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  • Writer's pictureMaitreyee Patki

A Personal View / The Meaning of a Shower

What I love about psychology is that in the process of helping you understand others’ ‘inner world’, it often helps you understand yourself and the world around you better. Often in the middle of fieldwork, listening to consumers’ stories and experiences, I find myself learning a valuable little something about myself, life in general and us as people. This ranges from inspiring learnings on how to keep going even when life throws lemon after lemon at you, to more everyday hacks like the best way to clean your bath-tub (ping me if you want to know this).

More recently, listening to some consumers talk about their home-life in this lockdown, I realised just how much my own interactions at home and with my home had changed. Every room in my home now holds a different meaning. The living room is no longer just a space to lounge around reading a book or watching Netflix but rather ‘my office’. The balcony is my ‘phone booth’. And the shower, my ‘refuge’, my ‘relaxation pod’, my ‘me-space’.

It’s been interesting to see how something as simple as a shower has taken on a whole new meaning in these times. Pre-pandemic, the shower was simply a part of my morning ‘get ready’ ritual with largely functional associations of feeling clean and refreshed. Now, there is an evening shower too and this evening shower is very different from the morning shower. This one is one that signals the end of the day. It is all about relaxing, unwinding and calming down. This is the one I actually actively look forward to.

Not just that, I am also spending more time in the shower. Being an introvert, I love being by myself. And in these times, I think it's not just me but even some of my extrovert friends, colleagues and family who are struggling to get a few minutes of personal time off when always stuck at home with everyone. Pre-lockdown (or rather ‘Circuit Breaker’), my me-time used to be on the way to / back from work every day. Now, always at home with family who too is always at home, it has been hard to get a few moments of uninterrupted me-time. The shower becomes an excuse for it.

True story.

Linked to the idea of ‘me time’, is also the notion of self-care / self-love. With a bit more time on my hands now that I am no longer losing time on local travel or heading out to pick up dinner and the likes, I have a bit more time to myself, to indulge and explore. I am ending up using it to try out all those products that I once bought but rarely ever used (and a bunch of free products leftover from past fieldwork, perks of the job).

The shower has evolved from simply being something I did on auto-pilot for the most part to something that I consciously look forward to, enjoy and appreciate on a day to day basis. A way to relax, to get some space, to unwind, to indulge, to feel better. The shower is now more so about ‘feeling good’ rather than helping to ‘look good’. Looking good is less of a concern (admit it, you have not gotten out of those pyjamas for the longest time). And it is not like we are going to be partying, attending meetings, or going on dates with that Tinder guy anytime soon.

Art by Gemma Correll

Moreover, on that ‘feeling good’ bit, a shower also helps to cope with anxiety. And these are anxious times. This HBR article highlights how the ‘discomfort’ we are all feeling, is essentially grief. The loss of normalcy, the fear of losing our jobs or watching our businesses tank, the loss of human connection and even the anticipated grief about something bad about to happen but not knowing what that would be nor being able to foresee it. Showers are known to be an effective way to ease anxiety. Hot water showers help relax muscles, soothe the built-up tension and in a way make one feel ‘safe’. So effectively, showers are playing a big role in keeping us somewhat sane and calm.

Credit: NewYorkerCartoons

So, what is the point of this reflective ramble?

Well, as someone who helps brands make sense of consumer behaviour, I feel there are a lot of opportunities for brands in the shower space and simple immediate actions that can go a long way to strengthen not just current relevance but also a long-term connect with the brand. For instance, brands like Dove can do well to leverage their archetypical values: innocence, self-love, safety in these anxious times to reassure and help people feel good. Products with soothing fragrances or ingredients can highlight their role in helping people relax, unwind and calm after a stressful day. Beauty oriented shower brands can do better with tweaking codes of beauty inward, e.g. helping one feel good about oneself. And so much more in terms of just the codes of a shower rendered through communication.

The problem is (and I guess we are all guilty of it) that we think there will be an ‘end’ to this and a ‘new normal’ will then emerge. Haven’t we all at some point said, “When this is all over, I will…”? But the fact of the matter is that there is no probable end to this, at least not anytime soon. So, do we as marketers wait and watch, try and predict and then be ready for this ‘new normal’ when it ‘begins’? Or should we act now, on this new normal that is already underway, and which holds opportunities? I feel the latter is the way to go because if there is one thing the virus has taught us; it is that we cannot really predict anything.

Credit: Nishant Suri, stand-up comic

What do you think?



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