Reports: Brands have an important role to play during the COVID-19 crisis - if they're useful

Research from Havas, Kantar, GlobalWebIndex points to consumers still welcoming brand advertising and communication, but stresses the importance of authentic, value-based positioning

Eight in 10 consumers believes brands have an important role to play through the COVID-19 crisis according to a new survey undertaken by Havas Agency. And the survey is proving one of many indicators highlighting the need for brands to focus on their usefulness and value to consumers in their everyday lives during this time.

According to new Australian figures collated off a Havas survey of more than 1000 consumers, 78 per cent have a stronger affiliation to brands and businesses who go above and beyond during this time of unprecedented crisis. The same percentage believe brands need to adapt their businesses to help the greater good.

This balancing act is a fine line between presence and positioning, however, with two-thirds saying they’d abandon brands and businesses that only act in their self-interest in the current environment.

Havas noted the significant positioning of brands almost contradicted its annual global Havas Meaningful Brands Study. This study found a sobering 77 per cent of us wouldn’t mind if the brands in our lives disappeared overnight.

“Like all research, it has its limitations and can’t be used to accurately predict how this will all play out. But it’s a moment in time and further shows how pivotal this moment really is for brands,” Havas chief strategy officer, Olly Taylor, stated in response to its latest Australian COVID-19 findings.

“The message from consumers is loud and clear: Now is the time to walk the walk, rather than just talk the talk and brands need to be going beyond business as usual and be seen to be ‘doing something’ that is meaningful to support the community in navigating through this crisis.”

For Havas, the figures also show that for the first time, respondents are placing more importance on brand behaviours that help others rather than themselves, ranking ‘collective’ benefits, such as acting with integrity over the functional and personal.

“This may just be a moment in time and yes it might be a research effect. But it also could be the beginning of a new set of expectations from consumers about brands – that they need to make a positive contribution to society not just the stock market,” Taylor stated.              

Similarly, a new survey by Kantar reported only 8 per cent of consumers in the 30 countries thought stopping advertising should be a priority for brands.The survey is the second in a series of ongoing COVID-19 reports.

The brand consultancy also found 77 per cent of global consumers wanted brands to talk about how they’re helpful in everyday life. Locally, this translated to 76 per cent of Australians wanting authentic action from brands that doesn’t exploit the situation. In addition, 75 per cent globally wanted advertising to highlight the brand’s efforts to face the crisis situation.  

Kantar Australia chief commercial officer, Jonathan Sinton, said Australians will remember brands that make a positive contribution during this hugely stressful and disrupted time in their lives.   

“Younger Australians in particular are looking to brands they trust to talk about how they could be helpful and inform them of efforts to face the situation,” he said. “This is a unique period in history where brands in all sorts of categories can find new and genuinely useful ways to be relevant in consumers’ lives, and its actions now could define it for years to come.

“But brands must be cautious - Australians are not looking for their brands to change who they are. Disingenuous or exploitative tactics will get called out. Authenticity is key. Now is a time to live up to the brand’s values or positioning strategy. Be useful, and be on brand.”

Alongside the local figures this week, fresh data from the GlobalWebIndex from consumers across 13 markets found nearly four in 10 global respondents agreed brands should continue to advertise in the current environment.

CX has to be useful too

At a wider customer experience level, this call for brands to be useful is also echoed in new global figures released by customer feedback management platform vendor, inQuba. The company uses text analytics to understand customer sentiment and has been monitoring such sentiment during the pandemic globally.

The company’s insights revealed customers are showing higher sensitivity to and awareness of what businesses are doing to protect them against exposure to the virus. For instance, visible signs of protection, such as the smell of disinfectant, presence of hand sanitisers and friendly staff in protective clothing, are important in a physical context.

InQuba also found more isolated consumers have an increased need to connect and communicate, and are demanding efficiency, speed and information. The data showed customers expecting more from services that connect consumers to the outside world, or provide the ability to do business or improve personal capabilities from home, such as online banking.   

inQuba senior market researcher, Rentia Kraucamp, said communication in all its forms needs to be as effective as possible, highlighting electronic communication, call centres and help lines as key channels.   

“These need to be manned by the best and well-trained agents. Queues and non-responsiveness must be minimised as much as possible,” she advised. Kraucamp also recommended brands consider over-communicating in simple, clear language.    

“Businesses which meet these needs, and exceed their customers’ expectations, will stand out and create strong bonds of loyalty,” she said.     

Companies affected by government mandated or personal changes of plans such as bookings, cancellations, refunds or subscriptions, need to ensure customer support is flawless, Kraucamp continued. This is because customers want to feel they still have some level of control over their lives and plans they have made.   

“Offering alternative services or creative ways to help consumers carry on with their lives, for example, ways to bank from home, exercise tips and so on can help to create a new customer experience and ensure customers retain affinity with brands,” Kraucamp added.  

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia.

 

 

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