The COVID crisis has taken us all by surprise. As consumers we have had to adjust our rituals and routines to cope with this new imposed reality. Brands also now need to be responsive, to react to the new normal and to become comfortable in an increasingly uncomfortable world.

At MCCP, we started listening to Irish consumers and using their insight to advise businesses on their best course of action.

We are sharing our results with our clients and wider community, so that we are all collectively equipped to do our best in this current COVID world.

MCCP Consumer Research

In the first phase of our research programme, we spoke directly with Irish consumers to get an understanding of how they are coping in the current crisis. We framed our results under the following areas:

How Consumers Feel?

Irish consumers, naturally, feel anxious, and isolated at first. There is a prevailing concern for others rather than self. This sense of concern is manifesting itself in a demand for those who are able to help, to help, and a belief that it is incumbent on them to do so.

What Consumers are doing?

Consumers are reappraising their behaviour and prioritising what’s truly important in their life. They are looking for ways to spend their money more consciously and meaningfully.

What do consumers need right now?

Consumers are demanding big brands come out of the shadows and show they are genuinely prioritising our nations interests over commercial ones.  Brands that proactively step forward to support those in need will be remembered once this crisis ends, as will those that fail to do so.

What is the lesson for brands?

  • People want brands to reach out and show they are genuinely putting people’s needs over their own at this time
  • When deciding who to support, brands need to prioritise those that need help most in our communities
  • Brands need to identify where they fit within the emerging value set being created during this crisis
  • Brands should consider how they can help people connect, grow and develop to come out of this crisis better than before.

Our research found that consumers are now quite vocal and demanding in how they expect brands to behave during this crisis. They want brands to step up and act now for the greater good.

It has become increasingly apparent that the time for brands to live their purpose is now.

Every Crisis creates a series of characters

Just like any movie or stage production, every crisis creates a series of characters, heroes and villains. MCCP’s consumer research identified some brands that have effectively assumed hero status in Ireland. These include GAA, retailers such as SuperValu and clothing manufacturers O’Neills, who consumers showed an affinity with because of the affirmative action they have taken during this crisis.

This Hero club is not an exclusive one however, and there are steps that every brand can take in order to gain entry.

To assume Hero status, brands need to transmit trust and confidence, acting as a time and risk reducer.

Brands need to be honest

Brand need to be empathetic, clear and simple; communicate frequently to ensure its message is understood

Brands should be human, not product focused

Document the real, human stories of how people are responding to COVID in great detail. Tell positive, uplifting human stories of impact, overcoming adversity

The COVID crisis has also witnessed many brands stepping outside of their comfort zone and diversifying their offering. As this crisis has evolved, we have seen vacuum manufactures and Formula 1 engineers making ventilators. Distilleries are making hand sanitisers. Sneaker companies making masks. This reminds us that when expertise collaborates in a progressive way, it shows us the positive force for good that brands can be in this uncertain world.

Brands need to be cognisant of the need for action as staying silent is not an option. Those that do, will ultimately suffer negative consequences from consumers.

 

What Practical steps can brands do right now?

Stay close

While staying close to your consumers is always important, in times of adversity, it becomes almost a survival tool for businesses. Knowing what consumers are thinking, what their biggest needs and fears are, will help every brand create their own unique solution to this situation. This distinguishes the “yet another brand initiative” from a game-changing one.

Act Quick

The focus for all of your employees and customers is currently “how can I keep myself and my family safe today”. Brands need to act entrepreneurially and make decisions that are both well-conceived and timely and in keeping with this safety-first sentiment. If they decide not to act, then that is a decision as well, but staying mute and passive is not advisable, without being aware of the consequences. Data from global studies indicate that consumers trust brands that make the right decision here, so it’s not business as usual, its about the health of people over brand health alone.

Stay Positive

One thing we have learned from previous recessions is brands that sustain their marketing investment and reciprocate spend on more brand-focused initiatives, see the biggest return over time. Those that see marketing as an expendable outgoing are the ones that typically struggle to regain market share post-recession.

“The coronavirus crisis will test us all, but marketers need to think long-term and keep building their brands, protecting their staff and honouring their values.”
Proctor & Gamble CEO

On Friday, we shared a clear framework for helping clients through what they can be doing and saying, with respect to their priorities. We are working with them and conducting on-going research to successfully survive in the now phase.

We believe, now is a time for community unity, to work together for the betterment of our work, our homes and ourselves.

Please reach out to us directly if you would like to know more about this important work or wish to get involved.  Contact our Senior New Business Manager, Declan Flynn, declan@mccp.ie

About the author

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Kay McCarthy

MCCP

MCCP are a strategic branding agency, with expertise across research, brand strategy innovation and culture. We bring our experience with local and global brands, our rigour and bold thinking to every challenge. We are a multiskilled team who are experts in their field. Above all we are passionate about finding the right solutions that will ensure you develop successful strategies because we are driven by results and success.

www.mccp.ie