Anchit Chauhan
Guest Article

Masks for self-expression, sanitisers as conversation starters?

'Unlocked' consumers and the changes we'll possibly see in their daily behaviour - some fun musings and scenarios.

The ‘new normal’ for every published piece is to feature the phrase ‘new normal’ in the very first sentence. With the hot keywords out of the way, let’s move on to what this piece is really about, the ‘new normal’, as the world 'unlocks'. Just kidding. Or, maybe not.

Let’s look at some small, yet interesting ways in which big behavioural and perception changes will come about, among consumers.

Masks will become a symbol of trust

Not everyone has their personal 'Lucius Fox' to get them an impact resistant, graphite composite mask, that can take a bullet or more to save their life. But, everyone certainly needs to wear a mask to save their life in 2020. Not everyone can carry off a mask like the Batman, but everyone can certainly turn into a protector of the people, by simply putting on a mask.

As the world 'unlocks', and as the public ventures outside, masks will become a symbol of trust, just like in MCU or DC movies. Anyone sporting one will be seen as a trustworthy individual, who cares for the world.

In pre-COVID times, anyone with a covered up face in public would be looked at with utmost suspicion. Now, anyone without a mask would get that treatment. From a symbol of distrust, to a marker of trust, masks truly have come a long way in a few months.

Masks, the new form of self-expression

As masks become the new face of the mankind, people will seek to differentiate themselves from others, which will lead to the accessorisation of masks. These medical essentials turned fashion accessories will become a style statement for people.

Masks are already available in vastly different designs and looks. High fashion brands like LV and Ralph Lauren, to Madhubani painters from Bihar and weavers from Bhuj in Gujarat have made the good old mask their canvas. Fashion brands and artisans are now competing against medical equipment companies, in giving a myriad number of options to consumers to choose from.

Masks will be the new ‘tees’, the new way for individuals to highlight their individuality. An element of their personality that tells the world who they are, without even having to open their mouth (which, anyway, is better for the world, given the situation).

Sanitisers help keep your sanity

In the pre-COVID world, anyone rubbing their hands with a sanitiser every time they touched anything, or shaked hands with anyone, would offend the world, and be deemed a freak.

Cut to today, the world would freak out if they saw anyone touching surfaces and then coming close to them. Even worse, touching them without sanitising their hands properly. Any such person would now be called a freak.

People will increasingly suffer from hygiene anxiety. The restlessness one would experience every time they touched something at a public place, or something handed to them by someone else, like currency notes, or a debit card after the cashier swiped it, something that only sanitisers would immediately provide relief from.

They will help calm people down, when they worry for their safety. Sanitisers will be the new invisible armour, that reassures people.

Sanitisers, the new icebreakers

Using sanitisers is now a subconscious habit that’s not only accepted, but widely appreciated. The moment you pull out a bottle, you see many hands reach out for a drop of that magical life-saving gel.

Sanitisers are now a thing to share, even with strangers. Perhaps, they’re the new Tic Tacs. They’re the new icebreakers, the new cigarette lighter, perhaps? The new holy liquid. The liquid served at welcome, even before the welcome drink. Sanitisers are conversation starters, especially on the topic of the importance of using them.

Distance, the new closeness

It’s the people who’re closest to you whose safety you’re most concerned about. Keeping distance from close ones would be an appreciable act of care.

Not visiting your granny, not hugging your parents, spouse or children when you return from work, not sharing a beer can with your best friend, not eating lunch with your colleagues. The very acts which were the opposite of care, will now signify care.

From now on, distance will most certainly make the heart grow fonder.

COVID-19 has altered human behaviour at multiple levels, and as long as the threat looms, this behaviour will keep changing. As a result, interpersonal relationships will change, relationships of consumers with brands will change.

It will be interesting to see whether these changes become permanent, or do people go back to the good ‘old normal’.

(The author is director – brand strategy at Dentsu WebChutney.)