Medialab COVID Insights | 12.05.20

The scale of upheaval has been huge. Almost 25% of the UK workforce is furloughed (HMRC), and it’s near impossible to even comprehend the scale and future implications this virus will have across all areas of life. We heard from the Government this weekend just gone, about easing of some of the lockdown restrictions, which feels like a positive step in the right direction. We’ve observed 7 marketing behaviours that should be considered in adjusting to the current upheaval, and planning for the next phase of recovery.

Adjust to now.

Take advantage of the media market

The Guardian reported that ITV advertising revenue was down by 42% in April. And yet audience numbers are at unprecedented levels. Our guidance from our last COVID tracker remains. This is the biggest change to the TV marketplace in 40 years in viewing, volume and price. And media channels are helping. For example, Sky Media has launched the SME100, a scheme that will provide £1m of free advertising via AdSmart, Sky’s addressable TV platform, to 100 small and medium-sized enterprises across the UK.

Solve as well as sell

We have seen ample evidence of this from the supermarkets. Many other organisations are finding ingenious ways of helping their customers and supporters. A particularly poignant recent example of this is the National Trust campaign, #blossomwatch, which encourages people to take pictures of the blossom and share it on social media, helping others see the joy of blossom even if they can’t get outside to see it themselves.

Give support and ask for support

The crisis continues to take a toll on our mental wellbeing. A fifth of Britons say they are living alone during lockdown. So show support for your communities. For the people staffing your warehouses and distribution centres. Test asking for support at this crucial time. For example, the British Red Cross campaign, #Powerofkindness, launched through all TV news programming across C4 and Sky news for 2 weeks, and recently on key DOOH landmark sites. As a result, almost 80,000 people have signed up as British Red Cross volunteers to help and support the vulnerable.

Test substitution to online

In terms of the shift to online, recent weeks have seen a period of enormous acceleration. Research published by Kantar showed that online sales now account for 10.2 per cent of the grocery market. Zoom, globally, now has 300m daily average users, up 100m in a month. Netflix, globally, has added 16m subscribers. Twitter average daily users reached 166 million in Q1, up 24% YOY, as people seek to keep up with the news. It’s impossible to ignore, and foolish to try and avoid.

Plan for next.

Prepare for the changes that stick

The public are looking forward to seeing family members again in person and a clear majority are comfortable doing so. However, there is unease at other consequences of the lockdown ending. In particular, clear majorities of Britons are nervous about using public transport again or going to bars, restaurants or live music and sporting events. Once the crisis is over, the context will change. Brands will enter a much-altered environment as lockdown begins to ease, with the potential of a cultural explosion and busy calendar making it much more difficult for brands to cut through the noise.

Prepare for what people are looking forward to

There is a range of pent-up behaviours waiting to be unleashed, from eating out, shopping for non-essentials and getting outdoors more freely. The much longed-for haircut, beauty salon visit ranks high, as does holidaying in the UK. How can you maintain relevance when people return to the offline world?

Prepare for a more permanent shift to online

The way we interact with loved ones, do our work, and spend our free time has changed rapidly. These changes have accelerated our adoption of digital technologies like Zoom, online shopping and TV subscription services.  Through the COVID-19 recovery, too, digital will play a central role. Which of our lockdown habits will we keep and how much of our old life will we re-introduce?  How will the economy lurch back to life and what impact will this have on our travel, socialising and purchasing?  Analysing these demand signals in real time and adapting quickly will be essential for companies to successfully navigate the recovery.