11 Things to Know About COVID-19 and Your Brand in Early April

  • Categories:

    COVID-19 Response

  • Date:

    April 2, 2020

11 Things to Know About COVID-19 and Your Brand in Early April

COVID-19 Response

Since the World Health Organization classified the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic on March 11, the coronavirus has triggered massive effects on the global economy and businesses of all shapes and sizes. As the situation evolves week to week, Wray Ward will continue to publish timely information, trends and advice that can help you examine and manage your marketing activities.*

1. E-commerce sales continue to grow both overall and in the home category.

Online retail is up across most categories including home furnishing and supplies according to Attentive, a personalized mobile messaging platform that works with many of the world’s top online retailers. Meanwhile, both Lowe’s Home Improvement and Home Depot are reporting strong online sales.

2. The media landscape remains strong.

According to Kantar, media usage is surging in respect to every channel you can consume in your home:

  • Web browsing: +70%
  • TV viewing: +63%
  • Social media engagement: +61%

Linear TV is reporting viewership gains across dayparts:

  • ABC delivered +80% median TV impressions week over week in the early morning daypart.
  • Fox News delivered +20% median ad impressions week over week in its overnight daypart.
  • CNN’s early fringe median ad impressions were +25% week over week.
  • HGTV’s median ad impressions were +19% week over week in early fringe.
  • Food Network’s daytime median ad impressions were +21% week over week during daytime.
  • Telemundo’s early morning median daypart ad impressions were +18%.

While COVID-19 remains the top story, consumers have heightened interest around correlated topics such as organizing your home, DIY, keeping calm, feeling better, cooking and perfecting your home office — all pertinent for the home category.

Meredith shared with us some of the traffic gains they are seeing across their titles:

  • HEALTH (+31%) and SHAPE (+19%) saw year-over-year increases in March traffic from consumers trying to stay well and stay calm.
  • Travel & Leisure’s traffic (+4M) and views (1.2M) are surging, with people flocking to smart, timely escapism content such as virtual tours and online exhibits from the world’s most famous museums.

Consumers also remain receptive to advertising. In fact, a Kantar global consumer study found that only 8% of consumers believe brands should stop advertising in the wake of COVID-19.

3. Rather than go dark, carefully consider and adjust your advertising and marketing strategy as needed.

Resist the urge to retreat. Instead, proceed in the context of what’s happening in the world. As the effects of COVID-19 continue to swell, about 75% of consumers expect brands to show a commitment to helping them manage life during the pandemic. You may need to shift your focus, messaging and tone.

According to Kantar:

  • 77% of respondents expect their brands to be helpful in what has become “the new everyday life.”
  • 75% of respondents feel that brands should be informing the public about their efforts to combat the situation.
  • 75% said it’s wrong to exploit the crisis to promote a brand.
  • 70% said brands should adopt a more reassuring tone.

4. The pandemic is contributing to some interesting trends in social media.

How are you approaching your social media strategy right now? We’re seeing interesting trends.

For example, celebrities and influencers that typically post on Instagram are experimenting with TikTok, using their unexpected downtime to learn a new platform and keep audiences engaged. This is causing a slow migration of more millennials and Gen Xers to TikTok, joining Gen Zers.

In addition, people are turning to Pinterest for ideas to support their new normal, and Pinterest “home” search trends since the outbreak saw a spike versus January.

Top Pinterest searches include the following:

  • Guest room to home office
  • Home office design
  • Closet organization
  • Closet design
  • Laundry room hacks
  • Mudroom design
  • Budget home office
  • Work from home

Consider how your brand can publish useful content during the pandemic. Need ideas? Think with Google Insights shared the top five types of YouTube content that audiences have gravitated toward recently:

  • Work-from-home essentials
  • “Study with me”
  • Pantry meals
  • Stress reduction
  • In-home fitness

5. The direct impact for home category brands is a tale of two extremes.

The good:

  • E-commerce continues to rise in the home sector. At Wray Ward, we have some clients experiencing their “best days ever” of on-site traffic and steady or rising sales.
  • We’re also seeing some positive indicators in DIY. For example, Lowe’s and Home Depot are seeing increased demand even in stores.
  • Americans stuck in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic aren’t just videoconferencing and binge-watching TV. Lowe’s CEO Marvin Ellison said they’re also replacing appliances and doing DIY projects. In an interview, Ellison said the home improvement retailer has seen an increase across nearly every category as customers not only stock up on cleaning supplies but fix up and maintain their homes. (CNBC)

And the not-so-good:

  • Some of our clients, like many others across all categories, are grappling with incredibly challenging business decisions.
  • Many retailers have shut their stores in lockstep with local or state shelter-in-place directives.
  • Retail giant Target is also delaying some store remodel projects and new construction in order to focus on unusually high demand for same-day services.

