Six months of unprecedented change for marketing and society at large have sparked rapid shifts in consumer behavior, leaving brands scrambling to keep up. Some of these trends are immediately obvious, such as the growing preference for e-commerce as anxiety over the novel coronavirus leads more people to shop online instead of trekking to a store. But there are other, subtler adjustments related to consumer psychology and spending that could have just as long-standing an impact on marketers, particularly as an economic recession wears on.
In terms of consumer perceptions, there's been an outpouring of support for frontline workers in both the healthcare sector and those keeping the lights on at essential businesses like grocery stores. A desire to see deeper signs of corporate empathy is in some cases outweighing the value put on traditional brand communications.
Similarly, public support of social justice movements like Black Lives Matter has spiked exponentially amid mass civil unrest over police brutality, with protests held daily since late May. With a new civil rights movement comes fresh consumer scrutiny into corporate practices, with a closer eye on diversity and inclusion and where businesses give their money.
The end result of seismic disruptions over the past six months are consumers who are at once more informed and skeptical of brand behavior, while more frequently relying on brands to provide essential goods and fill public roles where the government and other institutions have failed to step up. Beyond having to walk a delicate tight rope of ensuring words align with actions, brands also play an invaluable role in restoring consumer confidence during the most tumultuous economic period in modern memory, according to analysts.
"If you want a job for your advertising, reassure consumers about the future; give them some sense of confidence that the future is something that they should invest in," J. Walker Smith, chief knowledge officer for branding and marketing at Kantar Consulting, said during an April webinar hosted by the Advertising Research Foundation. "That is going to be a crucial requirement for this recovery … That's where I would look as opposed to trying to do something clever with your branding."
Below, Marketing Dive has gathered some of the most significant insights and analyses that key into how consumer mindsets have changed in 2020's first half, and which of those changes could become permanent fixtures moving forward.