Just over a year ago, as the extent of the pandemic began to dawn on the Western world, the limitations of our vocabulary to describe the events that lay in store for us became abundantly clear; the times were strange, uncertain and most of all, unprecedented.

There are, of course, precedents for our current predicament. This might be the first global pandemic in any of our lifetimes, but it is not the first global pandemic. This might be the first deadly public health crisis we have experienced first-hand, but we have all watched as vast regions have struggled to cope with outbreaks of SARS, Ebola and Zika virus in the last 20 years.

Each of these events have provided us with knowledge and understanding that can inform us about the way in which the future will unfold, but none of them present a roadmap for the way in which society will emerge from this pandemic, in this specific social, economic and geopolitical context.

As commentators grasped for optimistic takes at different stages of the pandemic, one recurring narrative was that as with the Spanish Flu in the 20th Century, the coronavirus pandemic would lay the ground for a ‘Roaring 2020s’. In this narrative, as consumers’ pent-up demand for social interaction and experiences collides with the coiled-spring effect of increased saving throughout lockdowns, we will experience an economic boom hedonistic enough to make Gatsby blush.

However, while there are lessons that we can learn from looking back at events of the past, the trends in place immediately prior to the pandemic, and the impact of the pandemic on their trajectories, provides a clearer – if less exciting – impression of our post-pandemic future.

Both at the outset of the pandemic in March 2020 and later in the year in November, we outlined the likely impact of the pandemic on the trajectories of trends that existed prior to Covid. While the latest iteration of this report goes into significant depth on the accelerative – or decelerative – nature of the pandemic on these trends, below we outline some specific ways in which this event will shape society in ways that past precedents cannot help us to understand.

There is, of course, a significant value in looking back in order to understand the future; much of our work on financial crises is borne of historical research. However, as the Green Concern trend outlined above illustrates, just because a pattern of consumer values held in the 2000s and the 2010s (let alone the 1910s or 1920s), does not mean that it will hold in the 2020s.

In unprecedented times, a phrase which continues to accurately describe our present context, monitoring consumers’ attitudes and values, and using them to inform and re-evaluate predictions and projections is more important than ever.