Consumer Insights | Untitled-13 5 min read

How brands are uncovering media opportunities during COVID-19

by Bench March 31, 2020

In these uncertain times where confusion and disruption have become part of the daily routine, where breaking news bulletins dominate the mobile feed and ‘downturn’ and ‘recession’ seem to intersperse every conversation, it is hardly surprising that many businesses are suddenly unsure of their long term future.

There’s a new C word in town that’s changing behaviours and altering consumption leaving a stream of destruction across every industry in its wake. The media landscape has radically changed for both advertisers and consumers, but the human spirit prevails. In choppy waters also lies our responsibility as marketers to understand what the opportunities are and whether we can in fact realise their potential.

Here’s how:

Be resourceful

We are under no illusion that there will be difficult times ahead for us all.

Behaviours are changing in line with environmental factors, new habits are forming and consumers are feeling the economic pinch. But as previous downturns have demonstrated, such circumstances also promote resourceful thinking and creativity. This is not the time to discard the marketing budget for a short-term fix and simply run for the hills. The businesses that go on to subsequently thrive in the longer term are the ones that can accommodate and adapt, revise and adjust. Maintaining a share of voice during this tumultuous period will be crucial to survival – even if that means switching tone to a promotional message or simply reinforcing brand values. Consistent consumer communication is the key that will see you through and safely out the other side.

Stay the course

During the 1920’s depression, Kelloggs the onetime cereal underdog, not only spied an opportunity to double their ad spend but to also launch a new brand. This creative thinking resulted in a 30% upturn in profits – and the rest is cereal history. Similarly Pizza Hut and Taco Bell optimised on a fall in McDonald’s marketing spend during the 1990 downturn. As a result, Pizza Hut increased sales by 61%, Taco Bell sales grew by 40% and McDonald’s sales declined by 28%. Amazon sales also benefited by a huge 28% during the 2009 recession. Instead of cutting back during the economic turmoil, they continued to innovate with new products that helped increase their market share as well as reinforce their brand image. On Christmas Day 2009, Amazon customers bought more e-books than printed books, setting an unprecedented record. 

New media opportunities

As the environment adapts and responds, so too do behaviours and habits. With restrictions in place on our usual lifestyle activities, the least affected channels are proving to be online, social and TV – with some channels already seeing a huge upturn in viewing statistics. This immediately presents new and creative opportunities. Rather than cutting the budget and brands disappearing off into the ether, there is opportunity here to maintain a share of voice and provide reassurance and familiarity in an uncertain world; to harness the changing environment and track the channel trends.

BVOD

With more and more consumers now working from home, BVOD is up 68% YoY, with Foxtel reporting a recent WoW growth of 39.4% followed closely by ABC (+19.2%), SBS (+15.1%) and Nine (+12%). 7Plus have recorded their highest ever March BVOD figures, as did 10Play with the biggest YoY market lift of 75%. 

As audiences seek information, SBS World news streams have seen a YoY upsurge of 230% including 27% unique visitors, with 9News seeing a 62% uplift in minutage.

Audio

Benefitting from at-home workers, this market has seen a 43% increase in at-home smart-speaker streaming, as well as a 41% increase in listening hours over the past six weeks. As digital radio provides a source of comfort and familiarity, catch-up downloads have increased 54% on the previous 30 days.

Online

As well as news items driving greater traffic, there is an uptake in other categories such as health, cooking, entertainment and finance resulting in 15% increase in desktop inventory. Facebook is up 245% in new users with apps and gaming sites usage rising by 155% as it becomes more mainstream.

DOOH

Footfall patterns have centralised around shopping areas as consumers access supermarkets, chemists, doctors and shops. This is 38% higher than would normally be seen the week before Christmas – with further increases forecast.

Brand connections

We customers are actually more adaptable than you might think. As humans we are programmed to seek connections with each other, to establish patterns of behaviour and to seek comfort and support. There is reassurance in our innate ability as a world community to innovate and thrive, to stay connected no matter the circumstances. The brand allegiances we have formed are extensions of our personalities, an expression of self that come bound in emotional connections. In times of crisis we lean in on those pillars and they help prop up an unfamiliar world. This is not a time for our favourite brands to simply disappear. We need them to stick with us, to keep talking to us so that we both emerge on the other side with even deeper-rooted emotional connections and relationships. 

Stand with your customers

Marketing Week’s Mark Ritson reminds us of the benefits of brands sticking it out, exemplifying their marketed values and walking the walk alongside us. With Prada and Zara making facemasks and H&M producing protective hospital equipment, the contribution these brands make in time of need is embedded in our hearts and minds – and is not something that is quickly forgotten. 

While it continues to be tough out there, your customers have not disappeared. The responsibility is firmly upon us to find new ways of delivering value to them when they need it most.