The Need To Meet IRL

June 23rd 2020

As the pandemic turned our on-the-go life into a stay-at-home one, we felt a collective craving for real-life connections. Will this realisation affect our post-lockdown life?

The Edge explained: IRL

It’s time to get real. In a lonelier, more automated world, we seek real-life, human experiences. The rise of local community meetups, DTC pop-ups, and rent-a-person services are reviving opportunities for physical connection. Experts say we’re starting to build deeper relationships with a smaller number of people we can actually stay in touch with IRL. Brands can respond to our need for deeper, real-life, person-to-person connection.

Why is it relevant now?

Pre-pandemic, we took IRL experience for granted. Neighbours were people we complained about. Travelling and dining out were opportunities to boost our Instagram influence. And we neglected our local communities in favour of virtual ones. But stay-at-home orders spurred a new kind of connection to the people, shops, leaders and spaces in close proximity to us. And quarantine turned life-on-the-go in life-at-home.
Post-pandemic, IRL will rebirth our Local Lives. The experience economy will move into homes and neighbourhoods. Cautious consumers will stay close and spend close. And businesses will rebuild community bonds.
We’re reappraising what we do virtually vs. in person. And transactional relationships move online, local living will fulfil our craving for closeness.  

What if …

  • Shopping local became as easy as shopping on Amazon?
  • Brands reappraised what they do IRL vs. online? Emphasizing investment in fewer, but more meaningful real-life relationships.
  • Big brands became better neighbours by rerouting people to local businesses in their area?
  • Local living became the solution to overtourism, overspending, and overconsumption?
  • New gamified experiences incentivized locals to rediscover their towns and cities?
  • Local leaders became the new celebrity brand ambassadors?
  • Stores offered special perks for the most loyal locals?


An Edge is a cultural shift or cultural value where brands can identify insights and opportunities to play into. Edges provide direction on emerging and evolving cultural, consumer and category behaviour.

A Trigger is an accurate observation of a fact that occurs in the world around us, but that may be indicative of a possible macro shift in society in the short term or medium-to-long term.

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Laura De Deurwaerder Integrated Brand Strategist TBWA\Backslash

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