by David Alves (@TheDavidAlves) Level 4, stage 3B, sanitise this, video-conference that, Abraham hit me with a wiffle ball bat. Welcome to our ‘new reality’. It’s a brave ‘new world’ for consumers and an even more treacherous one for the marketers (there’s a song in there somewhere).

No harm admitting

There’s no harm in admitting that you haven’t been paying attention to what brands are saying during this time. While adapting to new ways of working, establishing a secure WFH (work from home) environment and attempting work-life balance, it’s no wonder we haven’t had the chance to listen to what brands have been saying. Maybe. Or maybe it’s because they haven’t been saying very much at all.

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Locally, brands have been relatively quiet; chirps of “gees” and togetherness light up the laptop screen and fill the airwaves from time to time but never has there been a time when brands have been so indistinguishable from one another than right now. Take, for example, something Microsoft Sam put together to show the depth (or lack thereof) that brands in the US are willing to search, in order to connect with consumers at this [I am Jack’s gooey euphemism for extreme uncertainty] time:

Agency manifesto

If you don’t feel like watching the brand-omelette of covid-19 responses, here’s the agency manifesto in a nutshell:

*cue reassuring harmonics*

We’re apart right now.
We’ve been there for you.
We’re people, too.
Especially now.
Today, more than ever.
In these times of uncertainty.
Oh, and social distancing.
Home. Safety.
Here to help.
We are here.
Here for you.
Trust us.

*cue motivational melodic buildup*

Anyone else feel as if you’ve just stepped out of a place where normal things don’t happen very often? You’d be right to feel like everything, even the brand messaging you might have come to enjoy once upon a time, has started to feel a little groundhogish. Should the agencies be trying harder? Maybe clients should be the ones doing better?

The best thing about our new reality is that you have a choice to engage or be interrupted. One would say that now, more than ever, the power lies with the consumer. But enough about “work”. Let’s turn our attention to what actual life might be like after lockdown level 3 point 2, sub section 5 is behind us and we step (figuratively, of course) back out into the real world, because — let’s face it — it’s not going to be the same.

The ‘new world’

So, in the spirit of said ‘new world’, here are a few anecdotes and pieces of technology that you might not have heard of yet that might become the ‘new normal’.

OpenTable on mobi
Image source: OpenTable


It describes itself as “…helping restaurants of all sizes thrive to enable diners to find and book the perfect table for every occasion, our story is one of human connection.”

OpenTable’s new tool allows consumers to choose a vacant time slot or join a waiting list at partnered supermarkets and other essential businesses, much like setting up a reservation at a restaurant. Currently, six partners across the US, plus one each in the UK, India, Australia and Mexico are using this piece of technology:

Locally, Dineplan has a similar core offering. If there were ever a time to develop a new feature, now’s the time, considering we might see phased social-distancing measures for the foreseeable.

FruPro on mobi
Image source: FruPro on Twitter


FruPro claims to “provide an end-to-end community for the fresh produce industry worldwide, while offering greater transparency for fresh produce consumers… by helping its partners and consumers see beyond what’s on their plates but understand every step it took to get it there.”

Its pivot during the pandemic has been to lessen food waste from restaurants during lockdowns in various cities. With South Africa’s under-supply of food parcels and aid to those in need, perhaps it’s time someone pulled the rug from under SA’s fresh food industry, not only in the hospitality industry but the retail environment.

Goodnight Zoom on mobi
Image source: Product Hunt

Goodnight Zoom

A post-covid-19 world wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t mention Zoom but this is a departure from its function as a strict business and personal video-conferencing tool to a product that allows isolated seniors to connect with children in the US. Cue the collective awws.

Why not just regular Zoom, you ask? Well, does the regular interface provide an integrated visual tool to allow you to read fairy tales from your favourite books within the video environment? Exactly. Heart-warming applications of technology like this have the potential to move a nation.



If you haven’t had a virtual lunch/dinner date with your bestie or couple-friends during isolation, are you even a real human? Taking video-conferencing a step further into the realm of entertainment, Vemos is a free Google Chrome extension that allows you to connect to your favourite streaming service. Share what you’re watching with friends and watch in sync while you banter about the real reasons Carole Baskin fed her husband to a tiger (I’m just saying … it’s plausible).

The tool is incredibly easy to use and boasts a live-chat feature that comes in handy when you just have to interrupt a friend while they’re deciphering the ridiculous Spanish-to-English dubbing on Money Heist. Is this where we’re headed? For now, possibly. Maybe we’re already there and we just don’t know it.

The only constant

As Heraclitus said: the only constant is change. As the world changes, so people change with it. We’re a resilient bunch, and while, at the moment, brands fade into obscurity as they continue to sing from the same hymn sheets, consumers will no doubt move into a deeper state of hyper-personal awareness and become harder to influence with regular marketing initiatives.

In the rush to digitally transform, brands may be losing themselves. Sometimes, while trying to remain relevant in a time of such — dare I say it — uncertainty, it’s best to listen and, if you can’t, try to provide value and utility. If there were ever a time to begin reevaluating your service offering, as a brand or as an agency, it’s now.

See also


David AlvesDavid Alves (@TheDavidAlves) is a business director and consultant at Acceleration South Africa, a Wunderman Thompson company, and a digital marketing specialist with over 12 years of entrepreneurial, digital agency and corporate experience, ranging from multinationals to SMEs. His specialities cover consumer and customer experience, the relationship management environment and technical experience across multiple technology suites. He contributes the regular column, Hard Relate — about martech, customer behaviour and experience — to

This MarkLives #CoronavirusSA special section contains coverage of how the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and its resultant disease, covid-19, is affecting the advertising, marketing and related industries in South Africa and other parts of Africa, and how we are responding. Updates may be sent to us via our contact form or the email address published on our Contact Us page. Opinion pieces/guest columns must be exclusive.

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