It’s official, Sir Martin Sorrell is out of touch; his assertion that those who say brands should spend their way through the Covid-19 downturn are talking nonsense has itself been branded nonsense by consumers.
It seems the S4 Capital chief, the biggest mouth in adland whose every utterance can be enough influence huge swathes of the marketing industry, has got it wrong this time with the majority (62%) of consumers around the world insisting brands should not be pressing pause on their advertising efforts.
Interestingly, this is even more pronounced in the hardest hit countries, and rises to nearly three quarters of consumers in the US (72%) and Italy (76%).
But the study, carried out by Publicis-owned Epsilon-Conversant and CJ Affiliate among 4,045 consumers across five regions, reinforces the view that brands are walking a tightrope to strike the right balance in their activity.
Just over half of Brits and Americans admit they have received a message they felt was inappropriate in the current climate. For example, many consumers preferred to receive messages of wellbeing and positivity (49%) from brands, although many were also still looking for discounts and offers (58%). Only 14% of consumers wanted to see product-focused content from brands at this time.
British respondents were keen for wellbeing to be at the forefront of advertising amidst an overwhelming call for messages of positive thinking (61%). In contrast, respondents from the US and Italy wanted to see ads and marketing communications around deals and discounts.
Epsilon-Conversant senior vice-president Elliott Clayton said: “Turning off paid marketing channels could lead to a decreased share of voice and the research shows that this knee-jerk reaction would be unnecessary. The majority of respondents do not think brands need to stop advertising during the outbreak. Instead, brands must align their products, services and promotions with the needs of consumers in this situation. This is a human problem that requires brands to find their human sides.
“There is opportunity but not for opportunists. Right now, brands must ask themselves, how might I be able to help or inform my customers, not just push through that sale?
“Even restaurants have used this time to offer their recipes for free over social channels to stay relevant, and as this situation continues to develop differently across the globe, brands need to be listening and responding to consumers’ varying concerns and needs. That means opening up communication channels and starting a real, honest dialogue one-to-one.”
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