The term ‘happy new year’ has never been more loaded. With many of us glad to see the back of 2020 and January just around the corner, the usual conversation about a fresh start is beginning early this year.

It is certainly a powerful time to engage consumers on the topic of improving their financial habits – a calendar hook we’ve run many successful campaigns around, and rightly so.

This year feels different though. We don’t need to say for the hundredth time how COVID-19 has changed our world. There are many symptoms of the pandemic, and one with earth-shattering impact is the turbulence affecting the nation’s personal finances. The implications are far-reaching and represent an unprecedented need for everyone to better understand how to manage their money.

Even those in an affluent position are facing questions about the health of their finances. While this group have taken advantage of the opportunity to pay off debt or save more, a recent study showed that almost 23% of the population are now living in poverty as a result of the pandemic, with 9.6 million households reporting incomes of 25% or more below the official definition.

The question of how to help these groups cannot be solved by a single brand. Education and awareness have vital roles to play, and across the media, it is refreshing to see an increasing acknowledgement of this fact. The Financial Times recently launched its impressive new financial literacy and inclusion campaign, pledging to make its journalism on complex financial topics available to a wider audience and focusing on those at a disadvantage. More access to tangible and actionable information is a lifeline to anyone trying to navigate personal finance in a post-COVID world. We all need more of this and for brands, it is time to go back to basics when it comes to consumer finance.

Every consumer finance brand right now should act with an intention of helping people do a little bit more when it comes to their money. A good campaign today can no longer be about becoming a saver, but about saving something. It may not be about getting on the property ladder immediately but understanding the different options and helping consumers to navigate the many complex factors in play. There is also benefit to be gained by helping consumers understand the sources they can go to for advice, whatever their individual circumstances; be that the mainstream media, third parties like Which? or MoneySavingExpert or vital organisations like Citizens Advice or Stepchange.

Right now, there is no better approach a brand can take than to share digestible, helpful and timely content. Brand messages and product mentions, while still important, must now be geared towards the nuanced circumstances of different individuals.

In a year which has shone a bright light on our values and communities, this approach is the right action to take – but it’s also one that will stand brands in strong stead for building future trust and recognition.

There is no option not to show up right now and finding the right way to jump on the ‘new year, new you’ bandwagon for the long-term benefit of consumers is essential. It’s about helping people to realise their potential and feel informed to make the right decisions. Encouraging, supporting and inspiring our audiences to do what they can, regardless of their circumstances, shouldn’t be underestimated. These are habits which will generate impact that lasts far beyond the lifespan of a January PR campaign.