Mixed reactions to current brand comms

Ben GlanvilleHead of Data Services, UK & Growth Markets
May 18, 2020, 11:46 AM UTC

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced brands to adapt many facets of their businesses, from HR policies and staffing to supply chains and logistics. It has also influenced a shift in how companies are communicating with their audiences – and some are doing so more successfully than others.

Brands are being cautious with what and how they communicate with their consumers to avoid appearing insensitive to the current situation, with many adopting an empathetic tone. However, in recent weeks there has been criticism of increasingly unoriginal messaging and creative, particularly within ad campaigns.

YouGov asked the British public how they feel about the way brands are currently communicating with them. For many, it seems that COVID-19 fatigue is starting to set in.

We asked Brits to what extent they agree or disagree with a number of statements about brands/companies in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.

Around half (51%) agree that brands/companies are over-communicating with them – whether that’s via email, social media or another channel – and over two thirds (69%) agree that brands/companies are delivering similar messages to one another in their communications. 18-34 year olds agreed more strongly with the latter statement (23% strongly agree for both age groups) than those in the 35-44, 45-54 and 55+ age groups (12%, 11% and 11% respectively).

To explore this further, we gave respondents a list of coronavirus-related words and phrases and asked them which they were tired of hearing/believed were overused.

The phrase ‘all in this together’ topped the list with 42%, increasing to 45% for 18-25 year olds. This was closely followed by ‘the new normal’ and ‘unprecedented’, both at 34%.

With the large number of brands clearly defaulting to the ‘all in this together’ message, it’s worth asking: ‘How well does this actually align with their brand values and how they are responding to the current crisis?’ 

Our research shows that 43% of Brits agree that brands/companies’ current messages and advertising are inauthentic. This figure increases to 52% of males (vs 35% of females). Furthermore, half of respondents (50%) disagree that brands/companies are putting their employees and their customers first and before the company and its profits.

Many brands are clearly missing the mark in terms of how frequently they are communicating with their audiences and the messaging they are using. The research shows that consumers can see through the assurances that brands are here for their customers when that seemingly isn’t always the case.

However, we are seeing some really positive examples from brands setting a precedent during this time, with 34% of Brits agreeing that brands/companies are putting their employees and their customers first and before the company and its profits.

BrewDog and Admiral have made serious efforts to support their customers and are reaping the benefits with their brand perception and consideration amongst consumers.

It’s clear that for many consumers, brands simply aren’t responding to coronavirus in a way that resonates with them. Understanding their priorities – and how to communicate in a way that reflects them – will be essential during the COVID-19 pandemic and long afterwards.

This piece was originally published in PR Week