As COVID rages, women seek positive messaging from brands

by | Feb 23, 2021 | Covid-19, Public Relations

The pandemic will have a lasting effect on the outlook, behavior and psychology of women across the country, with more than half (56 percent) of women reporting that the pandemic has made them realize what is really important, namely family relationships and health—and a desire for positive messaging from brands, new research from multi-platform media company Meredith Corporation finds.

The firm’s new multi-phase research study, The Post-Normal Consumer: Navigating an Uncertain Present & Future, also reveals divergent changes in women’s interests, lifestyles, values and shopping behaviors in response to the pandemic, as well as common themes, including an overall decline in mental health, and a tighter focus on savings.

“The pandemic has not affected all women in the same way. In addition to factors such as age, race, and politics, psychological characteristics have played an important role in shaping the experiences and reactions of different groups of women,” said Dr. Joshua Ackerman, associate professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Michigan, who partnered with Meredith to produce the study, in a news release. “Brands will face the need for a targeted strategy in reaching consumers to be successful in this ‘post-normal’ world.”

Among the report’s top findings is that 7 in 10 women will make changes in the way they live post-pandemic, with 24 percent planning to make significant changes to the way they lived pre-pandemic.

Additional highlights from the research:

Ecommerce to remain popular post-pandemic

Twenty-two percent of women will continue to shop online more post-pandemic, with the highest rates among Millennials (25 percent) and Gen Z (29 percent). In addition, 51 percent spent money on things to make their increased time at home more enjoyable, with 34 percent focused on home improvement.

Meanwhile, 77 percent of women can’t wait for their usual brands to be more readily available than they are right now, but 58 percent say they will continue to purchase new brands they tried during the pandemic after the pandemic is over.

Women are seeking positive messages from brands

Female consumers seek positive messages from brands, including advertising that focuses on how we are all united as Americans (78 percent) and how we all can emerge from the pandemic even stronger (68 percent).

The vast majority of female consumers are more interested in buying from companies that are implementing safety measures (90 percent) and that focus on the well-being of their employees (87 percent). Female consumers are split on wanting to see advertising focused on the pandemic, with 49 percent opposed.

Relationships and health rise as key values

The Top 5 values that became more important for women because of the pandemic are: 1) having close family relationships; 2) leading a healthy, active lifestyle; 3) being dependable and trustworthy for friends and family; 4) continuing to learn and grow; and 5) treating every person in the world equally and justly.

Increased focus on financial savings

Twenty-one percent of women have burned through much of their savings during the pandemic, whereas 54 percent actually saved money. And 52 percent of women say the pandemic made them realize they should save more for unexpected circumstances; rates were higher among Millennials (55 percent) and Gen Z (57 percent).

Physical health maintained while mental health declined

Only 14 percent of women said their physical health declined during the pandemic, but 39 percent of women said their mental health declined during the pandemic, with about half experiencing symptoms of depression in the past two weeks (the rate was higher among Gen Z at 70% percent and Millennials at 52 percent). In addition, 42 percent of women say they have enjoyed the slower pace of life, and more than half (52 percent) said they can spend less on things they don’t need and still be happy.

Although common themes emerged, the study uncovered stark differences among various segments of the female population when it comes to economic and health attitudes and behaviors, as well as what they want to see from brands. Assessing demographic factors, psychological tendencies and consumer preferences, the study identified seven distinct segments of women, ranging from “Conservative Virus Skeptics,” whose lives have changed the least, to “Young & Vulnerables” and “Diverse and At-Risks,” whose lives have been affected the most by the pandemic.

The seven segments of female consumers identified in the report have been modeled onto Meredith’s database of consumers and will be available for print and digital activation by advertisers.

“The segments allow marketers to better understand where their consumers fall within the spectrum,” said Britta Cleveland, SVP of research solutions at Meredith, in the release. “By identifying these differences and activating them across our network of sites, we’re making it possible for advertisers to reach and engage the women who are most receptive to their messages.”

The findings in the report come primarily from a general population survey of 2,004 U.S. women ages 18-69 conducted in September 2020 and in-depth, online discussions with 88 American women about their experiences during the coronavirus pandemic in July 2020. The study was produced in partnership with Associate Professor of Psychology, Dr. Joshua Ackerman, from the University of Michigan.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter