According to the agency’s head of strategy Ryan McFadyen, the overall expectation of the 780 respondents to the survey is that brands should be active and should be useful, whether to them, the actual consumer or the general public by large.

Furthermore, 37% spontaneously stated they wanted brands to continue advertising or being active in their lives, while only 8% felt the other way. 

"More respondents were in favour of brands being in their lives than keeping quiet. They added that this communication should shift to those channels where they’re spending more time — for some this was in the traditional media but, for many more, it was social and online media," says McFadyen.

"Those who said brands should not be advertising suggested marketing or advertising budgets should be spent helping consumers either through cheaper product offerings or by launching programmes that support South Africans' efforts to remain safe from infection," McFadyen adds.

The study also highlighted that consumers are holding brands to the highest possible standards during the pandemic. This may be more so than what is financially possible but consumers do expect these brands to behave with a responsible 'humanity first' approach.

"Some consumers spoke of brands first protecting their own staff and saving jobs within their companies, being transparent and clear in how they have been impacted and explaining measures they would be taking," says McFadyen.

Respondents mentioned which brands they felt were behaving responsibly. The 14 brands with the most spontaneous mentions included:
  • Pick n Pay
  • Woolworths
  • Checkers
  • Spar
  • Shoprite
  • Nando’s
  • Dettol
  • Vodacom
  • Dischem
  • Lifebuoy
  • Coca-Cola
  • Old Mutual
  • Tiger Brands, and
  • Discovery.
McFadyen adds that the pandemic and the measures put in place to curb its spread, such as lockdown, are already influencing consumer behaviour and perceptions. This will have a profound impact on how brands behave post-COVID-19.

"Consumers have had to alter their lifestyle, change their behaviours and find new ways to purchase. They have been pushed into a zone of experimentation based on new 'need-and-want' parameter and these changes are impacting how consumers are benchmarking value," says McFadyen.

"It is still unclear if this will create permanent change, or a fast swing back to old norms or something in the middle; but what is clear is that brand choice is undergoing forced shifts," he says.

According to the study, half of consumers are spending less money because they have both fewer opportunities to spend, as well as the need to save money due to reduced income.

However, the study also indicates that lower-income levels had to spend more money at the start of lockdown, with the majority of this spend being on food groceries (88%), household essentials (59%), medical supplies (33%) and entertainment / internet (32%). Further, 'Corona Fatigue' is starting to set in and it is very difficult to escape.

This, therefore, will become a big driver for consumers and they will look for brands who can facilitate escaping the overwhelming stress and threat of COVID-19 to being able to think, do, believe and engage with what life used to be, what life could be or what life would never be, according to the study.

McFadyen's advice for brand owners is that it is more critical than ever for brands to have a very clear understanding of the role they play within their consumer's lives.

As such, he says they should develop clear answers to four specific questions. These are:
  1. As a brand, what do we believe gives us a distinctive viewpoint about the world and our place therein?
  2. What do we sell? Clearly articulated and simple to understand.
  3. What do we do? Our role within the world, linked to our product and the needs of our audience.
  4. How do we do it? In a way that is authentic to our distinctive viewpoint and done in a way in which only we could do it.
"Brands need to gain a clear understanding of their audience. The COVID-19 crisis will inevitably change the world in which we function and so the insights around your audience prior to the pandemic will have changed significantly. Efforts spent to uncover these insights will be invaluable as a simple insight may be the difference between success or failure," says McFadyen.

"Consumers don't want to be a part of your story; you need to become a part of theirs. Build work that matters, is authentic to the brand and that creates real-world impact in order to reap long-term rewards," he adds.

Individuals who would like to see a full copy of the report can contact [email protected]

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