Marketers don’t usually take their cues from Bill Gates, but these are unusual times. Gates told CNBC last Friday that the risks of COVID-19 have been “dramatically reduced,” but he warned that another pandemic was on the horizon.
Gates, of course, is best known as the cofounder of Microsoft. But in recent years, he has used his vast wealth to confront some global issues. In 2015, Gates gave a TED Talk about the possibility of a pandemic. That talk now looks prescient, which is why people pay attention when Gates speaks.
Addressing the first part of Gates’ prediction, it appears that the person who warned of a pandemic and is in touch with all of the top people in immunology now believes that COVID-19 is pretty much over.
That means that many events people have been avoiding over the past two years, from concerts to sporting events, can carry on, as can activities like eating at restaurants and having a drink at the bar.
Some of those things may change forever, though. Movie-going to an actual theater appears to be on its last legs. After studios have allowed new releases to be beamed to viewers’ homes instantly, it’s hard to see how consumers will go back to lining up at the theater for new releases. (Film execs told Business Insider that theater-only exclusives have been pushed to 45-day windows, though that is not set in stone.)
Likewise, the past couple of years seem to have dealt a knockout blow to bookstores, which many have been deemed an unnecessary extravagance in the age of COVID.
If Gates is right, though, we might see a steady stream of consumers going to stores and movie theaters as COVID subsides. If the lull lasts a few years, perhaps things will look close to 2018 for a time. But, if the second part of Gates’ prediction comes true, then at some point, we’re in for another lockdown.
All of which means that working remotely and online shopping are the new normal, and more of our communication will be digital. It’s not a surprising prediction, but maybe the accelerated timeline is.