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DEY has supplanted DIY. If DIY projects were once something you planned and pinned about pre-COVID, Doing Everything Yourself is now a way of life. Prior to the pandemic, Americans spent an average of 54 minutes commuting daily. Now, all those minutes spent on-the-go have gotten injected back into our days. Without jam packed schedules full of activities, time seems to slow down. Weekends can feel long – sometimes excruciatingly so – and lazy, while those extra minutes that now part of the weekday make for more time to fill.
With more time at home, a desire has emerged to get back to the basics and build self-sufficiency. People have turned to trusted digital publishers to help make the most of this new situation. As bangs get longer, roots come in, and gel manicures grow out, people are turning to publishers like Nylon, Elite Daily, and Byrdie as their new go-to resources for self-sufficient style maintenance. According to our recent study, “Meaningful Media in the Time of COVID-19,” beauty content is rising in popularity, with Bustle Digital Group experiencing a 26% increase in fashion and beauty content consumption in late March. Similarly, consumption on Byrdie shifted from the “12 Best Eye Creams of 2020” in early- to mid-March to “The 8 Best at Home Waxing Kits of 2020” (+320%) and “How to Give Yourself a Buzzcut” (+355%). When society (and salons) open back up again at scale, we anticipate the reversion of some habits back to the old. Others will stay.
As we move out of a pandemic and into a recession, doing it yourself may become a cost-saving norm. A 2009 report from Harvard Business Review notes how recessions cause products and services once considered essentials (cars, new clothing, travel, restaurant dining) to become postponables – or even expendables. During the Great Recession, home furnishings, apparel and hair care all saw declines; meanwhile, nail makeup and alcohol experienced sales growth. We expect that some of the treatments and services you outsourced before the pandemic will get reduced or eliminated. As we transition into recovery, people will continue to keep some of these once outsourced “services” – such as nailcare and dining – in the home.
People have started prioritizing doing things methodically rather than quickly. With time on the road or in the office reduced, “Dinner in Five Minutes” content has gotten shelved in favor of tips for slow cooking, baking bread, and maybe even growing your own food. More time doesn’t mean people choose to make Coq Au Vin every night, but it does mean more time to do things simply and well. They’re “letting the bread rise.” Dotdash has seen a significant increase in bread-related content on The Spruce, with consumption about “Potato Sourdough Starters” up 503% and “Super Easy Bread for Beginners” up 153%. Before quarantine, taking the time to nurture and feed your own sourdough starter for a week remained an unlikely area of focus. But now, taking the time to make a simple, few-ingredient recipe from scratch feels both responsible and satisfying.
The more time people spend looking at themselves on video chat, for work and social interaction, the more attention they pay to how they look. Byrdie saw an uptick in engagement with skincare and makeup-related content: “The 8 Best Face Masks of 2020” up 68% in mid-March, “Life-Changing Eyeliner Tips” up 286% and “The 11 Best Contour Sticks of 2020” up 29%. As seen in a Euromonitor study based on the 2008/2009 downturn, affordable luxuries like mascara and nail polish tend to see high growth in a recession. Expect continued growth in these categories as the economy struggles to rebound in coming months.
These cross-category trends suggest increased consumer interest in having ownership over the decisions in their lives that they can impact. These shifts come down to self-sufficiency. We’re all becoming more capable, and I think this trend will stay. Once people get a taste for the satisfaction of doing things on their own, they may not go back to “the way things were.” This isn’t the whole story. As we enter an economic downturn, some of these behaviors will stick because they need to stick. As unemployment continues to skyrocket, consumers will increasingly move those “essential” services and products into the “expendable” category. This DEY trend will turn from novelty to necessity for a sizable part of the population. Beauty brands in the categories, like at-home hair dye and nailcare, should invest in implanting themselves in the hearts and minds of consumers now so they remain a staple when unemployment continues to rise and consumer spending goes down.
The publishers and brands that recognize these changes and help people in their endeavor to get really good at quarantine, and at recovery, will continue to become more meaningful to people. Media brands who help people take control over their lives – when control feels so out of grasp – will become poised to outlast the pandemic.
About the Author: Kelsey Chickering serves as VP, Media Experience at Havas Media, working with a variety of clients, including Perfetti Van Melle, TripAdvisor and Eastern Bank to build integrated creative & media experiences. She believes in practical strategic thinking that’s grounded in research and consumer insights. Kelsey pushes teams to think creatively about media, using media not just as a vehicle but a way to bring the brand to life and connect with consumers in a meaningful way.