Rebalancing act: Rebounding from Covid-19

Covid-19 Features Trends

As the critical threat of Covid-19 recedes, it’s time for consumers and industries to rebound and rebalance. Catherine Turner speaks to InSites Consulting to find out more.


Many of the trends in consumer behaviour witnessed over the past two years have been accelerated by the pandemic, leaving brands with a need to devise new thinking in terms of applying them to their business challenges. Understanding which culture shifts and emerging trends will shape customers, categories and competitors, now and next, is key.

According to a new report from InSites Consulting, 2021 should be defined as the year of “collective readjustment”. Co-founder and future consumer practitioner Joeri Van den Bergh explained: “For some, this meant dramatic changes on a personal or professional level, while for others, small tweaks were made along the way. People sought to find a balance between the long and short term, and it is this duality, the balancing of purpose and pleasure, that we now seek to fulfil to achieve happiness.”

The report was compiled from proprietary research conducted in November 2021 across 17 markets and 15,000 consumers. In collaboration with the agency’s Illume Network of leading-edge consumers, it identifies and explores 10 trends that are shaping the 2022 consumer and their expectations towards brands. 

Tapping into the trend of ‘inclusive connectivity’, (the desire for collaborative virtual spaces and initiatives that create a sense of belonging) InSites Consulting will host the MRS North Awards Showcase in Manchester (and online) on 16 June. The afternoon marks the first time the MRS has held a social event in the region since September 2019. 

Chairing the event is Paul Child, senior business director at InSites Consulting and MRS Awards judge. Of the event, Child comments: “As our ways of connecting are diversifying both in the workplace and socially, accommodating everyone’s needs takes priority. Being apart physically should not impact anyone’s experience.

“With this in mind. we’re excited to welcome our friends, colleagues and clients in the north of England to join us in person for an exclusive event, featuring five MRS award-winning cases. Of course, being inclusive means accessibility for all, and we’ll therefore be broadcasting the event live across the rest of the UK and Europe.”

The event will feature presentations of five winning case studies from the MRS Awards 2021 that showcase some of the trends identified in the InSites Consulting report, Consumer Trends 2022: Rebound and Rebalance.

The five award-winning studies to be presented have been chosen for their collective desire to understand a myriad of consumers, some often hard to reach or even define.

Heriot-Watt University’s research into Destitution in the UK is a prime example of a brand looking to solve problems for underserved causes by using innovative research to drive positive social change. 

Created in partnership with Kantar Public and the Institute for Social Policy, Housing, Equalities Research, the project is a great example of a brand tapping into ‘actions for impact’, a trend that has arisen from consumers’ hyperawareness of the weaknesses in society’s systems and their uncertainty of where to start to fix them. Feeling powerless to impact broader issues such as climate change and inequality, consumers will seek to support solutions that directly impact those societal issues that also need attention. 

Also linked to social impact is the ‘redefining normal’ trend. As consumers deepen their understanding of social justice, they are questioning those things that society has always presented to them as ‘normal’. Moving forward, InSites Consulting suggests consumers are tuning into products and services that represent our true reality.

Essity’s longstanding #Painstories project taps into this trend and the brand’s latest research into Closing the gender pain gap – examining what ‘pain’ means for women and presenting a more accurate portrayal of the complexities of life with a womb – is, it says, a great example of leveraging research to this end. The study was conducted by AMV BBDO and The Outsiders.

Also on the agenda is Behind closed doors: Initiating a fundamental shift in banking design for families submitted by Nationwide Building Society and Lens. It explores how Nationwide has transformed the way it thinks about undertaking financial behavioural research and challenged assumptions and stereotypes regarding the reality of day-to-day money management and the extent to which families are stretched. According to the building society, money is about so much more than a transaction, entwined as it is with belief systems, culture, societal influences and emotions.

Feeding the imagination from Folk Research and Lurpak explores how tectonic shifts in nutritional understanding have prompted a range of new food trends and a realisation that Lurpak needed to update its understanding of its core consumer, food lovers. The insights will feed Lurpak’s advertising strategy for the next five years.

The fifth case study, Communicating responsible gambling, comes from Irrational Agency and The Gamesys Group. During lockdown, online gambling spiked across the UK: with people at home, some with difficult financial and family conditions, many responsible gamblers could easily find themselves becoming problem gamblers. It concluded that the gambling industry didn’t need new tools, but to look at problem gambling from a different perspective and reach those at risk earlier with a change in communications.

Headlining the event is InSites Consulting’s Van den Bergh, who will share the agency’s latest consumer study on generational insights. Eager to regain the freedoms lost during the global pandemic, Gen Z is ready to change the world, create new trends and shape future consumer behaviour. The question is: are brands ready and able to help them?

InSites Consulting has been supporting MRS events in and around Manchester for more than a decade (under the previous brand, Join the Dots), most notably with the Best of Impact series that sees highlights from the annual conference presented to a northern audience, an event also chaired by Child.

He says: “It is great to be able once again to reach research and insight professionals in the North and bring colleagues and friends together in real life after the challenges of the pandemic.

“We look forward to welcoming these incredible speakers, as well as of course a diverse audience, both in person and online.”

The MRS North Awards Showcase and party will be held in Manchester on 16 June. To be notified when the event opens for bookings, or for further information, please email