Megan Keane

Associate Director of Integrated Strategy | dentsu Americas

The COVID-19 crisis has forced society to make vast changes in a very short amount of time. From the unprecedented uncertainty has sprung deep tensions. Both directly and indirectly, there has been a significant impact on consumers’ mental health and well-being.

Below, we cover several emerging cultural tensions that have underlying implications for mental health, highlighting the ways that brands can best respond to how consumers are experiencing the crisis and meet their rising needs.

Americans are feeling the pressure of productivity.     
America’s hustle culture has normalized the concept that every moment needs to be maximized. The crisis has heightened that pressure as ‘shelter-in-place’ orders give people the illusion that they have “extra time” on their hands. In reality, people are juggling more responsibilities and stress than ever as they work, play, care and live all in the same space:

  • Net time spent with social media (the home of viral at-home #challenges) is up 46% since before the outbreak (Dentsu COVID Navigator)
  • “You’re supposed to be inventing something or coming up with the next big business idea…” Maggie Schuman, 32, says. “I’m trying to be more OK with just being.” (Stop Trying to Be Productive by The New York Times)
  •  “By bringing domestic life and work into radical collision, Covid-19 has destroyed the façade of our work-life balance. “ (Work Life Balance Is A Lie – and coronavirus is exposing it by Quartz)

U.S. consumers are seeking to rebalance their news diet.      
The unrelenting and bleak news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic has saturated every aspect of people’s lives. To balance the stress stemming from constant bad news, consumers are changing their media consumption habits to reorient themselves around good news:

  • Online, fear-based posts are shared more widely than posts with moderate POVs (NewsWhip).
  • 54% of US adults want to see more “positive stories” in the news (Global Web Index).
  • John Krasinski decided to change the narrative by creating a YouTube channel called “Some Good News.” His first episode of has garnered +12 million views.

American values are being redefined.    

The same people who embody the American value of self-reliance – gig workers, small businesses, hourly-workers, side-hustlers – now make up a majority of those having to ask for financial assistance. For many, the helplessness feels like an identity crisis. At the same time, others are seeking ways to connect with those in need – and brands have an outsized role to play:

  • “In Phoenix, Raven Green, a 28-year-old single mother of two young girls, turned to GoFundMe after losing all three of her jobs… abashed at having to ask for help, [she] couldn’t bring herself to share it [the campaign] on social media. (Never Thought I Would Need It by The New York Times)
  • 25% of Millennials & Gen X want to see brands help them contribute to the response (Dentsu COVID Navigator).
  • 43% of consumers would think more of a brand that helps them contribute to the response. And another 46% expect brands to do that (Dentsu COVID Navigator).

What does this mean for modern marketers?

  • Do more with less. While it may be tempting to provide consumers with additional resources or activities, consider how you can alleviate – not add to – the pressures they are feeling to ‘do more.’          
  • Reimagine media routines and rituals. Similar to “digital detox,” people are seeking a “bad news detox.” Think about ways to connect consumers with positive content they might not otherwise have seen and create new content that fills this new need.
  • Help people ask for help. With an outsized influence on culture, brands are well-positioned to reduce the stigma and shame around asking for help. You can offer tips , resources and experiences that make the process feel less burdensome.
  • Help people help others. Consumers are looking for ways to contribute to the crisis response. And, those hardest hit are struggling to ask for help. Brands can help bridge the gap by using their platforms to make needs visible and create tools that connect resources to demand.

View our April 8 Edition: Crisis Navigator