2020: The Good, The Bad & The Emotional

18 February 2021

Last year our lives were turned upside down and inside out as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold and ground our global community to a halt. In a year so full of political and personal events, our team of creatives and analysts wanted to visualise and uncover what you really felt about 2020. Using both our CGI expertise and in-house neuromarketing service Engagement Insights® we were able to take a deep-dive into our feelings of 2020 and distinguish which months and what moments helped connect, unify and emotionally engage us.


Our desire to understand how lockdown impacted our social experiences and human connection led to a Christmas brief like no other. The theme: Reconnection. The brief: Visualising emotions including: unity, loneliness, reflection, connection, love and the general sense of lethargy. And so our visual metaphor of 2020: #TortelliniTheTortoise was born. 


Using the campaign imagery to jog your memories of 2020, we were able to test and explore various methodologies to gain a full perspective of your feelings and experiences.




Defining 2020: How will we remember it? 


First you feel, then you think. 


The way we think can be split into System 1 and System 2. We decided to measure both explicit and implicit associations to understand how you think you felt and how you actually felt… Implicit testing allows us to measure System 1 thinking (our non-conscious brain) whilst explicit testing measures System 2 thinking, our conscious brain. 


 When we asked you what you thought about 2020, you said...

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84% of you experienced primarily negative feelings around the feeling of isolation, with 21% saying LONELY was the predominant emotion. But, when we conducted implicit testing to find out what you really felt, your emotions shifted from a feeling of loneliness to nostalgic feelings of longing.




Memory & The Power of Nostalgia


Nostalgia is described as a sentimental longing or wistful affection. This means that we attach our emotions to memories, and memory can change people’s perception and emotions. We tested people’s responses one month after 2020 had ended, to ensure reduced bias in terms of time passed. 


Our campaign set out to touch on a mix of shared experiences of real-world experiences, (such as BBQs in the garden and zoom calls), and desired aspirations/scenarios (eg. bonfires on the beach or non-essential shopping). To understand whether the imagery we created was in line with the emotions felt, we tested each month's image against 3 metrics, Desire, Connected and United.


Tortellini_Calendar EI Results


View Tortellini Project




Longing For Normality


The images we desire most are the ones which reflect ‘real life’ scenarios and remind us of what we crave. The longing in this sense is a desire to return to a normal life.


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 People responded positively to June's depiction of non-essential retail therapy, something we are unable to do right now. However, July's depiction of pubs open sparked negative emotions, potentially attributed to the loss of our social lives and habits.




Social Connection: A Necessity For Human Existence


Our tests found that images showing social interaction, such as April's zoom call, or August's BBQ garden environment, strongly resonate with togetherness and connection.


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Studies have show that “people who are chronically lacking in social contacts are more likely to experience elevated levels of stress and inflammation. These, in turn, can undermine the well-being of nearly every bodily system, including the brain."[1] We know socialising and creating connections are imperative experiences to human health and happiness. 


The other high scoring image was from August where (in the UK) there was a slight lifting of lockdown rules and sunny weather which is shown by Tortellinis garden party. Even though Tortellini is on his own in the shot, the image made you feel connected to your own memories of summer and meeting friends outside. While shots showing the aftermath of parties, lead to heightened feelings of disconnection.




Shared Experiences


Imagery reflecting shared experiences evoke the strongest feeling of unity, such as travelling on the tube or exploring the city. Even though the streets and trains are empty, it reminds us of togetherness and makes us feel united.


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Interestingly, our December concept of a family coming together for Christmas drove the lowest feeling of unity. While we created and expected this image to promote reconnection, it in fact promotes feelings of isolation. Contextually, we tested UK nationals, and a few days before festivities were due to kick off, the country went into another lockdown, effectively cancelling Christmas. The memory of this experience, impacts our feelings and perception of Christmas, and while the image represents reconnection, it in fact symbolises and memorialises disappointment, isolation and sadness. 


Ultimately, this shows us why implicit associations are so important to track and test. Brands expectations or what they are trying to promote can and will sometimes fall short of the desired results. 2020 has changed the way we feel about so many things and it's important that brands adapt their strategies to understand how to communicate and interact with their consumers. 


Do you have a campaign, you’d like to explore and test?


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