Post-COVID staying power—consumers say brand actions during crisis will impact perception

by | Apr 22, 2020 | Covid-19, Public Relations

With light possibly now at the end of the COVID tunnel, brands need to be aware of how their actions during the crisis will position them in the rebuilding phase to come. New research from engagement technology firm Social Media Link reveals that nearly 6 in 10 consumers (58 percent) say the COVID-19 situation has impacted their view of brands.

The company’s newly released COVID-19 Brand Sentiment Navigator Report, which surveyed more than 6,000 consumers, finds respondents saying the best action brands can take to receive positive marks is to keep customers (58 percent) and employees (55 percent) safe. Additionally, showing empathy (40 percent), recognizing the new normal (38 percent), extending benefits (35 percent) and reassuring communication (32 percent) led to positive sentiments.

“This is a critical time for brands to imprint themselves in consumers’ minds that will ensure staying power through the crisis and beyond,” said Susan Frech, CEO of Social Media Link, in a news release. “This survey suggests now is the time for brands to show, not tell, how much they live out their brand promise and values.”

Industries that have gotten a positive boost include Grocery (49 percent), Food/Beverage (37 percent), Cleaning Products (33 percent), Restaurants (33 percent), Pharmacy (29 percent), Video Streaming (24 percent). Whereas Airline/Travel (16 percent), Bars (7 percent), Banks/Finance (7 percent) have taken a sentiment hit. Consumers called out specific brands positively (Disney+, Costco, Whole Foods) while others were called out negatively (Hobby Lobby, Game Stop, Walmart).

Opportunistic behaviors are not tolerated by consumers

Brands get low marks for price gouging (21 percent), failing to keep employees (18 percent) and customers (17 percent) safe, failing to show empathy (15 percent), and doing nothing to benefit the community (15 percent).

Online communities provide an outlet for connection

Close to one-third (29 percent) are turning to online communities for connection.

“Consumers are spending more time with digital channels than ever. Brands should no longer consider these outlets vehicles for blasting out messages, but rather tools for creating connections that will endure,” Frech added.

Younger consumers experience mental health effects of social distancing; technology offers an outlet

Forty-two percent of consumers feel lonely. Among Gen Z, this number rose to 59 percent. Consumers stay connected through social media (80 percent), phone calls (75 percent), as well as video calls being utilized by 41 percent of respondents.

After the crisis, shopping online will stick. Certain categories will see a boost

Consumers anticipate spending more on Health & Wellness (34 percent), Cleaning/Sanitary products (31 percent), Shopping online (29 percent), and Going out to Bars/Restaurants (21 percent).

Post-COVID staying power—consumers say brand actions during crisis will impact perception

This research was conducted via a 22-question online survey issued to the peer-to-peer influencer community, Smiley360, from March 20 – March 30. 6,340 U.S. respondents completed the survey.

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