Navigating the next normal for brands

Opportunity in adversity – growing brands in a post-pandemic world

With the world in the throes of adapting to life in a post-pandemic reality, brands and businesses are being called upon to reshape the way they behave. As we look optimistically ahead, this is our moment of opportunity to defy the odds and birth new experiences, practical solutions and compelling brand narratives.


Here are glimpses of what the possible new brand realities will be for consumers and enterprises. We hope these insights will help you navigate new strategies to reframe and grow as opportunities arise. Together, let us emerge stronger and better for the years ahead.

About this study

DIA Brands partnered with Rakuten Insight to conduct a general population survey in Singapore and Malaysia in June 2020. Over 1,000 responses from each market were gathered and the results have been collated to show trends in each.


As Asia’s trusted research partner, Rakuten Insight has remained at the forefront of consumer market research data collection in the region for over 20 years. Our online panels have been developed throughout 12 major Asian countries and regions. Having access to such a diverse and unique group of research participants allows Rakuten Insight to remain at the forefront of online research in the region.

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Consumer confidence
is not all lost

Not all is gloomy – while there are some that still feel anxious and worried due to uncertainty, consumers are still generally positive about what the future holds.





expect the economy to recover by 2021 or earlier

Outcome for brands

It is time for brands to tap into residual consumer confidence and the need for optimism in a seemingly negative world. The majority have indicated that they would like to see brands adopt a more positive attitude in their communications and bring solutions that meet new needs.

Change makers

Finding the right response takes innovative thinking. Car maker Škoda has released a set of three new stop-frame adverts entirely shot from home using toy cars, to show how ‘creativity beats crisis’ and is bringing a fresh attitude to car marketing.


Likewise TIME Magazine is helping readers to think through covid and has launched a suite of offerings aimed at helping audiences improve their lives, and navigate the widespread challenges of the pandemic.


Bringing optimism to the fore and supporting consumers with positive value creation versus distress selling will be key to maintaining confidence and building brand affinity.


Back to basics as value still rules in adversity

Consumers are looking for trust and value in their purchases, so quality, safety and convenience are still prioritised despite heightened price sensitivities under Covid-19.


This is changing consumer attitudes and the perception of value.





Would rather have the quality and safety of trusted products than simply more discounts.

Outcome for brands

Responding to the current situation does not necessarily mean lowering prices and giving bulk discounts. Supporting and being on the side of the consumer by offering ‘real value’ that cuts through the discounting hype is what many consumers are looking for.

Change makers

Many brands are changing their offer in response to new needs. Grab has pivoted from a transport provider to an enabler of a range of online services, filling the gap from food to shopping, insurance, gifting, travel, hotels and more under Covid-19 and beyond.


Retail brands have been under pressure to keep prices low and affordable for necessities. FairPrice has strengthened it’s supply network to ensure essential products continue to be available. In addition, they have also upgraded ‘FairPrice on Wheels’ online home delivery service to connect customers reluctant or unable to shop out of home.


How far will these shifts maintain over time and embed new long-term changes in consumer behaviour?


Digital enablement
is now a reality
for both businesses
and consumers

Digital adoption has accelerated as many consumers now indicate that they are looking to use more technology in both their work and daily lives.





Will be using technology to enhance speed, convenience and safety as digital becomes the preferred norm.

Outcome for brands

Brands must accelerate their digital transformation as consumers are fast becoming comfortable from search to purchase online as a preferred option.

Change makers

Many new approaches to online retail have been accelerated as a result of Covid-19. Facebook Shops has been introduced to help struggling businesses set up an e-commerce store easily and reach out to consumers online. Businesses can choose the products they want to feature that best showcase their brand.


Lazada has seen an uplift in sales, as more consumers purchase online. Video game consoles, home office furniture and fitness equipment are among the top-ranked categories of goods bought during this period, with each category growing more than 1,000 per cent in sales volume.


Names such as and Alibaba have led the way, but China’s Pinduoduo is breaking through with a new ’shoppertainment’ approach to social commerce combining entertainment with sales and connecting producers directly to consumers in platforms such as duoduo orchard.


At the same time Shopee is finding success tapping into regional variations and localising its formats to meet different consumer needs and purchase patterns.


These trends are likely to continue and accelerate as consumers embed changing habits and preferences long-term.


Home calls as work-life balance is in question

Having experienced working from home, employees are now clear about the benefits that working from office and home each entails.





prefer to work from home more often even after the situation improves





wish to return to the office and work from there

Outcome for brands

New employment strategies and cultures are needed as most employees are now looking for a better balance of both working from home and returning to the office.

