I was struck this morning as I got up at the crack of dawn to let our new puppy out, that this banal chore that my partner and I share is quite a bonding thing. Every morning we wake up to his pre-6am whines and say ‘shall I get him?’. And one of us thanks God for the other who trots bleary eyed down the stairs to a wiggly waggly happy pup desperate to get out of the back door. This one thing sets us up for the day as a couple: one gets the brownie points, the other gets a precious few more minutes in bed. That’s when I asked myself – do these banal things actually make for the basis of a happy relationship?
I’m not just thinking about couples – although, to be sure, anything that makes for a harmonious relationship in Lockdown is a good thing right? I’m also thinking about people in general. In Lockdown we have been deprived of human contact with our family, friends, and fellow workers. With the plethora of Zoom quiz nights and new Covid19-based rituals that we are building into our days are we naturally, in our self conscious, building a base of those banal tasks? Are they more of a necessity than we think?
When I started my first company I partnered up with a ridiculously optimistic fellow ‘Jackie’ who dealt with every major staff issue with a desk change. At the time it was a huge joke. We would start a meeting to talk about an account team or an individual and inevitably at some stage she would say “just move them and they can sit next to so and so.” I saw it then as a superficial way of handling a problem. Many years later I have realized that this was actually a small act of genius. It dealt with so many things at one time: a change of location prompted reflection, fluttered a few feathers, made enough of a ripple in the pond to be the catalyst for change. Most often, that change was positive.
Small, what might be seen as banal, things keep us together: They keep us comfortable and happy. Routine is good, which is why the Lockdown is so unsettling. People talk about ‘The New Normal’. I have no crystal ball telling me what the New Normal will be, but I do know that it will have routine, it will have the banal, and maybe that is just what we should be looking to embrace.
My job is communications and my perception over the years has been shaped to catch and study how people and organisations communicate. I ask myself what resonates and why it has appealed? Right now in Lockdown I can’t think of any one organization that is getting it right. Maybe they are all struggling to find a new way to talk to us: the interminable adverts with Zoom screens on them come across as “try hard.” I have yet to see any communications or marketing campaign that has struck a chord, probably because marketing budgets have been cut as the economy goes into freefall. This short term reaction is understandable and often justifiable.
But when companies do spend again maybe they should consider how much people will need routine and perhaps unimaginative but regular communications is the “New Normal.” I know that I, as a consumer, will look for the familiar — whether that be a regular piece of news, a familiar flyer, or an advert whose tune I recognize — to reassure me, to reinforce my pre-Covid19 perceptions and choices. The business opportunity for organizations will not necessarily lie in new actions specially created to reflect the ‘New Normal’. Certainly, in communications programs, consistency of message is now more important than ever. Maybe, with the New Normal, the bigger focus should be on ‘Normal’ and all that means to people, rather than the ‘new’?