Is your brand ready to rock in the Roaring Twenties?

—Jared Stein is looking forward to the next season of Bridgerton. But, like a lot of people, he’s also ready for some real-life experiences. Brands should take note—

Not since the dawn of the internet and the digital age that arrived with it more than 20 years ago have brands faced a defining moment like the soon-to-be post-pandemic world.

Yes, we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel, and when we finally push through to the other side, we will be entering a brief period of unprecedented opportunity.

Because when this all ends, we’ll be dealing with a different kind of consumer—one desperate for human engagement, eager for meaningful connections to replace the numbness and strain that has built up after more than a year of isolation, distance and staring at screens.

It will be a boom time for marketers and their brands—as long as they get it right.

The last thing the post-pandemic consumer will want, or need, is more content just for the sake of content. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait for season 2 of Bridgerton, but I think we could all use a break from our screens.

Brands need to act with empathy, and better yet compassion. Brand leaders must think about what their consumers want, rather than simply what they want to tell their consumers.

Brands will have an opportunity to connect with customers as never before, and at a deeper level that makes them feel better about the brand in a deeper way, not just as a purchase.

The pandemic forced brands into a digital pivot, and most reacted with speed and agility not even dreamed of by the most prescient digital marketers. Consumers, too, have responded incredibly well.

As a result, the omni-channel experience will be forever changed. Consumers will come to expect a seamless experience both online and in-store, curbside, and while clicking and collecting. Pain points for consumers have multiplied, but so too have the opportunities for marketers to demonstrate an  understanding of their customer.

Brands have always been storytellers. The question now becomes how we can use these stories to create moments of connection that feed into consumers’ post-pandemic yearning for a sense of bonding and community; moments that add value, and make the consumer feel part of something bigger.

For our work in the alcoholic beverage category, we have always talked about “occasion” as a time to talk to a target, because that’s when they are most likely to want to consume our product.

But if you look at the consumer not just through the lens of demographics or psychographics, and instead see them as mothers, fathers, friends and neighbours—as people—then suddenly every day can be an “occasion.”

The real question as we emerge from the pandemic is what role do we want to play in consumers’ lives? We have a real opportunity to rethink that brand/consumer relationship. Are we just going to push out more content, or do we want to create experiences that excite and that matter?

Third party cookies are soon going the way of the dodo. If brands want the personal information of consumers, they need to think really hard about what type of experiences and encounters they can offer that would be of equal value to that information: experiences of value that are in sync with their new narratives and post-pandemic behaviour.

Meanwhile, as more of us get vaccinated over the coming months, every day should bring more happiness into people’s lives.

We must ask ourselves, what role do we want to play in that joy? What can we do to create memories that will not only provide pleasure in that moment, but become memories and experiences people will want to pass on to their grand kids?

Brands able to create memorable moments that drive business results and brand affinity will be the brands that matter most moving forward.

This opportunity to refocus will not last forever. We all have a choice to make.

Jared Stein is the president and CEO of The Hive