Study: Consumers Paying Closer Attention to Brands’ Actions

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NEW YORK — Over the past week, we’ve seen a nation in search of stability. Consumer sentiment is rebounding slightly as consumers fight to remain in control of their situation amid uncertainty. We see household spending patterns flatten, time spent with media reach a saturation point, and a heightened desire for normalcy.  Consumers not only expect brands to act, but they are paying close attention to what brands say and do in response to the pandemic. These were the key takeaways from this week’s “Taking the Pulse: Covid Crisis Navigator” poll of 900+ consumers ages 18-64 conducted by the Dentsu Aegis Network.

To help marketers navigate the shifting road ahead, Dentsu has been mapping how consumers are moving through and responding to the various stages of the crisis and how brands can best respond.

Now in its third week, the Covid Crisis Navigator has uncovered a number of key shifts:

  • COVID-19 remains the top pressing concern on consumers’ minds (63%) but as the pandemic impacts other aspects of life, we saw concerns shift to the economy (50%) and the political landscape (20%, up 6 points from week 1 which was conducted March 27-29th).
  • Consumer outlook started to stabilize. Perception that the health threat was stabilizing increased (36%, up 11 points from last week) as did perceptions that personal employment/financial situations were stabilizing (55%, up 13 points).  This was a big shift vs. the week prior when consumers overwhelmingly felt all aspects of the crisis were worsening.
  • Consumer sentiment is trending more positive. We saw people fight to combat feelings of helplessness by seeking more control.  Women sought a return to normal (128i) and freedom (114i) while men were more likely to seek a greater sense of control via information (143i) and leadership (133i).
  • Spending patterns started to flatten out. 51% of consumers saying they expect their spending to remain consistent over the next two weeks, with a prioritization of household essentials.  This is the most stability we have seen since reporting began.
  • Media consumption hits its saturation point. After continued gains over two-weeks, net time spent with media has started to decrease. While less respondents are reporting spending more time with digital (social media, online news, video streaming services), analog channels are seeing a rise – with some consumers trading digital for newspapers (+12%) and magazines (+5%). This further suggests a degree of digital burnout.
  • Consumers are paying more attention to what brands say/do in response to the crisis. A high percentage of consumers (49%) reported paying more attention to what brands are saying and doing right now. Younger generations are paying the most attention (56% of Millennial and Gen Z respondents reported paying more attention and 54% of Gen Xers (vs. 37% for Boomers). Still, 27% of respondents say they’ve seen “too few” ads related to COVID-19, indicating there’s an appetite for more.
  • Consumers consistently want to see action from brands. Over the three waves of our study, it’s clear that actions speak louder than words. Donating to causes and those in need (47%), looking after employees (44%) and offering discounts (40%) were top initiatives consumers want to see from brands – and initiatives that positively impact their perceptions.

"Week over week, we are seeing consumers’ expectations for brands rise,” said Dirk Herbert, Chief Strategy Officer, Americas, Dentsu Aegis Network. “The same actions that were considered above and beyond in week one are now considered table-stakes. This sets the bar higher for brands who have yet to respond.” 

To view, the complete study, click here.


About Dentsu Aegis Network

Part of Dentsu Inc., Dentsu Aegis Network is made up of ten global network brands - Carat, Dentsu, dentsu X, iProspect, Isobar, mcgarrybowen, Merkle, MKTG, Posterscope and Vizeum and supported by its specialist/multi-market brands. Dentsu Aegis Network is Innovating the Way Brands Are Built for its clients through its best-in-class expertise and capabilities in media, digital and creative communications services. Offering a distinctive and innovative range of products and services, Dentsu Aegis Network is headquartered in London and operates in 145 countries worldwide with more than 40,000 dedicated specialists.