Change makers

On the back of surprisingly successful work from home experiences, survey data clearly suggest a momentum towards expanded work from home policies going forward. The obvious longer-term policy question is how much working from home and for how long?


Both Google and AIA Singapore have initiated a work-from-home assistance scheme that provides employees with $1,000 each to equip themselves with the necessary furniture and tools to further enhance their home office setup.


Blended home-v-office work policies are the likely long-term trend for many companies. The implications for lifestyles, commercial real estate and the provision of co-working or work support services in residential locations may be significant as a result.


Time to prioritise social good;
what's good for "me" and "we"

Consumers are increasingly aware of social and environmental issues, and want to see businesses step up and act responsibly.





prefer brands that combine function with social good





would like their packaging to be environmentally-friendly and recyclable

Outcome for brands

As consumers prioritise social good, it is important now more than ever for brands to commit to supporting the community and showing that their products and services are environmentally friendly and sustainable.

Change makers

Finding opportunities that are connected to the brand is key. Skechers is showing their support to the essential workers who are battling against Covid-19 by offering their comfort walking shoe GOwalk at $20 (retail price up to $129) to all 11,000 staff members of Tan Tock Seng Hospital and NCID, including doctors, nurses and all staff.


Foodpanda has recently announced its collaboration with BarePack to offer reusable food containers in an attempt to combat the increasing waste problem due to Covid-19. They have also introduced sanitising measures to eliminate hygiene risks during the the pandemic.


Authenticity and clear motivations are essential for brands when looking at social marketing opportunities.


Brand loyalty is under threat as purse
strings tighten

Pricing still plays a role but local brands now have a greater influence in consumers’ purchase decisions.





are open to switching based on price





say they would also prefer to buy local

Outcome for brands

Consumer loyalty is more fragile as the balance of criteria changes from global to local and a preference for brands that connect through more cultural relevance.

Change makers

Local brands such as FairPrice and Sheng Siong are seen as cost-saving allies, and hence also seen as among the most trusted in Singapore. Sunshine, Ayam Brand, Grab and DBS were also noted. Similarly, consumers in Malaysia named everyday local brands they trust more nowadays such as Petronas, Adabi, Saji and Ramly when surveyed.


In both markets, consumers also named international brands that are commonly used and visible such as Apple, Samsung, McDonald’s and Nestlé as most trusted. The challenge for international brands is to bridge the gap with consumers who are ranking local for community and convenience.


Supermarkets in Sweden like Axfood, Coop, Bergendahls and Lidl, have shown their willingness to support local producers by creating more space on shelves for local products and giving local food more ad space in the media.


Both international and local brands need to find a meaningful role in the everyday lives of consumers, and continue to connect with their emerging needs while remaining affordable and accessible


As we transition to the new way of work and living, brands will continue facing tremendous challenges in all aspects of business. Through this study, we hope that brand managers are able to better understand consumers with new learnings on their attitudes, behaviours, preferences and consumption habits as we gradually emerge from COVID-19.


These changes are likely to stay for the longer term and have lasting implications on businesses in the future. In spite of the negative health impacts and socio-economic disruptions of the pandemic there is a strong thread of optimism in the results, as many people find new opportunities and experiences as a result.

Home & family

Home and family has become the major focus for many as we try to navigate new ways of shopping, dining, exercising, educating and entertaining in the home environment. These new ways have become new habits and we need to consider what this means for brands in the next normal.

Work & life

Work and life are more irreversibly integrated than ever and this has resulted in a re-evaluation of employment with a more blended approach to working from home and office. This will have implications for employers and a wide range of service providers, as well as real estate developers and owners.

Digital connectivity

Digital connectivity has been the great enabler of survival and new opportunities in this situation. Whether it’s social through connecting family and friends, fulfilling needs through e-commerce, or acquiring information and ways of navigating the challenges we face, the pace of change has accelerated.

Local brands

Local brands score well and people are re-evaluating their choices based on familiarity, trust and convenience. International brands still have advantages but value is more than ever a decision driver. The impact of Covid-19 has also elevated related issues such as the environment and sustainable packaging. Brands must find ways to support communities and enhance authenticity as consumers look for choices that are closer to home.

We hope that brands will be able to leverage these new opportunities identified through this study, strengthen their business and relationship with consumers, and continue to remain relevant as we begin to understand the needs of the next normal.