Covid-19 and the impact of changing consumer behaviour for brands

Our Research Director, Fiona Booth, dialled in to a webinar hosted by Kantar on the impact Covid-19 will have on brands. Here are Fiona’s key take-outs.

As we practise social distancing, staying at home has rapidly become the ‘new normal’ which brings with it an inevitable change in our media consumption.

Print newspaper consumption will see even more circulation losses as their core elderly readers stay home and forgo their daily print newspaper, and as freesheet reading commuters avoid transport hubs. In fact, City AM has become the first print newspaper to stop printing until commuters return, because of Coronavirus.

TV viewing, both live and streaming, is already increasing with Channel 4 reporting that weekday afternoon viewing has increased by 20% and ITV Hub content reportedly up 44% week on week.

And then there’s the increase in internet and data usage… Vodafone has reported a 30% surge in internet traffic in the UK as we shift to working from home and keeping indoors, with Netflix and YouTube slowing down in Europe to keep the internet from breaking.

Redeploying media budgets accordingly is a given. But this should involve more than thinking about where you’re advertising: think about how you’re advertising too.

According to research from Kantar, last weekend we Brits were concerned about the potential impact of Coronavirus but not really feeling the impact yet. We were also less worried than our European neighbours who are further along than us, with 25% of UK adults agreeing the situation concerns them hugely, compared to 50% in Spain and 36% in Italy.

But this concern can only increase. We are still in a transitional phase, which for a brand means it’s more important than ever to keep taking the temperature of your consumer in order to adopt the right tone of voice in your communications.

The good news is that only 2% of consumers surveyed by Kantar wanted brands to stop advertising. More importantly though is that they do not want any brands communication to be exploitative or insensitive, with 60% agreeing that advertising should NOT exploit Coronavirus to promote a brand.

For example, right tone of voice is LVMH brands making hand sanitiser to combat the spread of the virus. Wrong tone of voice. Brewdog doing the same but prominently branding their product…

And it’s not just about advertising for now. Advertise for the future too, and remind your consumers that you’re here to help them make plans for it. According to Kantar’s research, there was a robust rebound in China post pandemic across almost of the consumer sectors they monitored.

There’s a wealth of research out there (Binet and Field’s is my own personal favourite) on how strong brands, who delivered lasting impressions during the financial crash, were better insulated against the 2008 crisis. According to Kantar’s research, strong brands recovered nine times faster. In this context marketing can be seen more as an investment rather than a cost.

Covid-19 is changing consumer behaviour in ways we have never seen before. Adapting to the ‘new normal’ and redefining your strategy is imperative, especially if not all behaviour change will reverse back post pandemic.

Don’t lose sight of the long term when the temptation right now is to be reactive and to think short term only. The most successful brands will have a strategy for both.