There’s a longing in the air. A new need for normal.
These human impulses and a desire for a summer like any other keep showing up in commercials today. Tractor Supply, for one, is presenting a “Summer Like No Other” and they don’t mean COVID-19, the retailer means that they have the stuff you need for a spectacular summer, just like before.
The voiceover actor intones, “Let’s savor our time together and enjoy the warmth of family and friends.” It’s such an innocent line. Or it was, once upon a time. Today, enjoying the warmth of family and friends can end in sickness and death.
The safest possible way to go forward to is socialize with the members of your household only. Four months on, the idea of more quarantining is tiresome. We are social creatures, and emotional wellness must be factored into the new COVID-19 equations too.
Six Kids and a Mom Drive to the Desert
Toyota too is promoting the idea of leaving the house and hanging out with friends. In this new spot, a mom goes on a day trip with six kids. Are all the kids her kids? Is there a mask among them?
The mom character says, “Give everyone something to look up to.”
I like that the mom is introducing rocket science to girls. There’s an idea brewing there, but the idea doesn’t blast off. Only the rocket does that.
Care to Dine-In? Sorry, That’s a Hard No
Applebee’s is asking us to return to their restaurants and dine inside around lots of other unmasked people.
Applebee’s bowls may be irresistible, but they are also available for takeout, which is a much safer option for all involved.
“Welcome back, America. It sure is good to see you,” says the actor in his soothing tone. The sentiment is right. Togetherness matters. What’s wrong is enticing people into dangerous places with commercials that portray a throwback normal that isn’t real. Whether it’s “Leave It To Beaver” or “Welcome Back Kotter,” neither are documentaries. The song from the ’70s is used here to say, “Remember when?”
There’s cognitive dissonance here. Nostalgia isn’t going to help us persevere in the face of a deadly pandemic.
As the Sun Belt Spikes, Economies Lag
Cases of COVID-19 are spiking across the Sunbelt, with no end or remedies in view. Yet, brands carry on because companies need to survive just like people need to survive.
The questions facing us today are perplexing in many ways. They’re also fundamental:
- Shall we risk our health and the health of others by dining in public?
- Do we really need a new car or SUV? Will we ever need or want one again?
- When will ever work in an office again?
- When will be able to leave our masks in the car?
- Will we ever stop shaming and blaming others who fail to conform to standards of acceptable behavior?
A poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 89% of Democrats and 72% of independents report wearing a mask every time or most of the time when they leave home, compared with 58% of Republicans. The 31-point gap between political parties is an insight into Americans and why the pandemic is out of control.
Whatever one’s politics, there’s a much larger question in play now. It’s not, are you liberal or moderate or conservative? Those are meaningless labels. The question now is are you on the side of science? If the answer is no, you may well be a danger to yourself and others.
Naturally, brands with a mass audience want to sell to people of all political persuasions. Toyota and Applebee’s and the rest don’t care if you believe in science, or if you bathe in Fox New’s toxic stew, or if ever vote again. Applebee’s cares if you’re willing to spend an hour or more inside with dozens, maybe hundreds, of other people. Toyota wants to know if you’ll part with forty grand for a new SUV.
Meanwhile, the American shopper—the great driver of this stupendous economy—is worried that her job and/or clients may vanish. It’s an unpleasant, tumultuous, and frightening time. And this is the cultural milieu that brands operate in. The challenge to make meaning for brands (meaning that drives revenue) has never been greater.