Building confidence before coaxing people into a new compromised normal

When I recently told my wife casually that I’m starting to enjoy the drying the clothes, doing the dishes, sweeping and mopping routine, she responded seriously with, “We need to talk about if and when we need to call our house help and driver back to work”.

I had not considered it so far, but since May 3rd is a few days away, we do need to discuss that. I had no doubt in my mind that we need to call them back, but my wife had a practical counter to that: “They come using the town bus. How safe is it, to them, and to us?”. I had not thought about that angle at all.

This fear and lack of confidence in each other as a result of the pandemic is clearly going to be THE biggest factor affecting us all in the near-to-mid term, provided there is no vaccine in that period.

Now, magnify this fear and lack of trust. A restaurant that could seat 100 may be forced to seat only 50.

Both Zomato and Dineout are dealing with this by starting to talk about ‘Contactless Dining’ as a way to prepare and coax us into trusting going out to eat!

A bus or a plane may need to run at 1/4th capacity to maintain distancing. A cinema theatre may need to allow only 1/4th of the seats to be filled/sold. And even these measures won’t restore trust! After all, this trust cannot be ordered by our political leaders.

To make things worse, this fear and lack of trust and confidence is going to clash with what may be the biggest, multi-pronged campaign to boost ‘consumption’, across the world. Every organization is going to hammer the message to get people back to their establishments and this is likely to be framed as ‘Help us get back to business and pay our employees’ and not as ‘Come and have a good time/indulge’.

Julio Vincent Gambuto’s recent post titled, ‘Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting‘ expands on this theme incredibly well.

So, any attempt to compel, coax or coerce people to get back to some sort of compromised normal should follow a decent-enough and long-enough period of convincing them on why they should trust that establishment again… with their lives!

This is both a product-level challenge as well as a communications challenge. So product managers, product engineers and communications professionals (across PR, advertising, branding, marketing etc.) have a lot of thinking and work to do.

PS: I keep telling my wife about this prediction of mine, for August 16, 2020… and she continues to warn me that there would be no going out to eat for at least 2 years. I don’t know how this will end, but let’s see 🙂



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