Brand Building During The Time Of Coronavirus

Trying to navigate the current global spread of the coronavirus poses a real challenge for brands.

This is in an unprecedented situation and knowing the best way to engage with consumers certainly raises a lot of fundamental questions. Should you create specific COVID-19 creatives or continue as normal? What kind of tone should you use? Should you try and make people laugh or be serious? Should you pause advertising completely until the whole crisis is over?

According to research from Edelman, two-thirds (65%) of consumers say how brands respond to the pandemic will have a “huge impact” on their likelihood to buy their products in the future.

So what is the best way forward for advertisers? Well, at Unruly we have carried out a number of studies over the last couple of weeks to help brands navigate this uncharted territory.

Here are our tips:

1. Advertise, advertise, advertise

During such a challenging time, the easiest thing to do is nothing. Pause spending and wait for the whole thing to blow over. But a consumer survey we carried out in the US found that 88% of consumers want to hear from brands during these uncertain times, while only 2% of US consumers want advertisers to pause their campaigns.

“When times are good you should advertise. When times are bad you must advertise.”

2. Don’t be afraid to talk about COVID-19 – and inform audiences

While consumers want brands to provide a sense of continuity and normality, they’re not necessarily looking for brands to completely ignore it altogether. Almost half (49%) want brands to be more informative in their ad campaigns, with consumers particularly looking for advertisers to provide messages around COVID-19 (21%) and to share how they’re supporting staff and customers during the pandemic (22%).

At Unruly we have been testing a number of ads that reference coronavirus across a number of different territories using our content measurement tool UnrulyEQ. All have performed well so far, achieving EQ Scores well above the average for each territory, including video guides from UK supermarkets Tesco and Sainsbury’s on how they are supporting customers and staff during the crisis. Both campaigns left around a third of viewers feeling highly informed after watching — well above the UK norm of 8%. Read more about our US/ German and UK tests.

3. Make sure you hit the right emotions

Making sure your creatives resonate with consumers has never been more important in the current landscape. So to maximise the ROI on your media budgets and ensure peace of mind, measure the emotional engagement of your target audience so it hits your campaign goals.

But which emotions should you be trying to evoke? Consumers want to see positivity from brands to help get them through this situation, with 37% of respondents saying they want to see ads that make them feel warm and happy and 18% saying they want them to be amusing. We’ve tested a number of COVID-19 response ads from brands and seen how a positive tone can really resonate with consumers, with feelings of warmth, pride, inspiration and happiness the most common among the ones tested

You can also watch our presentation on the most effective emotions for long-term brand building.

4. Adapt existing creative

With filming new footage challenging, we’ve seen a number of brands adapting old creative to tell new stories. Guinness recently did this with its Saint Patrick’s Day message, while Ford used a number of sewn-together shots for its ‘Built To Lend a Hand’ campaign, both scoring well above the US norm for both emotional engagement and brand metrics.

5. Be helpful and supportive rather than salesy

Brands need to project corporate stability to consumers during challenging times and a feeling of being “with them” as well as “for” them. Helpful and supportive messaging at this difficult time can land particularly well.

For example, Ford showed the support it is offering its customers rather than focusing on sales. This approach delivered 53% brand favourability and is the fourth-highest ever recorded in the US automotive market.

6. Rediscover your audience

It’s no surprise that people are consuming more digital content than ever before, a 60% increase according to a recent Nielsen study. The best way to find your audience these days is to look for them at home.

There’s been significant growth in at-home-media, and according to Mindshare US, there’s a 79.17% increase in the population going online, with a 105.26% increase in TV streaming during the period of March 11-17. Our sister company, Tremor Video, has also reported a whopping 200% increase in CTV consumption since the first of March.

7. But don’t just focus on one channel

It’s easy to think that everyone is stuck in front of their TVs, but this is not the case. Yes, TV consumption has risen considerably, and our findings show that 61% of people say they are watching more live TV and 61% more TV on demand since the pandemic.

But people are also spending a lot of time interacting with digital media in other ways. For instance, 59% are watching more online videos and, unsurprisingly, 62% of people are spending more time on social media.

8. Plan for device diversity

Our survey found the device being used a lot more than before the pandemic is the mobile phone (+69%).
This is followed by connected TV (+42% a lot more likely) , laptops (+35%) and games consoles (+21%). These findings clearly show that advertisers should be diversifying their advertising efforts to reach consumers throughout their day, whether that be on their tablet, while they’re looking for exercising videos to begin the day with, their mobiles, at lunch while they check in on friends and family, on their laptops, while they’re working in the afternoon, and on their smart TVs during their evening TV binge.

We’re here to help you navigate these uncertain times and look forward to partnering with you. Stay healthy and safe. Email [email protected] to find out more.

Want to find out more about our COVID-19 consumer survey findings? Click here to access the UK findings and here for US findings.