I’m a mom of two, which means I grocery shop...a lot. If COVID has taught me anything, it’s that Clorox and Kleenex matter. Notice I didn’t say disinfecting wipes and tissues. That’s because you, me, and every Tory-loving neighbor needs our cleaning supplies and paper products extra-oomphed as we weather this ceaseless—nay, godless—pandemic.
So how has this heightened sense of brand preference affected our everyday existence? Let’s start with the obvious: navigating a 17-aisle grocery store now takes twice as long as it did back in January. (Remember January? I can’t for the Google-Classroom life of me.) Parents everywhere will tell you that this food-shopping timesuck is both disturbing (Ozarks won’t watch itself, people) and delightful (all hail, alone time).
On closer inspection, my increased time in the outer aisles is not entirely surprising. Where I once mindlessly reached for the store brand TP (does the job), the chichi countertop cleaner (ooh, french lavender!), and the gentle detergent (all but synonymous with ineffective at this point), my eyes now dart for the established and the familiar. While the discriminating creative in me still appreciates a whimsical label and goopy potions in a moody palette of Kinfolk, these wonts have taken a backseat to bold primaries and the lexicon of superheroes. Yes, these are the times of ‘50s sans-serif kapow!
Perhaps only a new sort of sick could unleash the visceral power of brand nostalgia. Is the choice between Charmin or a generic even a choice when you grow up on the ever-trustworthy Mr. Whipple? And in whose hands do you prefer to put your family’s health: the muscled ones of Mr. Clean or an up-and-coming competitor brand featuring a free-floating eucalyptus leaf? Is a product claim even effective if not housed within the jagged walls of a massive starburst, with an impressive, germ-zapping percentage riding shotgun?
COVID-anything begs the question: is this about-face temporary? Will you and I return to our niche brand leanings and first-adopter ambitions once history renders coronavirus just another generational assemblage of syllables? Or have consumers like us, having begrudgingly rerouted our familiar grocery-store paths, continue to choose burly confidence and protection over batched craft and quirk? Only time in the aisle will tell.