We are at a moment in history that consumers are craving a greater connection with the brands they love. This brief examines three overarching trends surrounding consumers and brands. We have explored brands being facilitators of connection, trust, and confidence during the pandemic, brands being the disruptors that consumers actually need at this moment in time, and brands making sustainability an easy step that a consumer can take

expectations for brands are high

We have curated eight additional pieces of information, data, and/or statistics surrounding the following overarching trend statement: “In these uncertain and divided times, people are seeking confidence from brands and the comfort of brands. Lacking trust in government and media, people turn to brands more and more for products and services and statements that we can rally around and agree on.” To provide a more cohesive brief, we brought over the 11 pieces of information found in the initial hour of research and included them in the final result for ease of viewing. This provides, in total 19 data points.

We also have presented eight pieces of information, data, and/or statistics surrounding the following overarching trend statement: “With so much change happening at the moment-driven by the global economy and the pandemic, folks are finding that they have to be open to change to survive. In particular, they are open to companies and brands disrupting old patterns of behavior and ways of doing things that no longer fit the times.”

Lastly, we have provided ten pieces of information, data, and/or statistics surrounding the following overarching trend statement: “People want to be sustainable, but they expect brands, products, and services to make incorporating sustainable behaviors into their lives an easy task.” This part of the research has not revolved around COVID-19 and/or the “new normal”.

All research is United States focused where possible. We have only provided global data when that was the only information available, when mixed in with other countries, or as extra data points that we felt would be useful.

Consumers: Seeking Confidence and Comfort from Brands

 69% of people are overwhelmingly interested in seeing strong leadership from companies and brandsbring joy

  • While both males and females are equally interested in engaging emotionally with brands since the beginning of the pandemic, it is just not in the same way. “Men are drawn to brands that demonstrate traits of ease and familiarity, while women are attracted by brands that want to build a more personal connection, yet demand follow-through.”
  • It is of note that this study showed a difference of attitudes between Americans and Canadians. “While Canadians are seeking a more emotionally-driven relationship driven by elements like empathy and understanding, Americans are looking for more rational elements of the relationship fulfilled (like committed service and innovation). Attitudes towards brands have become more emotionally driven since the pandemic. A previous Emotive study conducted in January 2020 found the key elements driving engagement across industries were more operational in nature.”
  • The Epsilon-Conversant and CJ Affiliate Consumer Survey reveals that when “consumers in the United States were asked whether they felt it was appropriate for brands to be advertising to consumers right now, during this global pandemic, over 70% of Americans said yes.”

Do you feel it appropriate for brands to be advertising to consumers right now, during this global pandemic?

  • Consumers want to receive relevant, timely and valuable information during times of turmoil. While respondents were okay with brands advertising to them during the Covid-19 outbreak, the messaging and timing needs to strike the correct tone. When looking across the five countries included in the survey, “49% of all respondents reported that they received marketing messaging over the preceding seven days that was poorly timed or didn’t match their interest.”
  • A report from Morning Consult reveals that ninety percent of consumers in the United States feel quite strongly that in tough and uncertain times, it is important to them that “brands take care of their employees and treat them well.” Just a smidgen less than half (forty-nine percent) asserted that when deciding what to buy from a company or brand, they will weigh how the employees are treated at that business. In fact, those consumers reveal that it is one of their top five purchasing considerations.

