Weekly Digital Marketing Coronavirus Update

Maria Bain

Head of Audience Intelligence

With a month of lockdown under our belts and another three weeks confirmed in the UK, the rate of change has slowed. Yet this week new trends in consumer behaviour continue to emerge as we adapt and evolve our priorities. To help your brand navigate the flux, we’ve condensed insights from the latest digital research and our licenced and propriety tools.

If you’d like bespoke research and insight into a specific topic affected by the pandemic, contact us through your account manager or at results@icrossing.co.uk.

Macro Trends: Consumer impact

Initial trends show that, as people worry more about the health of their family (88%) and the economy (84%) and even getting basic supplies, needs have become more immediate and concern about the environment is less of a priority (Source: Covid-19 tracker, JL Partners for ITV, 1st April, Harris Interactive, 31st March).

According to Harris Interactive’s Wave 1 Consumer Reactions research, 11% of consumers have reported to be less concerned with environmental issues. Sustainability may have been high on the agenda for brands across the world in 2019, but we’re hearing off-the-record that several big brands are putting their sustainability plans on hold as they focus on newer and often novel issues affecting both their business and consumers.

Digital and Media Impact

Google Trends insights and our unique access to Hearst brand content data shows a similar picture, with respective decreases in search interest around sustainability and impressions for sustainability queries.

While traffic and content visibility across Hearst properties remains strong, it’s now being monopolised by content related to COVID-19 and lockdown life. Recently, a Cosmo Facebook post on a jigsaw puzzle challenge for self-isolation performed 44 times better than the page average.

And Coronavirus related searches are becoming increasingly specific as we learn more about how the pandemic is affecting and will continue to affect our lives. Search interest for ‘Coronavirus’ peaked week commencing 15th March with a score of 100/100 but has since dropped to 58/100 week commencing 12th April.

People are now searching with more exact informational intent, with queries such as ‘reopening plan phases’, ‘when will there be a vaccine’ and ‘when will travel bans be lifted’ (Source: Google Trends).

There’s no escaping the impact of Coronavirus, and as such our inboxes are now full of emails from CEOs sharing their view of our new world. But do consumers care?

We used Brandwatch to track mentions of COVID-19 branded communication mentions in the UK from the beginning of January 2020 and found that almost 60% of mentions of email communications were seen as “irrelevant”. Just over 50% discussed them as being “insincere” and 34% said that they were plain “annoying”.

From the 44,000-mention sample of brand communications in relation to COVID-19, article and social media content were discussed and perceived as the most helpful, positive and genuine.

Purpose is key. Research by Kantar found 69% of people say brands should inform them about their efforts to face the situation (including treatment of their staff), 66% asked how brands can be more helpful in everyday life and 60% said brands should not be using COVID-19 to promote a brand. 


For new ways to share services changes caused by COVID-19 with your customers on Google and Facebook, read our latest monthly digital news digest

Ad spend and brand impact

According to eMarketer, the increase in media consumption during the pandemic may not translate to ad revenue growth. But it’s important to resist thinking in the short-term when it comes to your digital strategy and consider the longer-term impact on your share of voice (SoV) and share of market (SoM).

A recent IPA report titled ‘Adapting to New Market Realities’ concluded that “the longer-term improvement in profitability is likely to greatly outweigh the short-term reduction. If other brands are cutting budgets, the longer-term benefit of maintaining SoV at or above SoM will be even greater.”

A survey by eMarketer found that internet users in the US seem to be split equally as to whether they agree or disagree that brands should advertise as normal during the Coronavirus outbreak.

But were slightly more likely to say they thought it was “unsuitable” for a brand to advertise next to content about COVID-19, at 22%. Around one-third said it would depend on the brand. And almost half of respondents said that, of all brands, they wanted to see health and pharma-related brands advertising near coronavirus content.


How can marketers hit the right tone and support consumers during COVID-19, avoiding a virus-washing backlash? As always, the answer lies with understanding your audience’s needs, concerns and behaviours, and as these continue to change on a daily basis, digital data will help keep your finger on the pulse.

These insights won’t only allow you to strengthen relationships with current customers but build valuable new ones too.

 If you haven’t already, create and communicate a plan for this period, adapting to advertising in an economic downturn and the changes this brings to consumer spending patterns.

To find out how we can keep your organisation in touch with changing consumer patterns, and how these could help shape your digital response and recovery, contact us through your account manager or at results@icrossing.co.uk.

Weekly Positivity

We leave you on a positive note:

The absolute hero of the hour, 99-year-old army veteran Tom Moore, has become a national treasure by walking laps of his garden to raise money for the NHS. Moore had hoped to collect £1,000 in donations by doing 100 sponsored laps of his backyard before his 100th birthday (30th April). Instead, he has raised more than £27 million.

“Never in my wildest imagination did I think this would be possible," he said.

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