People the world over are beginning to recognise that the threat created by the pandemic is not over and that we will have to live with the virus and its implications for a long time to come. But while some only focus on threats others see opportunity, as disruption creates new tensions and new needs that brands can address.
Wave 8 of Kantar’s COVID-19 Barometer (the full report for which is available now) finds that people’s concern over their economic future far outweighs their concern about getting sick. Globally, 73% of people state that COVID-19 pandemic has already impacted their income, or they expect it to do so, which makes it no surprise that many also state they are looking to save money by avoiding non-essential purchases. 49% say they have tried different brands that they will continue to buy after the pandemic ends, which is great for the new brand but not for the old one.
It is not over till it is over
The longer the crisis lasts, the more changes we can expect in consumer behavior and attitudes. And, rather than waiting for the pandemic to end and the economy to recover, we need to accept that the situation we face right now is the new normal. There is no point in waiting for things to settle down, we will be living in a state of flux for the foreseeable future. There will be resurgences in the virus. There may be further lockdowns. A vaccine will be developed, but it will take time for it to be produced and for most people to be immunised. And the economic repercussions will likely last for many years beyond that point.
Your current brand is your greatest asset
In turbulent times a well-loved brand is a huge asset. For potential buyers, a familiar brand is a point of reference in uncertain times, offering the promise of effectiveness and value. Right now, it is too easy to fixate on the threats posed by COVID-19, but where there are threats there are also opportunities. But to find those opportunities marketers must be in close touch with how people’s needs and mindset are changing over time and anticipate where their brand might find new demand.
Activating pent-up demand
For the many brands where demand has been locked down by the pandemic, think airlines, some retailers and hospitality, the challenge is how best to activate pent-up demand. People still want to take vacations, they still want to meet at the local bar, and many want to find a distraction other than Netflix, Zoom or TikTok. But implementing social distancing and new hygiene standards is unlikely to be enough to return to business as normal.
Disney World re-opened with strict guidelines on social distancing and mask wearing and stringent cleaning procedures, but attendance has been lighter than expected, suggesting Disney will have to do even more it is to regain people’s trust. But then, perhaps the real issue is not so much concern about how much fun you can have wearing a mask and more to do with flying to Florida? While the threat of the virus is still uppermost in many people’s minds, brands will need to do all they can to reassure people that they are doing all they can to minimise the threat and work with other brands in their ecosystem to bolster consumer confidence. In this case, brands need to talk the walk, and knowing how best to allay people’s concerns is going to be critical.
Identifying new tensions and new demand
Many brands have benefited from the obvious needs brought on by the threat of COVID-19; Amazon, JustEats, Walmart, Zoom and Clorox come to mind. But there are also new needs that are going unsatisfied, leading to tensions which brands may be able to address. My colleague J. Walker Smith notes a rise in risk aversion brought on by the pandemic and suggests that demand for insurance may well increase as a result. And for some financial services brands we have seen an increased emphasis on customer service as people struggle to satisfy their financial needs amidst the pandemic.
Using tracking data to identify new demand opportunities
Disruptions change the playing field by creating new opportunities and causing emerging trends to become mainstream. In this context, brands can activate pent-up or new demand but only if they are aligned with people’s feelings, thoughts and actions. In this respect, brand tracking that uses sales, media, search, social and survey data can be an invaluable resource if used effectively. And when changes happen on a weekly basis, you need to know what is happening now, not learn about it after the fact.
In an upcoming webinar on the topic Claire Spaargaren, Global Director, Brand Guidance, and I will examine the challenge of identifying whether consumer behaviour and feelings will change permanently or temporarily and how to use consumer tracking data of all sorts to identify and look for new demand opportunities. In doing so, we will pose seven questions that you need to be able to answer in order to identify and seize new opportunities. Please register now to join us.