employee treatment important to consumers

  • According to Mario Natarelli, managing partner at MBLM, “The nostalgic strength of consumer goods brands — the only industry in our study where nostalgia is the dominant archetype — is playing a large role in helping people cope during the COVID-19 crisis. Consumers are taking solace in the foods of their childhood, which are bringing them back to the positive memories of their past. As entertainment binging continues with people at home, snacks are also becoming a part of the experience.”
  • When looking at the Edelman Trust Barometer 2020, consumers think that brands have a vital role to play during uncertain and divided times. “They do not want brands to disappear, but instead to show up and use all their resources and creativity to make a difference.” While this was not an exclusively United States focused research, Americans were included in the 12-market online survey. The countries included were: Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, S. Africa, S. Korea, the U.K. and the U.S.
  • Sixty-two percent of people agree with this statement: “[o]ur country will not make it through this crisis without brands playing a critical role in addressing the challenges we face.”
  • Consumers overwhelmingly want brands to align with government and relief agencies to address the crisis, with 90% of them asserting that either “brands must do this to earn or keep our trust, or that they hope brands will do this, but there is no obligation to do so.” Further, consumers want brands to be a safety net, stepping in where they are needed and able, to fill gaps in the government’s response to the virus. Eight-six percent of consumers think that either “brands must do this to earn or keep our trust, or that they hope brands will do this, but there is no obligation to do so.”
  • When drilling down to the United States specifically, seventy-nine percent of consumers want brands to be a source of news that would be trustworthy. When asked, consumers envisioned that this would take the form of “keeping people up to date about the virus, and the progress being made in the fight against it.”

Be a reliable news source,

Consumers: Seeking Brands that Disrupt

  • Brands would do well to focus on the indisputable fact that online consumer shopping across multiple categories has risen tremendously due to both social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines. Consumers are shopping differently and are embracing those brands and companies that are disrupting their normal way of doing business and switching, or at least expanding, to an online model. Once consumers are past this crisis, it does not look like US consumers will go back to their old ways of shopping, as they are reporting an intent to shop online moving forward, as McKinsey projects.

Digital shopping is here to stay

Consumers are switching brands at unprecedented rates

  • When drilling into demographics based on generation and income, Generation Z and those who earn high incomes are the most willing to take a flyer and switch brands. Taking a look at the companies and brands that are reaping the benefits of this shift in consumer mindset, it appears that the brands that have the most consumer trust and are of enterprise size are seeing a fifty percent growth during COVID-19.
  • American consumers list six reasons for switching brands and/or companies, but the top three are in-store and online availability, convenience, and value. Brands can exploit this particular consumer willingness to be open and change, by keeping their fingers on the pulse of consumers when they are migrating to other brands or retailers and then to respond with proper marketing showing their willingness to be disruptive and provide the consumer what they need.

Brands need to ensure strong availability and also convey value

  • What is being framed as “hygiene transparency” is a driver behind consumers in the United States deciding that they have to be open to change to survive. As lockdowns ease, and Americans become a bit more comfortable venturing out to shop and dine, they will be looking for those brand disruptors that are not only following strict hygiene protocols but are also clearly telling consumers that they are indeed following those procedures.
  • Consumers in the United States are already rewarding those disruptive brands that are responding to their hygiene concerns. Contactless activities such as curbside pickup, and the delivery of food and grocery delivery are extremely popular. It is apparent that Americans are looking for brands that are using technologies that enhance hygiene, and will continue to do so even after this crisis is over. Over three quarters (79%) of Americans report that even after COVID-19 is long gone, they will continue or even increase their usage of self-checkout in retail. When parsing out generational cohorts, both Millennials and Generation Z are the widest devotees of contactless activities.

US consumers are changing how they shop in response to health and safety concerns

Consumers: Brand Sustainability Made Easy

  • Futerra looked directly at the United Kingdom and the United States and asked over 1,000 people how they felt about their own sustainability actions. A rather overwhelming ninety-six percent revealed that they believed that the “direct actions they took such as donating, recycling or buying ethically, can make a difference.” Over fifty percent that on their own, they personally can make a tangible difference. The question is, are brands and companies expected to make things a bit easier and seamless for a consumer to incorporate sustainable behaviors into their lives?

donating, recycling or buying ethically, can make a difference

demand for brands to step up on sustainable lifestyles

consumers feel that companies are actually making it harder for them to make a difference in the world

Glenn is the Lead Operations Research Analyst at The Digital Momentum with experience in research, statistical data analysis and interview techniques. A holder of degree in Economics. A true specialist in quantitative and qualitative research.


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