Why winning brands tumble with their customers

Brands that readily connect with customers’ real-world concerns and demonstrate this are the winners out of the coronavirus crisis, finds new survey.

Australians want to hear from brands that have an impact on our immediate concerns during the coronavirus, according to the GrowthOps COVID-19 survey, which took a daily pulse check on how the coronavirus was affecting Australians’ feelings and behaviour. And brands that can show they care will stand out and this, in turn, will help them build brand equity.

The coronavirus pandemic pushed most Australians from the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, with concerns around self-fulfillment, to the very bottom with a focus on basic needs like food and safety, according to GrowthOps chief strategy officer, Pieter-Paul von Weiler. Those brands and entities that understood this and were the first to adapt “came out on top as brands seen to be doing a good job,” he told CMO.

Across the agency's latest list of brands, there has been little shift in the top 20 brands rated as doing a good job at dealing with the coronavirus. The list nevertheless reflects the needs and interests of people living with social distance and lockdown restrictions and includes supermarkets, the ABC, telcos, Bunnings, banks along with several streaming platforms, Australia Post, McDonald's and Kmart. 

“In the period when lockdown commenced, entities and brands that performed the strongest were government [states and federal] and their leaders, supermarkets [Coles and Woolies], and the ABC and Norman Swan,” von Weiler explained to CMO.

“Government leaders provided clear direction on what to do, and not do, while the ABC shared unbiased information and supermarket brands took decisive action to manage panic buying, all of which helped to reduce people’s immediate fears and needs,” he added.

The research commenced in late March and coincided with the start of stage one restrictions on social gatherings in Australia and will continue until all restrictions have been lifted. The daily sample includes 150 respondents from across NSW, Victoria and Queensland, in addition to a weekly sample of 100 respondents from both Western Australia and South Australia. 

Overall, relevant and rational communication, in combination with decisive action, resonated most strongly with Australians. “Empty statements about what or how companies were doing, to deal with or in the wake of Covid-19, resonated less,” said von Weiler.

However, not everyone got it right, the survey found, with brands trying to be seen doing the right thing but lacking relevance and decisive action.

“Many brands misfired, talking about themselves and how they were handling the pandemic. Australians needed practical support and reassurance with the situation they were in and the feelings they had,” he said.

Von Weiler also said as lockdown eases, there are new opportunities for brands that play into the next level of Maslow’s triangle: Esteem. He advised brands to consider how it can help people celebrate and leverage their re-found freedoms.

“Help people feel happy and more fulfilled. Make them feel better about their lives and themselves. Help them go back to work with practical advice and tangible support,” he advised.

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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