Brand conversations are vital in the COVID age—which ones are making real connections?

by | Jun 19, 2020 | Covid-19, Public Relations

Amid the chaos of the COVID pandemic, the resulting shelter orders and temporary store closings, it’s been easy for brands to slip off the radar—people just have more important things to worry about these days. So for brands to remain vital, they have to connect with their audiences emotionally, and make sure they’re sharing lots of content. New research from social intelligence firm Engagement Labs reveals which brands have been able to make those connections, both online and off.

As consumer priorities and interests have shifted, entertainment, and particularly streaming services, are among brands benefiting the most, consistent with the company’s earlier reports. Their latest TotalSocial rankings—based on a combination of metrics including how much conversation brands earn, how positive, whether consumers are sharing brand content, and how well the brand is connecting with the most influential consumers—examine brand conversations in March-May (the “Covid quarter”).

The top brand for offline conversation is Disney+, which zoomed from last place to first since before its November 2019 launch. HGTV also rose remarkably, from 300th to 9th in 12 months, reflecting much more time for watching television, and interest in home improvement among people stuck at home. Indeed, HGTV is the only brand to appear in both the online and offline TotalSocial Top Ten, having risen from 23rd to 6th online.

In online conversations, the Food Network moved up to first place, thanks to increased interest in home cooking during the pandemic, as reflected in more positive conversations about the brand online. Media and entertainment brands perform particularly well online, capturing eight of the top ten positions, with big gains for HGTV, Spotify, and the NFL.

Brand conversations are vital in the COVID age—which ones are making real connections?

Notably absent from the Top Ten lists vs. a year ago are Trivago, Audi, and USAA offline, and Disney World online. Declining interest in travel and automobiles during the pandemic explain these declines.

Why Disney+ leads—and bests the other streaming competitors

Although Netflix and Amazon earn enormous conversation volume, Disney+ outshines them on the TotalSocial ranker for March to May 2020 due to Disney+ having a more favorable positive-to-negative conversation ratio, and due to the high share of people talking about the brand being socially-connected influencers.

“I can’t think of another brand that literally went from zero to number one so fast,” said Engagement Labs CEO Ed Keller, in a news release. “The combination of a great brand, a successful holiday season release, and then a pandemic keeping people at home has provided the perfect storm for Disney+ plus to succeed in the streaming marketplace. It’s also notable that while the social media conversation curve quickly flattened for Disney+, the offline curve has plateaued at 40 million conversations per week,” Keller said. “Online and offline conversation trends frequently diverge, which is why it’s important for marketers to measure both conversation channels.”

Brand conversations are vital in the COVID age—which ones are making real connections?

Personal Care and Retail Gain

Not all the brands gaining conversation in 2020 are flashy entertainment brands. After Disney+, the biggest offline improvement is for Nivea, which jumped 159th to 3rd on the list, and Colgate which jumped from 43rd to 6th. Online, big gains were registered for drugstore and grocery retailers H-E-B and Publix. These brands are benefiting from consumers’ increased focus on consumer staples, and limited retail options, during the COVID-19 crisis.

Brand conversations are vital in the COVID age—which ones are making real connections?

For the same reason, we saw some stunning gains for a wide variety of household and personal care brands that did not rise high enough to break into the Top Ten, including Campbell’s (+215 places), Degree (+169), Crest (+223), and Bayer (+224) offline; and Dial (+214), Gerber (+217), Downey (+180), Bounty (+67), Glade (+110), and Charmin (+172) online.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reshuffled consumer conversations, in line with changing lifestyles. In fifteen years of tracking, we’ve never seen so much change in such a short time,” Keller said.

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