Popping the Big-City Bubble: Moving Back Home During Lockdown

Today is the anniversary of the first UK COVID lockdown.  It’s also a moment to reflect on learnings from the past year we can apply to a post-pandemic world.

Some apply to the way we interact with our clients and teams, but others are reflective of the changes we’ve made in our daily lives. For instance, over half of American adults aged 19-29 and almost two thirds of UK single adults aged 20-34 have moved back in or still live with their parents during lockdown. That’s a statistic that especially resonates with me, because I’m one of them.

Popping the Big-City Bubble- Moving Back Home During Lockdown - author standing in country landscape

Although the thought of moving back home filled me with a sense of trepidation and regression, it has turned out to be an experience that I will appreciate forever. In my case, there have been some obvious benefits to living with my parents—the home cooked meals (at the same time on the dot every evening), the laundry (even PJs get ironed in this house) and the fresh countryside air (when your only daily activity is walking, this is a major plus). But it’s also been an important and welcome reminder of how different life is outside London—or any major city.

Having lived there for 10 years, I’d gotten used to the ways of London life, so moving out of this bubble—and my millennial lifestyle bubble—was a shock at first. You can’t do your daily walk without every person greeting you as they walk by—no headphones for me! TV and radio are the main sources of entertainment (Nation Radio reported a 40% increase in listeners during lockdown). And when I say TV, I don’t mean streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, I mean interior design programmes on BBC2 and the latest crime drama on ITV. The weekly shop is a major life event—top-up shops just aren’t a thing. Local news outlets and online communities are engaged with and trusted on a deeper level—from the regional town newspaper to the local glossy magazine. You can see the power of word of mouth firsthand… communities are close-knit, and news genuinely does travel fast, particularly via the milk woman!

It is so easy to see life and consumers through a big city lens. This is where most of the media houses, industry movers and shakers and early adopters are based, and therefore many companies tend to focus their attention here. But millions of people who form part of our target audiences are living different experiences that shouldn’t be overlooked. The lockdown has brought about a surge in counter-urbanisation as more and more people are making the big move out to rural areas (39% of urban dwellers in the U.S. have considered moving out), showing how shining a light outside of big cities will become more important than ever. We need to constantly challenge ourselves to step outside what might make sense in the Big Smoke (or Big Apple) to ensure our campaigns truly resonate with all consumers in a target audience group.

This time away has given me a fresh perspective and allowed me to share my parents’ lived experience. So, aside from how to get the most from copious amounts of lockdown online shopping, what will I be taking back to London with me?

  • Real TV is an eye-opener. Get inspiration and a different perspective by mixing up your viewing with OG TV, otherwise known as terrestrial television channels.
  • Regional press is underrated. Consumers are turning to regional media more than ever as a trusted source of knowledge. It’s key to consider what your brand can do to play a role in this space.
  • Radio is having a renaissance. Podcasts are not the only audio on the up. The lockdown has seen a huge surge in radio listening figures, both regional and national, as consumers have rediscovered their love for this platform. Now is the time for brands to capitalise on this.
  • Never take Deliveroo for granted. It’s easy to assume that the apps and technology available in big cities will be accessible elsewhere—can you tell that Uber and Deliveroo have been sorely missed?! To be truly inclusive, ensure brand partnerships are relatable to the majority of your consumer base, who might not have access to these services.
  • Smile and wave. One thing we’re not good at in London is being friendly. Yet, one of the best aspects of my stay up north has been the lovely friendly people. Just a quick hello and smile can give your day a boost and help break up the stressful screen time. I say we should all give it a try!

We all have certain things in common wherever we live, but whether we plan to return to the city (or we’ve stayed there this whole time), it’s vital to understand the world outside of our bubble. As I gear up to head back to London, I’m looking forward to taking a piece of home back with me.

Rachel is a director in the Brand Community of Ketchum London. She has over 10 years’ experience in consumer communications, having worked across a variety of sectors from food, drink and beauty to technology, FMCG and retail. Rachel has a passion for human-led storytelling and creative ideation and brings this to her clients on a daily basis. She has completed the Creative Equals Future Leaders Course which champions equality in leadership with a tailored programme for future female leaders of the advertising, PR media and tech.