The great escape
Updated: Jun 25, 2021
Trend #3: We’re all looking for a way to escape
Over the last year, we have learned to balance fear with a desire for connection, isolation with an appetite for amusements that give us a “rush of comfort and happiness.” We’ve sought distraction and relief from our realities in a variety of ways, some facilitated by cutting-edge technologies, others much more old school.
So what exactly are we escaping from?
It could be the constant fog of low level anxiety that comes from the omnipresent threat of a global pandemic, a planetary climate crisis and systemic racial and economic inequity.
It could be the numbing boredom of our pandemic lives that some say stems from a feeling that we’ve lost control of our lives.
We may simply be trying to escape the draining monotony of endless zoom meetings.
Maybe we’re trying to escape from the parents, partners, kids, pets and other co-inhabitants of our home spaces.
Or perhaps we’re just desperate for an escape from our pandemic fatigue.
In the spirit of this great escape, I’m going to try to keep this short, by simply sharing a list of the escapist tendencies and platforms I’ve come across in the last few months.
As you look at these examples, consider how your brand is creating moments of relief from the doldrums of the everyday. How can you leverage your authentic purpose to transport consumers to new worlds and experiences?
Let’s start with the transportative power of stories.
Escaping into stories
Television has been a great escape during the pandemic, whether it was a frothy but feminist sitcom, idealistic Korean romances, a political procedural that distracts us from the reality of our own fractured systems of government, real estate reality shows that allow us to imagine what it would be like to buy a property in the south of Spain or remodel our dated kitchen, a steamy period costume drama with a killer soundtrack. (And let’s not forget our most eccentric companion in those earliest of pandemic days.)
Maybe you’re watching a post-WWII family drama set in Sweden, just to remind yourself what it sounds like to hear someone speak a foreign language. Or maybe you’ve rebooted reruns of a show from your youth (because nostalgia is its own escape).
Whatever has been filling your queue over the last year, it has led to explosive growth on streaming content platforms. Netflix alone added a whopping 10 million subscribers in 2020.
And lastly, the rise in pandemic erotica has take escapism to a new dimension
Escape through aesthetics
Tik Tok has helped to fuel the rise in aesthetic-obsessed subcultures, whether that’s an escape to a pastoral ideal of simpler living or an homage to the dark appeal of turtlenecks and the smell of old books.
The escapism interior trend is taking off with art, furniture and design details that recall the exotic destinations of our pre-pandemic lives
Other escapes are multi-sensory, whether that’s a soap perfumed like a French Garden or a tropical sound- (and scent-) scape for your shower and bath time
Escape with virtual travel
As the pandemic has created travel restrictions, it’s no wonder we’ve turned to technology to satisfy our wanderlust.
We’ve been taking virtual road trips using Google Street View and strolling the streets of unfamiliar cities using the City Guesser app
And over the last year, there’s been no shortage of editorial roundups touting the best virtual travel experiences to cure wanderlust
Escape with live performances
In a year when packed arenas and concert halls were a no-no, we saw a sharp increase in the number of live streamed virtual concerts, and (for better or worse) they are likely here to stay
Fortnite’s amazing run of concerts in 2020 showed us that virtual worlds are now legitimate arenas of shared cultural experience.
Roblox is adding its own private space to host virtual private birthday parties and social gatherings for the more than 76 million users on its platform.
Rolling Stone launched a video channel on Amazon’s Twitch to broaden its reach to new audiences
NPR’s culture desk reported that the 2021 Grammy Awards excelled at escapism, if not escape
Rolling Stone is teaming up with Twitch to create live and immersive experiences in the popular virtual space.
Escape with virtual activities
Leaders of teams in remote workplaces have to rethinking the idea of the offsite
Airbnb doubled down on its online experiences in 2020 as it looked to replace revenue from business travel and short-term stays
There is now a food-themed Hellmann’s Island on Animal Crossing, if that’s your cup of mayo.
Mobile gaming is also on the rise, especially with younger consumers. According to Gen Z research group Student Beans, “75% of 16-to-24-year-old students play a mobile, console or computer game at least once a month — higher than the number who use a music streaming service, a video streaming service, or watch cable TV.”
Like I said, these are just a few examples — obviously not exhaustive, but representative of a larger trend. How do you think our attitudes toward escapism will evolve as more people are vaccinated and start returning to their pre-pandemic activities? How can brands build on the behaviors we’ve established in response to social distancing to continue delivering meaningful escapes from the drudgery of the everyday?
As always, feel free to contact me at email@example.com to start a conversation. Or share your thoughts and feelings in the comments below.
That’s it, until next time, when we’ll look at brand activism and how this trend was accelerated in 2020. Until then, happy escape!