Will the post-pandemic consumer be more altruistic?

by Louise Burgers. Could this global pandemic be a watershed moment for humanity? Consumer belief systems will be challenged and changed forever, which could lead to a more altruistic, co-operative age.

by Louise Burgers. Could this global pandemic be a watershed moment for humanity? Consumer belief systems will be challenged and changed forever, which could lead to a more altruistic, co-operative age.

In her presentation at a Kantar Insights webinar for brands and business earlier this week, 31 March 2020, From an era of self to an era of shared humanity, Lerato Kgotla, human and cultural truth at Kantar Insights, spoke about how consumer mindsets, attitudes and behaviours will be affected by this crisis and global lockdown of a third of humanity.

Humans are at the heart of shifting category behaviours and it is important for us as brands and marketers to understand how this COVID-19 crisis will affect consumers’ mindsets, attitudes and behaviours beyond the pandemic. This is an unseen enemy that shakes our worldviews, making humans question what really matters. If we’re lucky, this could be a watershed for humanity – and we may look back on the virus as the catalyst for the resurgence of human values of belonging, shared humanity and a sense of duty to the collective,” said Kgotla.

“It is shaking our worldviews and making us question what really matters. This is a reminder that the most important human needs for living are health, food and shelter; and this virus could be a catalyst for the resurgence of human values of belonging and shared humanity.” Kgotla quoted Dr Martina Olbertova, founder of Meaning Global (source: Forbes), as saying, “As far as bags and shoes go, maybe this is to remind us that we live in a society that worships meaningless things instead of embracing and fully activating things that really matter.”

The human experience is under shock, she explained. Even before lockdown was announced, 74% of South Africans were stressed about surviving under the lockdown and worried about the poor in the population, will businesses survive, and so on. The rest of the world is not different in being concerned about the impact, she added.

She said the questions we need to be asking are what will be the impact of these unchartered experiences under lockdown be on the consumer psyche? This virus pandemic has threatened the fundamental human cravings for freedom, choice and physical connections – everything that makes us human. COVID-19 shakes the world as we know it, amplifying values that have existed all along, Kgotla emphasised:

  • People are social beings and have an innate need for connection – under COVID-19, we are forced into isolation, confined to our four walls.
  • Humans exist in an era of individualism and status – COVID-19 is bringing hardship and sacrifice to the world, as industries are shut down and businesses destroyed, and jobs lost.
  • Our society has largely been about consumerism and conspicuous consumption with instant gratification – under lockdown and isolation, we are insecure, uncertain and afraid of scarcity. Food security is a real problem and already New York City has implemented feeding schemes for adults, as of this week.
Brave new world

Kgotla explained that this shock to our world could lead to shared humanity with a resurgence of human values, such as: community and connectedness; cooperation; a revival of ubuntu; generosity; simplicity; wellbeing. “The good news is that the post-coronavirus world is a place you’d rather be,” Kgotla added. “This virus is forcing us into isolation, people are self-sacrificing and doing with less.” People are finding new ways to connect, through house party apps; quarantine parties online; watching theatre performances online; watching concerts; doing good.

This is how people with access to data and home computers are quickly adapting to their new online social worlds, Kgotla explained:

  • Through community and connectedness: People are seeking out new ways to connect and valuing brands that enable communication, information and sharing the human condition. New tribes are forming, united by values and experiences. Brands have a role in the community – it is up to them to find that role by supporting consumers and helping to create a new sense of belonging in the shared experience.
  • Doing good: People value sacrifice, sharing and care; and are expecting brands to be a part of helping them achieve that purpose. Influencers like Jay Chetty, Oprah and Deepak Chopra offering free online counselling and meditation sessions.
  • Simplicity and wellbeing: new benefits will be sought after as we shift from status to more holistic wellbeing and simpler choices. We have seen people concerned about the homeless and street traders. Expect some backlash of over-the-top hedonism when we exit the shutdown, Kgotla warned.

The fact is that this crisis has inspired “authentic communities to create collective meaning”, she said, and urged brands to tap into this new consumer zeitgeist to ensure their survival too, by enabling authentic connections to help humans connect; to listen to and stay close to consumer sentiment and respond appropriately; and to demonstrate true brand values to help consumers during their time of need.

“What this means for brands is that you need to be an enabler of authentic connections. Brands need to help humans connect and share and feel part of something that matters.” This is what brands need to do, she advised:

  1. Demonstrate that you are aligned to new values: Brands need to be relevant and tackle issues, changing attitudes and beliefs of the collective.
  2. Be a connector: Think about how your brand can facilitate connection or add value to new tribes.
  3. Be generous: Think about how your brand can bring joy, generosity, and kindness. Offer value in creative ways that consumers will need more than ever, post the crisis.
  4. Support resourcefulness: Respond to the mindset of simplicity and smart spending. Encourage different ways consumers can do with less.

“How you show up tomorrow should amplify shared values. That means you become a connector, you show generosity and kindness,” Kgotla concluded.


Retailing Africa will be delving deeper into Kantar’s six pillars for brands and business to navigate growth and recovery, with follow up articles this week. Here was the first, published 1 April 2020: How to plan for business recovery post-COVID-19; the second article published on 2 April 2020: Radical consumer shifts ahead.


Louise Burgers (previously Marsland) is the Publisher and Editor and Co-Founder of She has spent over 20 years writing about the FMCG retailing, marketing, media and advertising industry in South Africa and on the African continent. She has specialised in local and Africa consumer trends and is a passionate Afro-optimist who believes it is Africa’s time to rise again and that the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will be a global gamechanger in the next decade.

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