How will audacity play out in consumer behavior post pandemic?

I love the intersection of sociology, business and history. Triangulating observations from all three can often lead to interesting insight. So, when a friend sent me a link to an Economist article, “The long goodbye to Covid-19” noting trends identified by Nicholas Christakis, Yale University Sociologist and Physician, and a global normalcy index developed by data scientist, James Fransham, at the Economist, which helps track consumer behavior across a broad spectrum, I was fascinated. Add to it an embedded video tracking societal shifts following historical events such as the Black Plague and the Spanish Flu, and I was totally geeking out.

Three shifts which have followed past plagues

– The collective threat prompts growth of state power

– Overturning of everyday life leads to search for meaning

– Possible death which brought caution while the disease rages, spurs audacity once the threat passes

I would argue that we’ve experienced 1 & 2, and we’re about to witness the impact of number 3. Certainly, we’ve seen state power at play through lock downs, government assistance, and more recently vaccine mandates and passports. Many people searched for meaning in their life, home and work, and made dramatic changes over the last 18 months. And much of those changes are still rolling out as hybrid shopping, learning and working sees some pandemic behaviors being brought forward to the new normal.

Audacity, risk & innovation

Audacity is what fascinates me though. After the Black Plague killed off 1/3 of workers in Europe, innovations like the printing press came about, simply because there weren’t enough scribes to create written documents. Innovation flourished. Explorers set off for the new world, because really – could it be any riskier to sail unknown waters charting new lands, then staying in a country ravaged by the plague? The risk of exploration continued, along with global growth. During the Spanish Flu in 1918, we saw a similar lock down of society with closed schools, theaters, mandated masks (and protests!), which eventually lead to over 100 million deaths before it abated. Since the end of WW1 collided with the end of the Spanish Flu, it was a double whammy – which largely then ushered in the roaring 20s, with business start-ups flourishing, women’s rights emerging, and a vibrant creative scene in music and the arts.

While it’s now clear that the last phase of the pandemic that we’re currently in will be drawn out and painful, until vaccines reach more arms around the globe, what’s certain is that Covid will leave behind a different world. The pandemic will eventually abate, but the virus will survive, and we’ll learn to live with it, like a seasonal flu with ever improving vaccines for variants. But in the wake of all of this is audacity, risk & innovation. And THAT is exciting stuff.

If you look closely, some of this has already arrived. I see innovation in speaker friends, who unable to speak on live stages the last year, wrote books while in lock down, and they are now hopping on planes (albeit in a new masked and vaccine passport travel reality) to share their message around the globe. Innovative start-ups in the IT industry alone grew by 20% in 2020 compared to 2019, and many other industries flourished meeting new consumer demands. In a historically audacious move, this past summer we witnessed a new space race of sorts – between private investors Richard Branson, from Virgin, and Jeff Bezos from Google, as they launched rockets to space intended to eventually commercialize citizen travel to new frontiers. And on September 15, 2021 as I write this, the first all-civilian crew launched to orbit aboard the SpaceX rocket ship – a project of Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla. Curiously, the capsule they’re riding in is aptly named “Resilience” very much a reflection of our historic pandemic times. Likewise, artificial intelligence, enhanced reality and genetic engineering are no longer the subject of 1970s futuristic comic books. They are real. Our digital revolution appears only accelerated by the pandemic.

How will this audacity play out in consumer behavior?

Time will tell, but we’re seeing early signs in the travel industry, as those with a higher tolerance for risk navigate trips around the globe during what still appears to be a ravaging pandemic in some areas. In fact, I interviewed a 70 year old traveler for an article published recently on my travel writing site,, How to go on a safari during the pandemic, which illustrates perfectly calculated risk and audacious behavior. A recent Forbes article Americans are quitting their jobs in record numbers, notes how people have reflected on their work during the pandemic, and are often now seeking jobs with meaning, better opportunities and more flexibility.

– Audacity makes big changes and decisions quickly

– Audacity spends money freely to get what it really wants

– Audacity doesn’t put off the future. It lives it today.

– Audacity dares to dream big

– Audacity takes risks

– Audacity creates and innovates

– Audacity doesn’t care what others think

The question for you in all of this is, how might these broad sweeping consumer behaviors impact your business? How might you leverage the sentiment of audacity in your marketing communications? How can you capitalize on this right now with early adapters, knowing the balance of consumers will fall in line over the coming year?

As I write about audacity, I can’t help think about a book my Mom had called The Red Hat Society”which was basically about women over 50 living life on their own terms, and finding strength in their newfound sisterhood. It found its way to our cabin amidst clearing out all her stuff, and I had a chuckle pulling it off the shelf this summer, musing about what she would recommend in living life post-pandemic.

Audacity, risk and innovation. I don’t know about you, but the promise of that to come puts a smile on my face. Let’s go live it today.

Mary Charleson

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Featured on


Subscribe to Mary’s Weekly
Five-Minute Marketing Tips.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.