How To Leverage Americans' Enjoyment Of Life In The Slow Lane

The following was previously published in an earlier edition of Marketing Daily.

After years of worshiping “hustle culture” and the "girlboss," many workers now favor a more balanced lifestyle and put stricter guardrails around when, where and how much they’ll work. Brands must adapt to changing work styles, or risk losing consumers (and employees) at the peak of their careers and earning potential.

Through 2019, influencers glamorized the “always-on” lifestyle of start-ups and Silicon Valley. Big Tech provided employees with busses, gourmet food and errand-runners to sequester them at the office and keep them productive and collaborative. It was the era of Elon Musk sleeping at his factory while launching Tesla’s Model 3; Travis Kalanick pursuing world domination at Uber; and Adam Neumann rapidly scaling WeWork as a place where people could live and work at a communal office.

Then along came COVID. Suddenly white-collar workers were forced to stay home -- and found that they loved it. Working from home saved hours on commuting, allowed parents to spend more time with their children, empowered workers to seamlessly balance their jobs with their personal responsibilities, enabled many to be more productive when freed from distractions -- and saved the time and expense of in-person meetings thanks to Zoom.



Once COVID vaccinations arrived in early 2021, companies expected workers to return -- but many didn’t. Most work-from-home employees found that they loved the freedom and flexibility of working from their living rooms. Companies including Amazon set strict return-to-work policies -- but, between COVID surges and employee pushback, many had to roll these policies back. In an era of 3.7% unemployment, few companies will risk sending their most valuable employees into the arms of a competitor.

Workers who once “kept grinding” now embrace “lazy girl jobs” (popularized by Gabrielle Judge on TikTok this May); “bare minimum Mondays” (where employees ease into the week, to avoid the “Sunday scaries”); and “no-meeting Fridays.” Even the office holiday party is moving from the evening to the workday at many companies, so as not to infringe on employees’ personal time.

And this phenomenon isn’t limited to the United States. In China, urban youth unemployment tops 21%, as young adults prefer “lying flat,” “touching fish” or “letting it rot” to upholding traditional cultural expectations of hard work.

What can brands do to serve consumers “lying flat”?

*Make home the center of the universe. Americans will probably never return to the office five days a week, and brands that used to serve them at work and on their commute must find a way into their home. Restaurants catering to workers in business centers need to deliver to the home and open ghost kitchens in residential centers. The same goes for stores and service providers in big cities and office parks.

*Offer around-the-clock access. With remote, flexible jobs, consumers can take their child to a store at 10 a.m., see a movie at 2 p.m., eat a 4 p.m. dinner, and then sit down to work with clients and colleagues across the world at 6 p.m. Brands need to stay connected with consumers 24/7, now that there is no set schedule, no “dinner rush” and no primetime. Consumers can do anything they want, at any time of day, and expect brands to be there whenever they need them.

*Promote relaxation rather than competition. Tech, automotive and luxury brands used to promote themselves as trophies for the lucky few who had “conquered” their chosen professions. Now that these values are passe, brands must pivot into showcasing how they enable consumers to relax, lead more fulfilling lives, and feel more in harmony with their family, community and planet.

 By riding with consumers in the slow lane, brands can find a fast track to success.

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