A report by Tonic Worldwide’s insight division Gipsi that sought to “decode consumer needs of 2021 which are born out of 2020” applied the ‘Deep Listening’ methodology across multiple data points on the cusp of a new year, to interpret sentiments, conversations, and interests that were ubiquitous. The four most important needs of 2021 according to Gipsi are: the need to heal, to find balance after the imbalance in 2020, the need for good news, and reassurance.

The report says that there is a strongly perceived need to “heal beyond physical health” and that in 2020, events such as “celebrity suicide, job losses, and domestic violence”, among others, brought to the fore the importance of mental health, with an astounding 1021% surge in ‘Mental Health Quotes’ searches, and over 40,000 conversations around ‘Mental Health’. The year also witnessed deepening concerns on the career front with nearly 3.6 million “LinkedIn updates for #OpenToWork, #OpenToJobs, and #OpenforBusiness”.

As a corollary, most people have begun to value and invest in self-care, an area that has shown two-fold increase in knowledge seeking in “guided meditation” and a 147% rise in YouTube trends in ‘Yoga for Beginners’. People have also spent considerable time bonding with puppies as a means of social healing — as proven by a 302% search increase in ‘How to train a puppy’. On the other hand, many relationships were deferred with the mounting uncertainty that tended to close in on people.

There was a strongly perceived need to “heal beyond physical health” and that in 2020, events such as “celebrity suicide, job losses, and domestic violence”, among others, brought to the fore the importance of mental health, with an astounding 1021% surge in ‘Mental Health Quotes’ searches, and over 40,000 conversations around ‘Mental Health’. Pic Credit: UNICEF

The report predicts a return of “consumer sentiment” that is expected to help restore the risk-taking and balance that was lost this year. Not surprisingly, there has been a 326% increase in searches for ‘how to make resumés for freshers’ and over 187,000 conversations around job opportunities.

There was also a two-fold increase in consumer interest in money matters, with people closely watching trends in ‘stocks to watch today’ matched by a four-fold increase in questions surrounding ‘is it a good time to invest’. Interestingly, there were cultural innovations with Indians, in particular, finding ways to make their weddings grand virtually, with typical wedding meals home-delivered and the actual wedding streamed live.

Gipsi also identified the lack of “good news” in 2020 as another critical factor. But given the current circumstances, the biggest piece of good news people wish to hear is about a potential vaccine arrival with over 1,94,000 conversations following the development of the vaccine.

Rising interest trends surrounding “events, festivals, and shubh muhurat” indicate a general looking-forward to get-togethers and celebrations. The report also states that Indian consumers express high intent on leisure and travel.

On the other hand, concerns surrounding sustainability took centre stage with as much as an 186% increase in search on sustainable packaging and eco-friendly materials. This concern is expected to be a key feature of 2021, particularly with reference to sustainable packaging.

The considerably shaken consumer is also looking for general reassurance: for example, a “neutral sentiment of 78%” looks for assurance from schools to provide safety or children. Concurrently, there has been a 71% positive sentiment surrounding malls and cafes that have adopted safe personalised measures for consumers.

There has been a 71% positive sentiment surrounding malls and cafes that have adopted safe personalised measures for consumers.

The report says brands would need to work hard to impart positive sentiment to consumers while re-building trust to regain their confidence. The report observes how consumers are also demanding and insisting on “transparency and the promise of purity” from brands.

Unmisha Bhatt, Chief Strategy Officer and Director, India and MENA Region, Tonic Worldwide, said, “While the crisis has been ongoing for a while now, there has been some lead time for marketers to recalibrate and be better prepared to communicate with consumers in 2021. This Gipsi report equips marketers across categories to be the catalyst in the consumers life by uncovering their need gaps in the given situation.”

Anjali Malthankar, National Strategy Director, Tonic Worldwide, said, “Unlike any new year report with speculative insights, with GIPSI 2021, we decided to get more realistic and thus discovered an unusual scenario for a new year report — consumers’ needs of 2021 are heavily impacted by the 2020 pandemic experience. Consumers are increasingly experiencing and engaging on digital, it’s only natural to say a regular deep listening can give brands an upper edge and a digital ear to the ground.”