The 7 stages of consumer grief

The last year has led to a sense of loss for many. We have lost other people, jobs, education, opportunity, access, freedoms and human interaction.

Our latest consumer study of 600 people across the US, UK, and Australia has captured their thoughts, attitudes, and behaviour towards life at the moment. From buying habits to mental health to brand perception, they told us their approach to life now and how this might change as the pandemic eases.

And what we find is that nearly everybody has lost something. And once something is lost, whoever or whatever that is, it needs to be grieved for. As we do this, we progress through 7 stages of grief:

  1. DENIAL/ SHOCK: This is not that significant. I am not letting this change the way I live. For a small cohort of people, the current state of being is so incomprehensible they can only think about the day to day, attempting to live as before (particularly prevalent in US).
  2. PAIN: Perception zooms in. Emotional spectrum zooms out. With so many financially impacted by loss of income (more dramatically felt in the US where there isn’t a support system in place) we see a cohort of people who feel extreme negativity. They don’t know how they will get out of this. They feel stuck in a negative spiral.
  3. ANGER: How dare brands take advantage of us in our vulnerability. Some people are in a stage of being easily angered. Brands are at risk of being at the other end of this anger because people feel emotionally manipulated.
  4. DEPRESSION: Uncertainty and negativity dominate. People are letting the feeling of negativity overwhelm their outlook because everything feels too uncertain. The uncertainty is blocking hope for the future.
  5. ONWARDS AND UPWARDS: Making the most of what is in front of me right now People are doing what they can to make the best of a bad situation. People have reprioritised their spending and are enjoying this new approach.
  6. RECONSTRUCTION: Trying new things and finding ways to improve life. Many have significantly changed their life and habits to seek joy and want to keep these changes moving forward.
  7. ACCEPTANCE AND HOPE: Hopeful for getting back what I care about but accept this may shift and change over time. A new sense of perspective on life with a hope for the future to return only to what people truly love and appreciate in life is starting to emerge. An acceptance of a new way of being and relishing in what they care about.

The watch out here is that across the three markets we researched, consumers within those markets are at different stages not just in comparison to each other (those in the US have different feelings to those in  Australia) but also within those markets themselves. 

Which means as we progress with vaccines and look forward, we shouldn't assume that all consumers are in the hope stage. In fact our research shows anything but. 

Next week we’ll be sharing more insight to show what impact each stage has on brands and how they’ll need to walk carefully through the different stages to meet consumer expectations.

In the meantime, if you’d like to know more about the Catalyx Consumer Activation System, please click here

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