After months of social distancing restrictions, followed by some recent relaxation, Americans appear to be bracing for a new round of quarantines. That’s the top line of the most recent findings of an ongoing tracking study of American adults feelings of “restriction” vs. “isolation.”
While the data shows a pronounced drop recently in Americans’ sense of being restricted, their sense of being isolated remains acute. Horizon identifies this insight as “preemptive loneliness” as Americans prepare to return to a “disconnected existence.”
“There seems to be a lot of push-pull going on in terms of how people are dealing with the relief of re-opening while at the same time seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases in markets with looser and/or loosening restrictions,” explains Sheri Roder, Chief of Horizon’s Why Group, adding, “It’s as if the spike is triggering the stress and fear that is lingering just under the surface for many people. While they want to return to feeling ‘normal’, reports of a potential second wave seem to be creating what we’re calling preemptive loneliness.”
While many Americans may not actually be back in physical quarantine -- yet -- Roder says they are “already halfway there” on an emotional basis.
While Horizon did not disclose the implications for media planning and buying, it did allude about the impact this could have for some key consumer marketing categories, especially those that depend on human contact.
“They may be much slower to do things like eat at a restaurant’s outside dining, for example,” Roder explains, adding, “Should this trend in feelings of isolation continue, we may once again see a return to depressed spending in the near future.”