Measuring consumer attitude shifts, as brands keep navigating tricky territory during COVID

by | Jun 24, 2020 | Public Relations

Brands are striving to assess the consumer landscape sensitively and accurately, but with sentiment shifting quickly, it’s difficult to adapt new strategies on the fly. New research from tech-based research firm Emotive Technologies measures current consumer attitudes to show how companies can navigate the difficult landscape of operating during and after COVID-19.

The study measures current consumer attitudes during the pandemic in the banking, quick service dining, hotel, mobile provider and retail industries so that brands can adjust their strategies in meaningful ways. The research took a unique approach—instead of applying the traditional method of measuring consumer behavior, the firm used their BEST tool to focus solely on consumer attitudes that trigger those behaviors.

Measuring consumer attitude shifts and navigating tricky brand territory during COVID

“We measured 16 distinct attitudes that audiences have towards companies, organizations and brands, and how these attitudes drive their actions,” said Marc Whitehead, founding partner and CEO of Emotive Technologies, in a news release. “With the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and world events, it’s important to understand, respect and nurture these attitudes to enable businesses to make the right decisions.”

Measuring consumer attitude shifts and navigating tricky brand territory during COVID

Whitehead continued, “Just because governments and health agencies green light businesses to restart, it doesn’t mean people will come running back. Our study helps shine a light on the most important attitudes to drive consumer action on the road to recovery.”

Measuring consumer attitude shifts and navigating tricky brand territory during COVID

Findings include:

  • Key elements of life that have been negatively impacted are: community, family and friends and personal finances.
  • 69 percent of people are overwhelmingly interested in seeing strong leadership from companies and brands in the months ahead, as they are more likely to feel a lack of confidence in governments.
  • Across industries, customers are looking for a reason to smile more than ever, yet have never had a tougher time finding one.
    • Delivering joy is currently the most critical and chronically underserved element of engagement across all industries tested
  • Adapt or disappear: A third (32 percent) of respondents strongly agree that they will do more online shopping after the pandemic ends, meaning consumers are demanding more innovation from traditional retailers.
  • Since the onset of COVID-19, men and women are equally interested in engaging emotionally with brands – but not in the same way. Brands that demonstrate traits of ease and familiarity will win with those identifying as male, while females want to build a more personal connection, yet demand follow-through.
  • Americans and Canadians engage with brands differently since COVID-19. Canadians are seeking a more emotionally-driven relationship driven by elements like empathy and understanding, while Americans demand more rational elements of the relationship fulfilled (like committed service and innovation).

Attitudes towards brands have become more emotionally-driven since the pandemic

A previous Emotive study conducted in January 2020 found the key elements driving engagement across industries were more operational in nature. Based on the current study, the idea of relatability or being personally invested in the success of a brand has become more important than ever.

“Today, people want to see themselves in the brands they interact with,” said Whitehead. “This level of relatability was once a nice-to-have for a brand manager, but today it’s increasingly a must for any marketing strategy.”

The study measured 16 distinct attitudes, including eight emotional engagement factors such as relatability, trustworthiness and joyfulness, and eight rational engagement factors like predictability, value, and community involvement.

Measuring consumer attitude shifts and navigating tricky brand territory during COVID

“We keep hearing companies say that ‘we’re in this together,'” Whitehead added, “but it falls short when they don’t walk the talk. Companies need to help their customers come to that conclusion on their own.”

Measuring consumer attitude shifts and navigating tricky brand territory during COVID

By measuring audience attitudes, Emotive is capturing consumer sentiment at a moment in time, then tracking how those sentiments change over time. In an ever-evolving world, this allows brands to quickly pivot, adapt, and measure again.

“The effects of COVID-19 will continue to dictate consumer behaviors and shape attitudes through uncertainty,” Whitehead concluded. “If brands choose to win consumer confidence by tapping into their ever-changing feelings and beliefs, they’ll stand a chance to build long-term trust and loyalty.”

Measuring consumer attitude shifts and navigating tricky brand territory during COVID

Download the full report here.

Emotive ran a North American online survey using its proprietary Brand Engagement Sentiment Tracking (BEST) tool between May 5 – 9, 2020, recording results from a demographically diverse group of 1,208 Canadians and Americans.

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