There is No Place Like Home: How the Coronavirus Epidemic Redefines the Meaning of Home
After months of social distancing and confinement to our homes, the old saying that there is no place like home is taking on new meaning. Indeed, home means different things to different people, but it’s safe to say that what home means and the significance of home is evolving.
Home as sacred haven
In normal times, home is where we leave the public view and enter our sacred personal space. But these are not normal times. Instead, home has been repurposed to accommodate new activities like working from home, schooling from home, cutting your own hair at home, and working out at home, to mention a few. When such activities are happening at home we start to think about our home in a different way. The very definition of home as an opposite of what it’s not no longer holds true. Put another way, home is work and work is home.
In normal times our desire to venture out of home is oftentimes driven by a quest for experiences and social interactions. In this pandemic, we find ourselves confined to our homes, leaving for short periods of time to stock up on essentials. As a result, consumption has predominantly moved to the private sphere of the home, away from the public eye. While such a shift in context may seem trivial, it has significant marketing implications.
Behavioral Science helps us appreciate that the context of consumption impacts the symbolic meaning we derive from it. While a physical product we consume on premise in the bar can be the same product as the one we consume off premise at home, the symbolic and experiential meaning of this consumption is quite different. Savvy marketers realize that when the experiential context changes, it has a profound impact on the meaning of the brand.
The experience economy at home
Some 20 years ago Joseph Pine and James Gilmore coined the term the Experience Economy. Their premise was that the service economy was gradually being replaced by an experience economy where people pay money for the feelings they experience. Prime examples of the experience economy are brand meccas like Nike Town or the Apple Store.
When such location-based experiences are closed, brands have to rely on delivering that experience digitally in the context of people’s homes. This means that the digital transformation that has been underway for years is now intensifying as newer technology like virtual reality and AI reshape how we experience and interact with the social world, from shopping, to dating, and working.
We don’t know yet the lasting consequences the pandemic will have on how we consume. What we can expect though, is that we are not going back to where we were in January of 2020. The short term changes we are observing now will have long term implications even when we get to a point where there is no longer any fear of contracting the Coronavirus.