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Embracing Change: How to align your brand with evolving public sentiment

by Emily Underhill

9 June 2020 17:03pm

As we begin to see the signs of a gradual easing of lockdown restrictions in the UK, here at The Kite Factory we have been engrossed in some interesting new studies that showcase the changing behaviours of the British public and the evolution of consumer sentiment throughout the last two months of the pandemic.

The first study comes from the IPA, who published new Touchpoints data on the 27th May that showcases six areas in which we have been changed by lockdown. The data was collected between January and April 2020 allowing the IPA to notice significant shifts in behaviour. The 6 points are:

1. The rise of a more conscious consumer: We have talked a lot over the last few weeks about brands who “behave well” in lockdown being favourably remembered beyond it. The IPA’s study starts to illustrate the impact of that, with a 24% increase in the number of people who will avoid ‘unethical’ brands. There has also been significant growth in environmental concerns relating to brands, with 73% of adults concerned about the amount of unnecessary packaging used on consumer goods.

2. The loss of face-to-face contact: The IPA numbers show that the biggest change in our daily routines has been the demise of face-to-face communication (down 1 hour and 40 minutes each day) and the rise of video calling, which has doubled in reach and seen the average adult spend 20 minutes more each day on video chats. Overall, time spent socialising is down by 42%.

3. Greater time spent on ourselves: We are getting up later and sleeping nearly 15 minutes a day longer on average, with 25–34's increasing their sleep time the most (an additional 27 minutes more each day). We are spending more time with our children (an additional 17 minutes a day), spending more time with our hobbies (an additional 13 minutes a day) and spending longer preparing food (an additional 13 minutes a day).

4. More screen time: Time spent watching live broadcast TV has increased by 20 minutes a day, while there have also been increases in the number of people (up 11%) and amount time spent (an additional 15 minutes a day) watching paid for on demand video such as Netflix or Amazon Prime.

5. The Emotional Strain: Unsurprisingly, the lockdown has had a significant and potentially damaging effect on our emotional state. What is striking from the data is the scale of it. There have been decreases in the amount of time spent feeling confident (down 46%), and happy (down 11%) and a 31% increase in time spent feeling sad. This fall in the amount of time spent feeling happy equates to three hours and 9 minutes less per week than before lockdown started. Those aged 65+ are the most emotionally affected since the start of lockdown, reporting the highest levels of increase in time spent feeling sad (up 46%) and angry (up 41%) along with reductions in time spent feeling happy (down 14%).

6. Making Healthier choices: Since lockdown began, there has been a 9% increase in the number of people saying that they ‘like to keep fit’ and a 16% increase in the number of people actively trying to reach the recommended five pieces of fruit and veg each day. People seem to be putting this healthier mind-set into practice, with more people exercising (up 17%) and for longer, equating to an additional 1 hour 27 minutes per week. The number of people stating a preference for organic food has increased by 21%. This healthier attitude does not appear to have extended to alcohol consumption, with no change to the number of people drinking. However, there has been a 10% decrease in the amount of time spent drinking alcohol.

The second study comes from Opinium who have been monitoring consumer sentiment through lockdown and looking at how it has evolved and shifted.

Their latest wave looks at sentiment eight weeks into the lockdown. It is very clear that consumers have grown tired of crisis communications and are now looking for respite. This reflects the fact that we are moving into a new phase of the pandemic, beyond the panic of the crisis and the novelty of lockdown, we are now in a phase of adaptation as we start to get a clearer view of what life will be like living with the presence of Coronavirus on a long-term basis.

In the second week of lockdown, there was still a need for inspiring and simple content alongside crisis communications. By week eight, Opinium highlight that the need for crisis comms is fading away, and consumers are increasingly looking for a warm and more playful tone of voice.

A few examples of this across different categories:

· Now that supermarket stocks are returning to normal, people are beginning to look for more light-hearted comms again.

· It is a similar case for retail brands, people want to hear about discounts, new products or content to lighten the mood.

· For sectors that are slightly further away from opening, such as pubs and restaurants, reassurance on Government guidelines is still crucial, but people also want to hear updates.

· The Opinium data shows that for the Charity sector, there needs to be an increase in information about how Charities are supporting people through Coronavirus, with consumers wanting to hear the role of brand and community increasing from 21% to 31% in the last 8 weeks.

What is particularly telling is that the research reinforces the concept that, for many people, “normality is increasingly slipping away and returning to old behaviours is less likely as time goes on”. Optimism about the future is mixed at best, with the majority of consumers anxious and apprehensive, with “nearly a quarter of UK consumers have suffered a decrease in disposable income”.

What is the implication for advertisers?

The Opinium study tells us what consumers are interested in hearing about and suggest areas where they need ongoing support. Fusing this with the IPA Touchpoints data tells us where we can find them in media and gives a sense of the behaviours we need to adopt if we are to successfully engage.

What are the actions you should take?

Given these shifts in consumer feeling, it’s an appropriate time to revisit the 3Ps; Promote, Practical and Purpose, and the 3Cs; Content, Context and Cut Through.

The evolution in consumer sentiment changes the balance on the 3Ps. The changes highlighted in the Opinium research places greater emphasis on the need for brands to Promote their organisation, service and products. People want that variety and distraction from the understandably earnest messaging of the past two months.

However, the pandemic effect is a marathon and not a sprint. Don’t lose sight of how you can offer Practical support and guidance to help people navigate the changes to their normal lives, and also think about how you can help provide Purpose and an anchor in turbulent times, to those who have had their employment, and sense of identity, impacted by the crisis.

The shifts across the IPA and Opinium studies reinforce the importance of the 3Cs but give advertisers an opportunity to revisit and review these tactics. Changing behaviours and a shift in mood mean that new Contexts can be identified that weren’t there during the first few weeks of the lockdown. This increasing desire for light-heartedness and distraction not only informs the context of when and where you might speak to consumers, but also inform what you say in the Content you deploy.

As we saw with the glut of lockdown ads all using variants of “in these unprecedented times, whilst we have never been further apart, we have never been more connected”, the need to Cut Through was crucial. This necessity won’t go away with the relaxation of lockdown rules. As brands rush to own the ‘return-to-the norm’ (or closest possible resemblance of that), how can you identify moments where you have maximum relevancy and the best change to drive engagement?

If you can successfully utilise the 3Ps and 3Cs to align with the trends shown by IPA Touchpoints and Opinium, then you will put yourself in the best position to drive both strong engagement and performance.

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