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One paradigm for interpreting the current impact, based on qualitative research late in March, included six dimensions:
- Fear — the overarching sentiment — of getting the virus, of no respirators or of dying without my husband there
- Disruption — sheltering in place, working online or not working at all
- Friends and Family — technology is good but not a real replacement
- Adapting — we are doing surprisingly well; there is a new value to walking
- Gratitude — for my health
- A Better Future — better work and better self
Consumer confidence has dropped to an index of 82, a two-year low. This is driven by Americans being very concerned about the Coronavirus:
- 55% of 18-29 year-olds, but 73% of those 65+ said they were very concerned about the pandemic.
People’s buying behaviors are changing because of this concern:
- 33% of Americans are buying more snacks,
- 23% are buying more health food, and
- 23% are buying more non-alcoholic beverages.
On the other hand,
- 50% of Americans are buying less beauty products,
- 38% of Americans are buying less clothes, and
- 29% of Americans are buying fewer household goods.
Staying at home had no less impact on people’s media behavior. Over the past four weeks, Americans’ 2+ weekly television time was approximately 41 hours compared to 33 hours same time last year. There have been more dramatic content shifts to news and from the sports that do not happen. The following display shows that the surge in viewing began around St. Patrick’s Day and flattens out around Easter. It also shows this pattern holds for all age groups.
During this time, many streaming services are offering free trials. Streaming time has more than doubled since the same time last year with Netflix and video player apps (most of the other category) dominating the usage.
All ages, both young and older, increased their streaming but likely for different reasons. Young streaming likely increased as the result of Disney+’s launch. Adults increased because of, among other reasons, the social and traditional media coverage of new content like Tiger King. Over the last month, streaming has represented 25% of all television usage with Tiger King generating the most streamed viewing at 5.3 million minutes of viewing during the last week in March.
Advertising and Brands
There was general agreement that there was significant advantage to advertising during this crisis, though the message need be one of comfort, support, community, health and safety. Consumers expect brands:
- To take care of its employees
- To make products they need now
- To be focused on and contribute to society
- And to stand for something beyond profit
As store shelves empty, brand loyalty is easily impacted. This makes it more important than ever that brands build relations and long-term equity with their consumers through advertising.
Prominent themes for the post-crisis future, at least for some time, included:
- More communication, personal and work, through technology
- More caution, fewer crowds and less handshaking
- Less travel
- More consideration of discretionary spend
- Tele-health and other tele-services such as museum visits
- Support of local business, less crowded retail space
- First run movies on VOD
Of course, this is based on a world as we see it today. Six weeks has changed everything we do, know and for which we plan, making it difficult to predict the next few weeks, let alone the future beyond.