Strategy & Insight

The Importance of Brand Activity During Uncertain Times

In this month’s blog, Matt Millin-Brawn, Splash’s Head of Strategy, Data and Effectiveness highlights the importance of brand activity during uncertain times.

We know that marketing and production are often the first things to be cut due to economic uncertainty and that with the current circumstances with social distancing and enforced lockdowns happening globally, it might seem the logical step in tightening budgets in the short-term. However, data from the likes of Kantar, Millward Brown, Global Web Index and many others demonstrates a direct relation in cutting marketing budgets now with a longer term detrimental effect on your brand engagement and potentially, sales. 

Whilst some brands are reducing spend and activity in the short-term, those such as Pizza Hut and P&G are focusing on their longer term campaign strategy. With more people at home, audience’s media consumption has significantly increased across the majority of channels, providing an opportunity to create more cost effective marketing – a bigger voice in a smaller market. 

It is vital however that brands are hyper-aware of the current context. Research shows that consumers believe brands should move away from traditional D2C marketing and be demonstrating broader thinking, highlighting how they are supporting employees, pivoting to support wider causes and focusing on brand purpose and values. 

Over the last 20 years, advertising has typically created marketing that appeals to the ‘left-brain’ of consumers. As their viewing behaviours and media consumption habits have changed, so has adland’s outputs, broadly focusing on fast paced, goal and value driven ads, with arguably less importance placed on the human elements such as humour and empathy. 

But as outlined in Lemon (IPA 2019) this type of advertising has a negative impact on building relationships with consumers. 

Now then, is the time to reevaluate this, showing your brand’s empathy through local and culturally relevant advertising, moving away from promoting products to promoting people, whether that be colleagues or consumers. Recent research from System1, tested 100 ads that first aired before the outbreak of COVID-19 shows that on the whole “ads were connecting just as well today as they were before,” but there were interesting findings. Ads that featured product and message driven ads performed less well against more emotive ads.

The context

According to recent research from The Drum, almost 50% of businesses have noted their sales have already been significantly or severely impacted by the outbreak of coronavirus. However, only 7% said they had stopped spending on advertising completely. 

 people crossing on pedestrian lane during daytime

Short-term solutions impact longer term performance. 

Research from Millward Brown demonstrates that cutting media and advertising spend during such uncertain times has a direct correlation to the level of ‘bonding’, an aggregate measure of multiple brand-consumer relationship metrics. This can then subsequently be directly correlated to a decline in market share over time. 

Audiences are online more than ever

Recent research by Global Web Index shows that across the board, audiences are spending more time online, engaging in a variety of online behaviours where brand activity can be targeted. 

Kantar’s research also demonstrates a sharp increase in media usage across the board. With web browsing increasing by 70%, followed by (traditional) TV viewing increasing by 63% and social media engagement increasing by 61% over normal usage rates.

Brand advertising is polarising, but there is still consumer optimism

Additional research from GWI asked if brands should carry on advertising as normal. Just over a third of participants agree, just over a quarter disagree, however employing more tactical opportunities around pivoting and diversification are seeing positive consumer reaction.

Similarly to Millward Brown research already mentioned, Kantar estimate that a six-month absence of advertising from TV will result in a 39% reduction in total brand communication awareness, potentially delaying brand recovery in the post-pandemic world.

If you need help or advice with your brand and marketing activity, contact Splash – we would be happy to help

Matt Millin-Brawn
Head of Strategy, Data and Effectiveness