Brands walking a tightrope over coronavirus marketing

KFC_2Brand owners are facing a difficult balancing act in responding to the coronavirus pandemic, with a new analysis suggesting that those who get their communications wrong could live to regret it for years.

With an increasing number of industries and companies affected by the outbreak, businesses may be working hard to communicate effectively with their target audiences but many appear to be struggling to get it right.

According to a consumer study, commissioned by Unhooked Communications among 2,000 people, a third (32%) of Brits feel they have received either “too much” or “far too much” content and information from businesses relating to coronavirus.

Just under a quarter (23%) find the level of communications from businesses “overwhelming”; a fifth say it is “worrying”, and one in ten are annoyed by businesses contacting them in the current climate; the same proportion say they are now boycotting a business because of the content or information they have shared.

Men are more likely to stop giving businesses their custom than women, with 14% saying they would boycotted in response to coronavirus comms, compared to 9% of women.

People aged between 25 and 34 are the most unforgiving (20%), followed by 35- to 44-year-olds (19%) and 18- to 24-year-olds (14%). Those aged 55 and over are least bothered (5%), followed by just under one in ten (9%) of 45- to 54-year-olds.

Perhaps more worrying for brands is that over a quarter (28%) of consumers say they have received Covid-19 emails from businesses they do not even remember signing up for or have not heard from in a long time, raising questions about whether businesses are complying to GDPR legislation in a bid to reconnect with their databases.

However, in a sign that all is not lost, the majority of consumers (61%) thought businesses were getting the level of Covid-19 comms right; 28% said they were thankful for businesses’ content, and nearly a quarter (24%) said they had been left feeling positive.

Meanwhile, over a third (36%) have seen organisations sharing useful information, and nearly a quarter (23%) have seen businesses sharing thoughtful or good news, which made them feel better about the current situation.

Unhooked Communications managing director Claire Gamble said: “A lot of businesses are understandably looking at how they’re communicating with their customers during the crisis. But while consumers are responding positively to those who take the time to get their approach right, businesses that have a knee-jerk reaction are finding themselves in the spotlight for the wrong reasons.

“It’s great to see that helpful content and good news is helping people to feel more positive in these uncertain times. But there’s a risk that some businesses could be contributing to the panic and uncertainty. With 24/7 rolling news, social media and the situation changing constantly, businesses need to consider whether they really need to add to the noise out there.

“Before sending out comms, businesses should assess their operations first and make sure they’re doing everything they possibly can to protect and support their employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. If they don’t, any communications they send out – even with the best of intentions – could backfire. If they do have relevant and necessary information to send out, they need to consider what and how they communicate this.”

Last month, KFC was forced to pull its “Finger Lickin’ Good” campaign (pictured) after a flood of consumer complaints that the ads encouraged behaviour which went against Government advice. Cadbury followed suit by axing an Easter egg TV ad showing a granddad hugging his grandkids – a practice which breaches social distancing rules.

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