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How Retail can prepare for Phase 3, with the invaluable contribution of various thinkers and some mice

The principle of the Habit Loop, the ritual of habits, was studied in the 1990s by scientists at MIT. The man (or the animal, in that case a mouse) performs an action to obtain a gratification, receives it and thus enters into the mechanism of the routine. It is an unconscious cog that is part of the life of all of us, from smoking to obsession with fitness. I believe that mice from Massachusetts can come to our rescue in this post-pandemic phase.

The question I am asking myself (which many of us are asking themselves) is: how can marketing help build the new normality, particularly in Retail Real Estate? If I look back at what has happened in recent months, I see a path that we can simplify in this way.
During the lockdown, most of the brands have focused on emotional and supportive messages. The prevailing tone of the communication was “Stay at home, we’re close even from afar, we’re helping XY, we’ll be back to hug soon”.
In Phase 2, currently underway, the prevailing theme is security. All brands, including Retail, communicate with messages that say “We are open, our premises are clean and controlled, we are waiting for you in complete safety”.
Now I think it’s time to move on to Phase 3. The issue of safety, which is of course crucial, has now been taken up by consumers. Every single brand has reassured them about the cleanliness and controls carried out; communication that has been strengthened at a national level by trade associations, just think of the campaigns carried out by the CNCC in support of the retail sector. Today I believe that these values are taken for granted by the public and that it is time to move to a new level of communication.

So what are the levers to use to make Italians fall in love with Shopping Centres again? I believe that the key is in the innate desires of the human being. And here the Bostonian mice come to our aid with their Habit Loop.
My father used to say that after the Second World War people felt an instinctive need to be together, to share the little things of every day. Maybe these months of deprivation will lead us to live similar feelings. Man is by nature a social animal, which forms his identity in the relationship with the community in which he lives. So “sociality” is definitely the first word I write in my notebook for Phase 3. A word to which I link the great theme of corporate social responsibility, with the need for brands to provide real and concrete answers to the needs of the community.
Beauty, in the broadest sense of the word, will also be an important element of the new normality. It is not a prerogative of evolved societies, it is not a fancy for the bored rich. Suffice it to say that the first jewels, found by archaeologists, date back to almost 100,000 years ago. Our ancestors wanted to feel beautiful and attractive just as we do now, self-esteem is part of our Habit Loop. This is confirmed by the first post-lockdown data, which saw a boom in lingerie shops with growths of 30 or 40%.
Finally, I think “lightness” is another word to write in the notebook. If, as Shakespeare said, life is a stage that never stops, then this is the perfect time for us marketing people: because advertising is a show (and here I quote Jacques Séguéla) and in this Phase 3 it can help people to find a smile with its mixture of emotions, imagination and creativity. We shouldn’t forget the Covid-19 and its consequences, but maybe we can push its shadow away thanks to a bit more lightness.

The Shopping Centre is one of the social spaces par excellence of our community. Today, in order to continue to fulfil its function, it must evolve by putting values such as sociality, conviviality, gratification, magic at the centre. And it doesn’t matter if we have to go back there with the amuchina and the mask, if the handrails of the escalators will be sanitized in real time with ultraviolet rays: we will have to get used to taking this for granted. The important thing is that the Shopping Centre will once again be in the heart of people’s lives, leveraging their desires. Walt Disney, who knew about Retail, said: “You can build the most wonderful place on earth, but it will always take people to make the dream come true”. Our task now is to bring them back to the dreams they have the right to live.

Ermanno Canali
President of Canali&C