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Consumers Expect Brands To Be Helpful, Not Go Dark, During Coronavirus

April 2, 2020 Carolyn Harding

Several new reports from established companies like Kantar and Edelman have taken deeper looks into how COVID-19 is influencing consumer attitudes, expectations, media habits and the overall impact on purchase behavior. The results have many marketers assessing the impactful role brands play during the pandemic.

Consumers Expect Brands To Be Helpful During The Coronavirus Crisis

Shutterstock_1372294031  Sick young fair-haired woman in grey sweater covered with plaid sitting on sofa with closed eyes, working on PC, talking on phone. Illness, work concept

According to Kantar’s COVID-19 Barometer study, 77% of respondents expect brands to be helpful throughout their “new everyday life,” and 75% of consumers stated brands should also be informing the public about their specific efforts to combat the issue at hand. A similar report from Edelman showed 62% of consumers believe their country will not endure the crisis without brands playing a significant role in relief efforts.

As several brands consider “going dark” in an effort to save money, the Kantar report revealed just 8% of consumers believe brands should stop advertising entirely. A significant absence of marketing during this time could result in major reductions in brand awareness, “potentially delaying recovery in post-pandemic world,” according to Kantar.

Social Responsibility & Genuine Efforts From Brands Attract Consumers

A majority of consumers believe there is a fine line between brands playing a helpful role and using the crisis as a self-serving marketing opportunity. According to Kantar, 75% of respondents stated companies should not exploit the health crisis as a way to promote their services or products. 40% of respondents said brands should “avoid humorous tones” in their ads, and 70% believe brands should embrace a more “reassuring” tone within their messaging.

Consumers are not shy about holding brands highly accountable, either. 71% of Edelman respondents said businesses perceived as putting profit over people will permanently lose trust. Over on Kantar’s side, 78% of respondents encouraged companies to prioritize employees’ health above all else, and 62% believe businesses should offer flexible working arrangements during this time.

Many marketers have taken consumer expectations seriously, with a recent survey from IAB finding 42% of buy-side decision-makers plan to increase spending on mission-based marketing, and 41% plan to do the same for cause-related marketing through June of this year.

Brands Seek Out Opportunities To Make An Impact

Several big-name brands have put their traditional advertising efforts on hold and, instead, launched fundraising efforts to support research and individuals impacted by the health crisis:

  • Netflix created a $100 million relief fund to help members of the creative community who have been left unemployed.
  • Spotify launched several new features, one of which allows artists to fundraise directly from fans through their Spotify artist profile pages.
  • As part of its global contribution of more than $100 million in goods, Unilever recently distributed 200,000 masks to hospitals around New Jersey. The company also declared May 12th a “Day of Service,” pledging to donate every essential item produced that day. 
  • Procter & Gamble is now making more than 45,000 liters of hand sanitizer each week for health workers and recently began creating protective masks to donate to health workers across the globe — both fundraising efforts are part of P&G’s overall donations, adding up to $15 million to date. 

The global pandemic and consumers’ growing anxieties have led many brands to adjust their marketing strategies, now prioritizing more purpose-led actions. According to Edelman, 65% of consumers said a brand’s crisis response today will influence their likelihood of purchasing from that brand in the future. Keeping that statistic in mind, now is the time for brands to shift their priorities (if they haven’t already) and create meaningful messaging and initiatives to lend support to the health of our nation and, as a result, build long-term equity that will last far beyond the current health crisis. 

Is Your Business Looking For New Ways To Make An Impact?

Digital Media Solutions® (DMS) helps companies grow so we can drive meaningful change in the world. Our core business supports our efforts to take action, lead by example and encourage those around us to positively impact their local and global communities.

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About the Author

Carolyn Harding

Carolyn Harding is an Associate Manager of Communications at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), the fastest-growing independent digital performance marketing company. DMS helps its clients accelerate growth by deploying diversified and data-driven customer acquisition solutions that deliver scalable, sustainable and measurable marketing results. DMS performance marketing solutions connect the right consumers with the right offers at the right time to achieve the marketing objectives of our clients. DMS is continually innovating to provide new and emerging media and technology solutions that minimize waste and maximize results across the most competitive industries. Since its inception, DMS has demonstrated incredible year-over-year growth which has earned recognition on the Inc. 5000 list in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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