Steven Millman, SVP Research and Operations at Dynata Advertising Solutions, considers the findings of a seven-country study looking at consumer attitudes towards advertising during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brands questioning what messages are most effective, and which ones might do more harm than good. How can brands stay authentic and stand out in a competitive landscape where everyone is trying to maintain their relevance? And most importantly, how do you strike the balance in your message so that you aren’t viewed as taking advantage of the crisis?
In part one of our latest report, Global Consumer Trends COVID-19: Advertising in the New Normal, we take a closer look at what messages brands should be using, how different messages are being received, and which messages and actions can increase – or decrease – brand loyalty.
Tip #1: Offer an Incentive to Your Audience
Unsurprisingly, consumers prefer advertisements that offer them an incentive, such as free delivery, with 49 per cent more saying they find these ads appealing than unappealing. This message is particularly powerful in the UK, Spain, and Australia, with 59 per cent, 57 per cent, and 54 per cent of respondents finding this message more appealing than not, respectively.
Various brands and services from takeout and sit-down restaurants to breweries, liquor stores and pharmacies are all advertising these as options, while others such as fitness centres and educational providers have made free classes and training resources available online as well. Regardless of the offer, providing incentives to your consumers can help drive brand use during a time in which personal finances are an ongoing concern.
Tip #2: Communicate Your Brand’s Contribution to Recovery Efforts
Our research shows that consumers want to hear how your brand is contributing to recovery efforts and the community during the pandemic. This was the second-most impactful message, with 30 per cent more respondents saying they find these messages appealing than unappealing. Donating personal protective equipment (PPE); supporting healthcare workers with meals or donations; and converting manufacturing processes to make PPEs or other essential supplies are resonating well with consumers during the pandemic. Telling the story of your brand’s response to the crisis creates a positive impression.
Tip #3: Relevance is Key – Make Sure Consumers Know Why They Need You
Deep into the pandemic, consumer spending behaviours have shifted, and brands sending messages that seem non-essential are likely to be less relevant. There has never been a more important time for brands to communicate their relevance. Our research showed that 36 per cent of consumers find ads more appealing than unappealing when they communicate how a brand’s offering is relevant to life in the new normal.
Brand campaigns that ignore the pandemic and carry on with business as usual are viewed unfavourably by consumers – 24 per cent finding this unappealing.
Tip #4: The “We Are All in This Together” Message Is Popular in Some Countries
During the pandemic, many ads have depicted a common theme of comradery and community, whether it’s bringing people closer whilst being apart, or visuals of people “sticking together.”
However, our research has found that the appeal of the “we are all in this together” message is regional. Although across all countries respondents were about 15 per cent more likely to find this message appealing than not, it was very powerful in Spain (27 per cent), but in the Netherlands the message was about 7 per cent more unappealing than appealing. The other countries in this study found this message 13 per cent more appealing than unappealing. As always, it’s vital for marketers to consider their audiences regionally to ensure that their messages break through in the right way.
Tip #5: Strike a Balance Between Reminding Consumers of Life Before COVID-19 Without Being Insensitive
Although it might feel safer to avoid the subject of the pandemic in brand messaging, our data suggest that would be a mistake. Consumers were 23 per cent more likely to say they preferred ads that acknowledge the pandemic than not. At the same time, 15 per cent more consumers were more likely than not to say that they preferred ads that remind them of the time before the pandemic. Marketers need to strike the right balance between reminding us of happier times, without being insensitive, especially considering that consumers were 32 per cent more likely than not to think that brands are trying to take advantage of the pandemic for financial gain.
For more insights on this topic visit the Dynata COVID-19 Insights page and download our report: Walking the Fine Line: Brand Messaging During the Crisis.
The research was conducted in seven countries: USA, UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and Australia. The fieldwork was done between April 28 and May 8, 2020. A total of 9,699 completes were collected, with approximately 1,200 per country other than the United States where we collected 2,416.
Participants were selected from across Dynata’s proprietary online research panel assets and the samples were quota controlled and weighted to reflect each country’s population on age, gender, education and, in most markets, income and affect towards political parties. Interviews were conducted online. The youngest age quota is 18-24. At these samples sizes the margin of error at the 95 per cent confidence level were about +/- 2.0 for the USA and +/- 2.8 for each of the other countries in the study.