The phrase “these unprecedented times” has become the 2020 tagline. With everything in our daily lives so uncertain, we’re increasingly looking for meaning. This is especially true when it comes to our media consumption habits. COVID-19 quarantine, remote work, and the additional alone time at home have led us to seek even greater digital connection.
I recently had the opportunity to engage in a virtual webinar on brand growth during times of crisis for the Advertising Research Foundation, an organization for which our own Seth Duncan, Chief Analytics Officer, serves on the board.
I was joined by Emmanuel Probst, author and SVP Brand Health Tracking at Ipsos, who unpacked the many challenges and opportunities brands have during a time of crisis – like the current COVID-19 pandemic. He also discussed how consumers have changed their behavior and are increasingly seeking out meaning through media.
2020 has completely transformed media consumption – we are glued to our phones, constantly seeking information to keep up with the continuously changing world around us. Brands have an opportunity to provide meaning to consumers, but they are also being presented with a challenge in communicating authenticity and purpose in a virtual world.
“What consumers are really looking for, even more so during this unprecedented time, is meaning,” Emmanuel said. “Now is the time to not only talk about your brand purpose, but to demonstrate your brand purpose.”
In other words, 2020 has proved that, if brands talk the talk, they must also walk the walk.
For those brands that take action to be involved in our extremely connected digital world, they must do so in an authentic manner, staying true to their brand and demonstrating their purpose. However, this is easier said than done. One mistake in this digital world can lead to consumers “cancelling” the brand, a challenge brands are facing while they navigate communication during the pandemic. As both practitioners and consumers, we have a responsibility to hold brands accountable and reach consumer culture in this unique virtual moment.
“Social media advertising is going to be very tempting for brands now, even more so than before,” Emmanuel said. “We can drive clicks and we can drive purchase right away.”
A challenge now is combining channels, online and offline, and sequencing them for brand campaigns. While technology has proven to be one of the most effective way for brands to reach consumers, the pandemic will eventually end, and “the world will come back to in-person interactions,” Emmanuel said.
When those in-person interactions resume, what should we take away from this remote experience? Well for one, practitioners and brands need to remember to hone in on social skills and the ability to communicate and interact with consumers in person. Technology is allowing brands to maintain interaction with consumers during this “unprecedented [virtual] time,” but eventually we will move back offline and return to a time where nothing can replicate in-person interaction and the meaning consumers find in that.