line or who cannot work remotely. The impact has fallen disproportionately on America’s minority populations and most vulnerable communities. IMF research shows that the inequality gap has widened after previous epidemics - and COVID-19 will be no different.

  • The wealthy can afford to ‘stay in place,’ while ‘essential’ workers are dying or their hazard pay is disappearing.
  • Reflective of the nation: In California, Latinos are 39% of the state's population, though they make up 52% of COVID-19 cases, according to the state's health department.
  • The rural digital divide is more urgent, as many rural communities have no choice but to conduct business or social events in person.

The suburbs may hold more allure as space becomes a bigger priority.      
There were already signs of cooling growth in US mega-cities, however, we may see a tipping point as it becomes clear that cities are particularly susceptible to the spread of coronavirus and unconducive to socially distant lifestyles. The ‘stickiness’ of the trend will depend on multiple factors, including the feasibility of scaled remote work and the severity of a recession (when people are less likely to move).

The pandemic will be a defining moment for Gen Z.    

Americans coming to age during the Great Depression came out with transformed expectations of government. Millennials entering the job marketing in 2008 were a driving force behind Occupy Wall Street and the gig economy. Now, it’s Gen Z’s world view that will be shaped in lasting ways. Gen Zer and Yale history major Adrian Rivera says, “It’s this pivotal moment where we’ll never forget what’s done. Or what isn’t done.”

What does this mean for modern marketers?

  • Serve the underserved. There is a greater than ever need to acknowledge and address privilege. Think about how your business can play a bigger role to support those who face income and resource challenges. Especially as the world moves online, many of the pivots that marketers are making may only serve well-off consumers.
  • Moving can act as a point of entry for marketers. It is a moment when people build new routines, try new things and learn about their local neighborhoods. If COVID-19 catalyzes an urban exodus, marketers should be ready to help new audiences transition.
  • Migration patterns also impact business operations. Leaders will need to reassess how their workforces operate cohesively and effectively. B2B marketers may find that different methods of communication are needed to engage remote client teams.
  • Lead with empathy. Gen Z has been a coveted target for many marketers. Look beyond Gen Z stereotypes to empathize with their current situation and provide support, hope and solutions that enable their own creativity and ideas.

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