COVID-19 and the impact on women

We spoke to an expert panel at Kantar Talks about the seismic shift in women’s role and perceptions in society, and the role of brands.
09 October 2020
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Bart Michels
Bart
Michels

Country Lead, UK

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Is your brand equipped to deal with the needs of the new female consumer in a post COVID-age?

The impact of COVID-19 on gender balance and the change in the roles of women during lockdown could lead to a systemic shift in society and an emergent set of consumer needs.

In our last industry keynotes discussion at Kantar Talks, I spoke with Justine Roberts (Mumsnet & Gransnet) and Alex Mahon (Channel 4) about gender equality and the implications for brands in a post COVID-19 era. Below are the summary points of a really interesting and insightful discussion with two very high-profile business leaders on this topic.

Pre-COVID, there has been a building focus on gender equality across the industry, and progress was visibly being made as brands and businesses realised the importance of ‘getting gender right’. Since lockdown, we have seen that women have been disproportionately impacted economically and domestically compared to men. This now places a renewed emphasis on understanding women more deeply — especially as influencers, consumers and employees. This profound effect on women sheds light on a potential lack of understanding, and inequality that still exists and a long journey that still lies ahead. The lack of women at the core of decision-making in businesses doesn’t help, and spikes in maternal unemployment and increasing pressures on women in the home, creates responsibility — and opportunity — for brands and businesses to understand, help, and importantly ‘give time back’ to a group that feels more under pressure than ever.

The commercial opportunity of getting this right is also clear. Our research has shown that brands promoting gender-balanced marketing are worth £774 million more than those that do not.

Here are some key points from the discussion for brands and businesses to consider when connecting with consumers in a meaningful way:

Open discussion, understand better and add data

  • Brands can wield a great deal of influential power through the content they send out. Help change opinions for the better by creating discussion, and bring the real conversations, questions, and taboos to light.
  • Be conscious of your own unconscious prejudice and innate conditioning in how you perceive gender, and make sure the cultural system you are part of is aware of, and safe from it. ‘’We have to work incredibly hard at questioning our own unconscious bias, and it’s not just men who have it, women have it too. We have to be completely on it and check ourselves.’’ — Roberts.
  • Data can help unveil blind spots within your organisation and communication that identify what needs to be changed. Ask key questions of basic understanding to fill knowledge gaps to help focus support and action. ‘’The one thing businesses can do is get your own house in order and think about your ecosystem as that is undoubtedly the first place you can make impact.’’ — Roberts

Give back for mutual gain

  • Lifestyles and work patterns have had to change and adapt drastically. Respect the concerns and constraints of your employees. That will help them transition into the new normal through sustained crisis management. ‘’Employers need to think about how they can use this to facilitate the changes people want to make in their lives rather than go back to a world where we are suppressing them’’. — Mahon
  • As stress and time management are two factors greatly affecting women, seek areas of opportunity where you can help provide more convenience and support with simplicity, flexibility and time saving benefits — this transcends into women as employees and as consumers. ‘’When we surveyed our users, the one main thing they wanted to change to be able to rise up the ladder in their own industries was lack of flexibility.’’ — Roberts
  • Digital routes to consumers are now more important than ever and these channels are going to continue being in demand. Remove barriers and build and strengthen your consumer base by simplifying their journeys to ensure a more convenient and seamless user experience.
  • Everything is amplified with social media and this could go both ways for a brand. Returns can be very high if the consumer feels listened to and is dealt with compassionately, especially given the current sensitive financial and mental climate. ‘‘There is more consciousness in the home about how people interact with brands. And there is a love for brands that are helping people.’’ — Mahon

Keep it real and reflective

  • Women make 80% of household purchasing decisions, and 85% believe they are inaccurately depicted in film and advertising. Establish belief about authentic representation and recognise the role brands play in changing that perception. ‘’There is not necessarily always a belief throughout advertisers and agencies that the world has changed, and we do look for authentic representation of ourselves, so there is a lot of work to do.’’ — Mahon
  • 80% of wealth in the UK belongs to the over 50’s, but only about seven percent of the ad spend goes into that group. This imbalance in representation gives an opportunity to brands to tap into an age bracket that yields the most purchasing power.
  • As there is wide variance in needs of women as a group, further segmentation of audiences helps your communication resonates on a more personal level, addressing diverse and specific needs.

Watch this session, and others from Kantar Talks, on demand here.

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