facemask, coronavirus

MILAN — Leading data, insights and consulting company Kantar has released its largest global study into consumer attitudes, media habits and expectations during the coronavirus pandemic in its first COVID-19 barometer.

The study surveyed more than 25,000 consumers across 32 countries and provides brand owners with a direction on how to ensure their brands stay connected to their customers during the pandemic crisis.

Unsurprisingly, self-isolation has spurred a 70 percent increase in web browsing in the later stages of the pandemic, followed by a 63 percent growth in traditional TV viewing, while social media engagement rose 61 percent over normal usage rates.

WhatsApp emerged as the social media app experiencing the greatest gains in usage, up 40 percent. Kantar split the growth by showing that in the early phase of the pandemic, usage increased 27 percent, in mid-phase 41 percent and countries in the late phase of the pandemic saw a 51 percent growth. In particular, Spain experienced a 76 percent increase in time spent on WhatsApp. Overall Facebook usage has increased 37 percent. China experienced a 58 percent increase in usage of local social media apps including WeChat and Weibo.

Further detailing the use of messaging platforms, the increase has been biggest in the 18-34 age group. WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram have all reported more than a 40 percent increase in usage from under 35-year olds.

“There is a crisis in trust,” stated the study. “Traditional nationwide news channels [broadcast and newspaper] are the most trusted sources of information with 52 percent of people identifying them as a ‘trustworthy’ source. Government agency websites are regarded as trustworthy by only 48 percent of people, suggesting that government measures are not providing citizens around the world with assurances and security. Also reflecting the loss of trust from fake news/scandals, social media platforms are regarded by only 11 percent of people as a source of trustworthy information.”

Kantar also analyzed what consumers expect from the brands they choose. As a key requirement, the brands should look after their employees’ health, said 78 percent of respondents, and 62 percent said companies should implement flexible working. “Supporting hospitals” was listed by 41 percent of surveyed and 35 percent pointed to being helpful to the government.

As for advertising campaigns, only very few consumers expect brands to stop advertising, with only 8 percent of respondents identifying it as a priority for brands. For their part, “many brands consider ‘going dark’ as a way to save costs” and Kantar estimates that a six-month absence from television will result in a 39 percent reduction in total brand communication awareness, “potentially delaying recovery in the post-pandemic world.”

A majority of consumers expect advertising to make a positive contribution to society and 77 percent of respondents said they would want to see communication “talk about how the brand is helpful in the new everyday life.” Similarly, 75 percent of surveyed expect brands to “inform about their efforts to face the situation” and 70 percent to be offered “a reassuring tone.”

Pitfalls to avoid? 75 percent “should not exploit the coronavirus situation to promote the brand” and 40 percent should avoid “humorous tones.”