By Harjot Singh

Chief Strategy Officer, Europe & UK, McCann Worldgroup

This article was originally published on Harjot Singh’s LinkedIn page, April 22, 2020

“These are unprecedented times”—a phrase that resounds across media and conversation as the pandemic of a lifetime grips the world. It is in these strange times that we are reminded of the realities of human existence. We are reminded about the universal human truths —love, discovery, purpose, success, and connection— that unite us. At McCann Worldgroup, we’ve been tracking how each of these truths forge a framework for brands, businesses, and organisations to calibrate their crisis response, at such a time as this, to earn a meaningful role in people’s lives.

Harjot Singh

As the global race for life-saving resources continues, it’s crucial that brands calibrate their purpose, positioning and offering to meet both basic and multi-layered human needs. Under normal circumstances, our spectrum of needs differs and shifts market to market, region to region, and individual to individual. In a pandemic, we’ve seen that brands must synthesis these brand elements with – agility, authenticity and affinity. The objective isn’t to cling to relevancy – it’s to be valuable, not available.

Our ongoing study, Human Truths in a Time of Coronavirus, which tracks national and regional sentiments during the pandemic, explores why each human truth should inform the tangible market-specific solutions, we hope to see today.


“Social distancing” and “self-isolation” will be defining phrases of 2020. Our social connections are being affected in deeply complex ways, with repercussions we have yet to understand. With nearly 2/3 of people saying they are staying away from public places as a personal precaution, the foundational mechanisms of modern democratic life are held in suspension. However, if this pandemic has taught us anything so far, it’s that the human connection finds a way. From frequent check-ins with our families, “framilies,” and workmates; to virtual dance parties, live-streamed yoga classes, and parenting chat groups, the quest for meaningful connection is resulting in infinite ways. 


If ever there has been a time to be the first to a medical discovery, the Coronavirus pandemic is providing outsized reason for a race to the finish line. Indeed, discovery is the engine for the global community. Discovery also takes deeply personal, immediate connotations when ‘life is cancelled.’ 1 out of 8 people globally say they would choose books or streaming media over medical supplies or pantry items as their only item to keep in shelter. Such desire for discovery has unleashed a rash of streaming options from brands and cultural institutions such as virtual tours and online concerts.


Universally, humans measure their success in life through a range of cultural markers, but how will those parameters of success evolve in this new world? The economic implications of the pandemic will likely be dramatic. More than 1 in 5 people globally are worried they will struggle financially. 

On the positive side, sudden employment barriers have led to astonishing ingenuity. Stylists are offering styling sessions via Skype and chefs are offering cooking classes on Instagram Stories. While people may be worried, it’s those who are quickest to adapt who will be most successful.  


Undoubtedly, a crisis provokes heroic actions from the medical professionals and members of the scientific community. We’re also witnessing businesses that have ‘pivoted’ to serve the collective purpose. Companies like LVMH and the British brewery Brewdog have shifted their manufacturing plants to produce hand sanitizer, while brands like Coca-Cola are communicating the imperative of social distancing. 

The crisis has also prompted some to reassess the bigger questions in their personal lives. Asked about any positive impacts associated with the pandemic, 54% of people globally think we will consider what really matters in life, and 1 in 4 Americans believe this crisis will encourage people to focus on their faith (the highest of any market surveyed). 

  1. LOVE

As a pandemic of fear grips the world, the desire to protect those we love is magnified. While so-called ‘panic-buyers’ are criticised, these individuals are often driven by the need to provide protection for loved ones. Panic buying is no surprise when we consider that 1 in 3 people globally are worried that their country is going to run out of necessary supplies.

And while some personal relationships will suffer during increased proximity, it is also a time when people realise how wonderful it is to have more time to spend with loved ones, whether physically or virtually. 39% of people believe that one potential upside to the pandemic is that we will spend more time with our families. 

These findings were brought to you by McCann Worldgroup Truth Central, our global intelligence unit. We trend this data on a bi-weekly basis. Want to learn more about our findings and other implications? Get in touch with us at or contact