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A reset to positivity and relevance

  • Date:

    18 September 2020

A reset to positivity and relevance

COVID-19 may represent the biggest full-stop in consumer behaviour, but brands that recognise the impact of positivity and relevance on consumer behaviour are the ones that will grow.”

Sue Todd, CEO, Magnetic

The impact of COVID-19 has affected everyone and every corner of society. Some effects may not be visible for years and, of course, we don’t know the end to this particular story yet as we hit the autumn and more local lockdowns.

But many things are also clear, and one is that the pandemic represents the biggest full-stop in the history of consumer behaviour and  brands that are recovering will be those that are focussed on relevance and positivity.

Much has been written elsewhere about the need to focus on brand marketing during this period as companies looks to drive sales and recover volume or market share where it’s been affected by the past six months extraordinary circumstances. Kantar’s ongoing BrandZ research between May 2019 and May 2020 shows that the stronger the brand, the more insulated it is against losses.

And increasingly, says Kantar, consumers want brands to help guide the way forward by being informative, helpful, optimistic and reassuring. Better still, they’re happy to hear from brands, with 78% saying brands should talk about how they help everyday life and 71% wishing to be informed about brands’ coronavirus efforts.

In other words, they need to demonstrate both relevance and positivity.  

Planning for relevance and positivity

Why do relevance and positivity matter?

Let’s start with relevance: clearly, when consumers are behaving in ways they have never done before, brands have to acknowledge this. They cannot carry on as they did before and, as Mike Florence, CSO at PHD says, good advice is “to forget everything you think you know about people. And don’t think of just updating the old plan.”

We are, for example, consuming more media than ever before — time spent watching TV is up 13%, social media plus 20% and magazine online reach is up 7% (Touchpoints).

Some need states are heightened so learning what matters to consumers now is important. Person-to-person connectivity, for example, is of course down as we spend on average 56 minutes more time alone every day (Touchpoints). And one in three adults say they are spending more time searching for entertainment (PHD Rhythms Survey). 

We’re also likely to be open to new experiences and brands. Media strategist-turned-behavioural-scientist Richard Shotton says that people who have recently experienced a life-changing experience are 2.5 times more likely to try new brands. In normal times this means events like getting married, becoming a parent or moving house, but what is COVID-19 if not a life-changing experience?

If relevance is partly about acknowledging how things have changed, it’s also about being sensitive to and empathetic with consumer concerns — “understanding the new tensions in consumer lives and society”, as Kantar puts it.

KFC, for example, was quick to drop “finger-licking” imagery and replace it with UGC from consumers trying to make their own KFC buckets.

And it is equally clear, after months of being in and under threat of going back into lockdown, consumers will welcome some positivity in their lives, and expect brands to provide some of it.

Positivity and consumer receptiveness to advertising is closely linked. Hearst research shows that this with a positive mindset show an 18% increase in brand favourability and a 35% increase in purchase intent. And nine out of ten positive people are more likely to try something new.

Magazine media

At this point, let’s talk about magazine media and its relevance. Magazine media readers self-select, often by their passions, interests and hobbies. According to PAMCO, 89% say time spent reading magazine media is well spent.

Read any magazine and you will see that many of the ads are closely related to the content. Think fashion, film, travel, health and fitness or cooking. Think of the importance of context. Magazine media is an optimistic environment.

Put the two together and it is no surprise, as our Attention Please research shows, that magazines score highest among all media for relevance of ads driving a positive perception. As Florence says, “ads can be like editorial in magazines.”

But as Florence told viewers to our recent webinar with PHD and Kantar, planning for relevance and positivity also highlights two other important considerations: attention and quality.

First, there’s a growing body of evidence, including from Carat, showing that attention has a clear bearing on business outcomes; and second, via research from the IAB and Lumen, showing how quality content boosts attention: 20-25% higher for premium content websites than for standard content sites, and more than double that for task-focused websites.

What’s more, Touchpoints and last week’s PAMCo releases both demonstrate just how well the magazine sector itself managed to increase relevance during this time. Demand for magazine content grew significantly year on year, with notable increases in consumers accessing magazine content via smart phones (PAMCo), 15-24s reading magazines in print or online up from 22% to 27%, and time spent reading magazine content also up from 44 minutes per day to 56 minutes (Touchpoints).

There’s more on the latest analysis of PAMCo on Mediatel and Campaign.

Reset mantra

If your brand or client is therefore undergoing or seeking a reset, let’s leave you with the key points from Florence’s Planning for Positivity.

  • Acknowledge consumers have changed and, in some areas, will not return to their old ways. Be clear what has changed and what has not. Think about their emotional needs.
  • Move quickly and, if appropriate, be prepared to test and learn.
  • Help consumers feel more positive and optimistic.
  • Be relevant and authentic — stay true to your brand principles.
  • Think about context, quality and attention in your choice of media channels.
  • And remember that relevance and positivity in commercial messaging and stance will be the key drivers of a brand’s recovery.

We’ll be sharing a number of short pieces on here that look at relevance and the role of magazine media in helping brands, starting with this from Mike Florence, CSO at PHD.

It’s a time that is both challenging and exciting. Good luck.