How should brands be talking to consumers in the Age of COVID-19

By Chloe Cheimets, Director of Research, Perksy

The sudden onset of COVID-19 has posed a major question for marketers: Should marketing messages stay the same in a time when consumers’ lives have changed so drastically? With the majority of consumers working from home, isolating from friends and family and avoiding travel, many brands are reevaluating whether their traditional communications are still relevant in our new socially-distanced world.

To answer this questionPerksy collaborated with Berlin Cameron to ask consumers if and how they want to interact with brands during the pandemic. Below are our three major findings on how to navigate the vital relationship between companies and consumers during these unprecedented times.

Consumers want to hear from brands. In fact, they are counting on them to step up.

In times of economic and social upheaval, it can be hard for brands to know whether to participate in a public response often led by governmental officials. Do consumers want to hear from brands when their personal and professional circumstances are changing so drastically? In our research, we found that the answer to that question is a resounding yes. 80% of consumers we spoke to say brands can’t stay mum: 43% say brands must “step up and help,” 24% say brands “have the power to be as impactful as the government,” and 13% say they “should not stay quiet – we need them.”

Consumers not only expect brands to respond to the current public health reality, but they want to hear from them more often. 49% of consumers want brands to communicate more during this time, compared to only 16% who want brands to communicate less.

Consumers expect marketing messages will address the pandemic.

Not only do consumers want to hear from brands, but they want brands to specifically address their circumstances. 49% of consumers want to see brand messages that address the pandemic, compared to 30% who say that brands should ignore it. When asked about what marketing they want to see during this time, only 13% of consumers reported wanting to see traditional marketing messages.

Consumers want informative, up-to-date messaging about product availability that is entertaining and hopeful.

Given that consumers want brands to address the ongoing crisis, how should brands go about doing that? Our research suggests that brands should lead with product information and speak to consumers in a voice that is both entertaining and hopeful. Consumers don’t expect brands to be the primary source of information about the virus itself, but they do expect brands to provide information about whether products are available and how to get them. Our data also suggests that successful communication during this period will acknowledge the ongoing situation without dwelling in it and will be entertaining without being flippant about the grave realities that surround all of us. Consumers want brands to knowingly provide distraction, but also offer hope.

As we try to strategically move ahead in the midst of uncertainty, many critical business questions arise. In these times, forward-thinking marketers need to stop, breathe and take time to listen to their consumers. Consumers have entered a new normal and it’s critical to not only listen, but to speak to them as these changes unfold. Talking about COVID-19 is critical – but brands must do it right. Focusing messaging around core values like family, community and heritage (e.g. things that evoke stability and trust) is a great place to start. Now is the time to use rapid consumer feedback to pivot your messaging and comms strategy. We hope this information is helpful as you navigate the coming weeks and months with your own teams.

Join us next Tuesday (4/14) for our #VirtualCubhouse webinar as we discuss how to better connect with Millennials & Gen Z during this challenging time! For more information & to RSVP visit: