COVID-19 Barometer: Consumer attitudes, media habits and expectations

With insights from more than 25,000 consumers across 30 markets, this research provides brand owners with clear direction during the pandemic crisis.
03 April 2020

Today we released the results of our global study into consumer attitudes, media habits and expectations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Surveying more than 25,000 consumers across 30 markets, the first wave of COVID-19 Barometer research helps ensure brands stay connected to their customers during the crisis.

Changing media habits

As countries move deeper into the pandemic, so media consumption increases across all in-home channels. In later stages of the pandemic, web browsing increases by 70%, followed by (traditional) TV viewing increasing by 63% and social media engagement increasing by 61% over normal usage rates.

Across all stages of the pandemic, WhatsApp is the social media app experiencing the greatest gains in usage as people look to stay connected. Overall, WhatsApp has seen a 40% increase in usage; in the early phase of the pandemic usage increases 27%, in mid-phase 41% and countries in the late phase of the pandemic see an increase of 51%. Spain experienced a 76% increase in time spent on WhatsApp. Overall Facebook usage has increased 37%. China experienced a 58% increase in usage of local social media apps including Wechat and Weibo.

Increased usage across all messaging platforms has been biggest in the 18-34 age group. WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram have all experienced a 40%+ increase in usage from under-35-year-olds.

We also found that there is a crisis in trust. Traditional nationwide news channels (broadcast and newspaper) are the most trusted sources of information, with 52% of people identifying them as a ‘trustworthy’ source. Government agency websites are regarded as trustworthy by only 48% of people, suggesting that government measures are not providing citizens around the world with assurances and security. Also reflecting the loss of trust from recent election cycles, social media platforms are regarded by only 11% of people as a source of trustworthy information.

What are consumers' expectations of brands?

The research shows that consumers expect the brands they choose to look after their employees first and foremost, with 78% saying take care of employees’ health and 62% saying implement flexible working.

Supporting hospitals (41%) and being helpful to government (35%) is an expectation of significant minority of consumers.

There is very little expectation that brands should stop advertising, with only 8% of respondents identifying it as a priority for brands. As many brands consider ‘going dark’ to save costs Kantar estimates that a six-month absence from TV will result in a 39% reduction in total brand communication awareness, potentially delaying recovery in the post-pandemic world.

For those that do continue advertising a clear majority of consumers expect advertising to make a positive contribution to society: ‘Talk about how the brand is helpful in the new everyday life’ (77%) ‘Inform about their efforts to face the situation’ (75%) and ‘Offer a reassuring tone’ (70%). 

And there are clear pitfalls to be avoided in advertising during the pandemic. 75% said brands ‘Should not exploit coronavirus situation to promote the brand’ while 40% said they ‘Should avoid humorous tones’.

Kantar clients can request more information and detailed findings from the study here. 


COVID-19 Barometer

The leading syndicated study on how COVID-19 is influencing consumer behaviour, attitudes and expectations, covering over 60 markets.
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