6. Still, much of the construction and building industry remains active.

But even these are beginning to feel the effects, especially in the hardest-hit areas:

  • The coronavirus pandemic has caused more than one out of four contractors to halt or delay work on current projects.
  • 18% have experienced project delays due to lack of government employees to issue permits, conduct inspections, etc.
  • 16% have experienced project delays due to shortages of materials, equipment or parts.
  • 22% have received supplier notification of late or canceled deliveries.
  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ruled that construction is not essential. The move effectively shut down most building work in the state as well as in New York City.
  • The Washington State DOT is suspending most state construction work for at least another week.

Sources: Associated General Contractors of America, Dodge Data, NAHB

      7. Meanwhile, consumers are hurting.

      Nearly 3.3 million people applied for unemployment benefits in a single week — the highest number of claims ever recorded. Several states attributed the uptick to layoffs in the service industry as a result of COVID-19 (U.S. Dept. of Labor).

      Concurrently, some homeowners are dialing back remodeling plans: According to Kitchen & Bath Design News (KBDN), “A growing number of kitchen and bath remodeling prospects, frightened and confused by the crisis, are reported to be temporarily postponing buying decisions while waiting for the emergency to pass. Others, with projects already in the pipeline, are witnessing disruptions in product deliveries and contractors’ services.”

      8. Instead of retreating, brands should lean into this pandemic.

      What does it all mean for your marketing communications and business strategy? Consider the following examples:

      From realigning messaging to be sensitive or directly addressing the pandemic, to offering financial support for front-line health care workers and their own employees, to rethinking their production capabilities to support the fight against an invisible enemy, brands are stepping up in different ways to serve their customers and their communities.

      Many of our clients are rethinking how they communicate with their customers — enhancing LinkedIn strategies; scheduling virtual showroom tours, product training and webinars; and utilizing even more digital communication and e-commerce tactics.

      Some home category brands are giving back. For example, Lowe’s donated $25 million to support the emerging needs of their associates, customers and communities. This includes a $10 million donation of essential protective products to keep medical professionals on the front lines of this crisis healthy and safe.

      9. During a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, patience is a virtue.

      Unfortunately, the situation may get worse before it gets better. But as Magna Global reminded us recently, “Marketers willing to hold or increase share of voice during a crisis, while competitors withdraw, can win significant market share for a relatively low investment.”

      History has shown us the benefit of responding to crises with patience. Following 9/11, many brands cut their TV spend for weeks, only to be outperformed by brands that actually grew their national TV spending during that time. Magna Global reports that some of the heavy TV ad spenders of Q4 2001 saw massive stock growth.

      On the flip side, Kantar’s COVID-19 Global Barometer Study found that a six-month absence from TV will result in a 39% reduction in total brand communication awareness. Remember, too, that while devastating, the pandemic won’t last forever. In fact, Resonate reports that Apple, one of the top retailers, has already reopened all 42 of its stores in China.

      “Whether or not consumers are in the right mindset to buy your products during a crisis, whether or not your product is even available in shops during that crisis, consumers like a brand that shares their will to resume normal life and normal business as soon as possible. Contrarian marketers willing to hold or increase share of voice during a crisis, while competitors withdraw, can win significant market share for a relatively low investment, as media costs typically slow down when demand dwindles.” –Magna Global

      10. The home category is primed for a quick comeback.

      The NAHB forecasts a Q4 rebound for the industry. This takes into account housing’s solid position coming into 2020 — enough to offset net declines for housing construction this year. Low interest rates and policy assistance for the labor market should position housing as a prime sector to help lead the economy out of widespread declines.

      Designers, too, are accustomed to working remotely and continue to do so. Kitchen & Bath Business notes that many are taking time to update their tools and inventory. If designers are a key audience for you, make sure they have your newest imagery, digital assets, and design and trend intelligence.

      11. Still, no one knows exactly how the recovery will unfold.

      The fallout from COVID-19 is certainly unprecedented. As KBDN reported, “While the COVID-19 pandemic will doubtless have a major short-term impact on housing and remodeling, as well as on the global economy, the long-term impact is nearly impossible to gauge given the unprecedented fluidity and nature of the crisis.

      “Stock market volatility, shaken consumer confidence, diminished home equity, real or threatened job layoffs and dwindling personal reserves are likely to put at least a temporary crimp on new construction, residential remodeling and new or existing home sales.”

      Will consumer shopping behavior change in the coming weeks, or even long-term? Because the current landscape is so fluid, it’s impossible to know for sure. But if consumers stop shopping in stores, the effects will be unmistakable. According to eMarketer, “If foot traffic to brick-and-mortar retailers remains nonexistent for more than four to six weeks, retailers will have a hard time remaining financially viable, and consumer preferences may well have changed enough that there is a ‘new norm’ by which more consumers do more shopping online going forward.”

      Regardless of how it continues to unfold, Wray Ward is here to help you navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and implications for your ongoing marketing communications campaigns. That may mean thinking strategically about your long game or finding creative solutions to challenges that are changing by the hour. We’re here for you and hope you’ll check back frequently as we provide updates.

      Need help navigating the current landscape and planning for the future? Email me.

      *All statistics as of March 27, 2020

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