Brands around the world are struggling to find ways to stay visible and stay relevant for consumers during the ever-evolving COVID crisis, and new research from language and behavioral science agency Schwa reveals which countries are having best results—and offers clues for brand communicators who are trying to get their messaging on track.
The U.S. is seen as having the biggest shift in how brands communicate during the pandemic in a global survey of marketing, brand and comms directors. Nearly half of U.S. respondents said brands have become more formal, compared with a global average of 37 percent. And 70 percent said they’d seen a change in brand comms, again well ahead of the global average.
What are some brands doing wrong?
The survey also showed that paradoxically more than four out of 10 believe that brands have become more “soft and fluffy,” and almost a third are sending out meaningless updates.
“Brands seem to be going to extremes in their comms. Some are retreating to ‘safe’, robotic corporate-speak. It often happens when companies need to talk about difficult topics,” said Meg Roberts, creative director at Schwa, in a news release. “On the other end of the scale, lots of brands seem to have gone soft and fluffy—we’re here for you, difficult times and so on. They’re at least showing they want to be more human, but it means companies start to sound the same.”
Sweden is seen as the worst country for sending out meaningless updates
Sixty-nine percent of respondents in Sweden who have seen a difference in how brands are communicating said that they have noticed brands sending out meaningless updates (double the global average of 34 percent). And nearly a third think brands have become more soft and fluffy during the pandemic.
“Companies often send out emails and social posts just so that they’re seen to be doing something,” added Roberts. “But if they have nothing useful to say, it’s usually better to say nothing. It’s unlikely I need to hear from you if I ordered a pair of jeans from you a year ago.”
The pandemic has also increased the value many companies place on their tone of voice
“With all the updates businesses are sending out—much of it delicate and difficult—people are looking for more guidance on how to communicate. And it’s important internally too, particularly now a lot of us are working remotely. Emails and Slack messages have replaced the water cooler as the pinnacle of a company’s culture. Writing skills are more important than ever,” said Roberts.
Further global findings from the research:
- 93 percent believe that tone of voice can impact business performance
- Parts of the business using tone of voice most consistently are:
- PR and communications 36 percent
- Marketing 28 percent
- Brand 18 percent
- Digital 12 percent
- HR 3 percent
- Operations 2 percent