Communications – Present and Future

As states move to slowly lift bans and gradually open more doors for their citizens, there’s growing talk among marketers about how consumers will behave in the future. A survey of 2,200 consumers in late March by data intelligence firm Morning Consult revealed several valuable results.

One of the major results is that only 41% of respondents said they trusted large U.S. companies to assist them during the pandemic. The finding places an exclamation point on the importance brands have in assuring their customers that they are continually aware of and taking care of their needs and concerns. That is the best way to ensure customer loyalty after the pandemic is over.

To cement future relationships, more than 75% of consumers said it was important to them that brands care for their workers and treat them well, as well as to care for and about their communities, besides just thinking about profits. That same number also said brands needed to demonstrate compassion and more kindness. Boomers, in particular, felt strongly about this, with 87% of them saying they would be more likely to patronize a brand that was flexible and stood for something beyond making a profit.

Also ranking high with more than half of the boomers, Gen X and millennials, as regards the decision to patronize companies, were such things as corporate executives who took pay cuts to reduce employee layoffs, companies promising to rehire laid-off workers, flexible hours for employees who had kids or were caregivers, offering employees additional health benefits, and diverting production to essential COVID-19 equipment. Gen Z lagged about 10% behind in most categories.

Major Discovery

Practical and empathetic communications directed at helping and better serving a brand’s consumers are more effective and powerful than attempts to market and upsell. Respondents to the survey said nearly instantaneous efforts like KFC’s childhood meal initiatives, Kraft-Heinz’s $12 million donation to relief assistance, and Armour saying it would pay employees while stores are shut down were what they expected from responsible brands.

Other Discoveries

The top advertising content respondents said they wanted from brands were updates on such things as hours, if still open, free delivery, and products in stock or still selling. Next in priority were what the brand was doing to help, compliance such as social distancing and cleaning, how they’re protecting employees, and expressions of concern. Messages that appear or may be perceived as self-serving should be avoided during and after the pandemic is over.

Morning Consult went a step further and showed 2,000 respondents some ads released within the first two weeks of the pandemic. They then asked respondents to rate each ad on a scale from +100 (favorable) to -100 (unfavorable).

The more widely favorable ads among respondents were those that displayed empathy and which were solution-driven like DoorDash. Others, like Hyundai and Ford which showed how they could improve consumer well-being scored high. However, cleaning product company Seventh Generation and pizza firm Little Caesars ranked lower because they failed to even acknowledge COVID-19.

Brands that wish to be viewed as credible and reliable must put their purpose and values into play and communicate these to their target audiences. Those that succeed will be in a more favorable position with consumers now and as restrictions are lifted in communities throughout the country.

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