Research shows that users desire a sense of normalcy from brands

By Dominic Cook, Co-founder and co-CEO



The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

Find out more

April 30, 2020 | 10 min read

It’s remarkable how quickly a ‘new normal’ can embed itself in our culture and in our lives. Humans are clearly very adaptable, as within little over a month we’ve dramatically changed the way we live and, largely, settled into it.

33 seconds normal

But the deluge of depressing and tragic news is one thing we all struggle to get accustomed to, and this new research from Twitter suggests that many people want other content to consume, content that for a moment allows us to forget about the fear and uncertainty of the global coronavirus pandemic and instead explores the mundane, nice things in life - cocktails, modern art, penguins, beer, books, and cookies.

In fact, 64% of respondents said that brands should continue advertising their products as normal, while 52% of them said that this content helped give them a sense of normality in their own lives.

However, a huge 93% of respondents agreed that the tone needs to change, which means that as brands we need to find a way to operate in this new atmosphere of sickness and death. Not something you’ll find in your corporate social media policy handbook.

Some companies have thrown in the towel and simply shut down, not seeing a way to adapt their tone to this harsh new reality (a missed opportunity for a furniture brand, while rival West Elm were cleverly offering Zoom backgrounds).

When asked what brands should be doing in social media during the COVID-19 crisis, the themes that came up were supporting front-line staff (82%), supporting vulnerable people in their community (86%), providing reliable, accurate information (89%) and showing acts of kindness (74%).

People see brands as being in a unique position where they can step up, and direct considerable resources to help in a crisis as with DFS in the above tweet, donating sofas to healthcare facilities.

New rules for a new era

There’s clearly a coronavirus-era social playbook emerging here. New rules that have sprung up organically in reaction to this unexpected crisis, but that are becoming set in stone. As more brands play that way, it sets consumer expectations which in turn solidifies these ad hoc rules further.

Look at your industry and how the big players are adapting. Look outside to the bigger consumer sectors. What new language and conventions are forming?

The playing field is level and empty

While now is not the time to be opportunistic, the fact remains that it’s become pretty quiet out there on the ad platforms, for most industries anyway. Expedia, one of the internet’s biggest ad spenders said this week that they usually spend $5 billion a year on ads, whereas their 2020 bill will be less than $1 billion.

Recent research from Gupta Media found that the average CPM on Facebook has sunk below $2 for the first time in the company’s history. It’s just a lot less competitive out there, and for lots of reasons now is not the time to disappear from your customers’ lives.

Suggested newsletters for you

Daily Briefing


Catch up on the most important stories of the day, curated by our editorial team.

Ads of the Week


See the best ads of the last week - all in one place.

The Drum Insider

Once a month

Learn how to pitch to our editors and get published on The Drum.

Keep advertising, change the tone

While many marketers are delaying campaigns, even product launches, there’s an argument for keeping some ‘always-on’ inventory live to remain present in your customers’ lives (if you’re still operational of course).

Think about how you can creatively adapt your tone to celebrate your brand, keep the audience entertained and provide value in their lives.

As the Twitter research suggests, people want brands to be there, whether it’s to offer support and positivity or simply to distract from late night doom-scrolling.

Dominic Cook, co-founder and co-CEO, 33Seconds


Content by The Drum Network member:


33Seconds is an independent, award-winning communications agency, specialising in climate, technology and lifestyle.

As well as offering services across strategy,...

Find out more

More from Marketing

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +