Study Says Brands Prioritizing Profits During Pandemic May Alienate Customers

A new study conducted by Edelman on the role brands are expected to play during the coronavirus pandemic reveals a factoid that many small brands grasped at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis: If consumers perceive that a brand is putting profit over people, “they will lose trust in that brand forever.”

Seventy-one percent of the study’s 12,000 respondents, which spanned Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, South Africa, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States, agreed with that statement. And the report further revealed that 62% of respondents said that their country will not make it through this crisis without brands “playing a critical role in addressing the challenges.” Fifty-five percent of those polled also said that brands and companies are responding more quickly and effectively than government.

To that end, 90% of respondents said they “want brands to do everything they can to protect the well-being and financial security of their employees and suppliers, even if it means substantial financial losses until the pandemic ends.” That could mean taking on the burdens of continuing payroll even with stores closed, shifting manufacturing to helping produce health care products, discounting food and essential supplies, etc. Respondents also want brands to partner with governments (90%) and act as a safety net to fill gaps in the government’s response to the virus (86%).

What they don’t want to see is the naked, outright selling of products on social media and other platforms.

Eighty-four percent of respondents said they want brand advertising to “focus on how brands help people cope with pandemic-related life challenges”; 77% said they want brands “only to speak about products in ways that show they are aware of the crisis and the impact on people’s lives”; 78% rated medical doctors as credible spokespeople for the brand’s virus-related actions. Celebrities (26%) and influencers (28%) have plummeted in popularity as spokespeople during the pandemic. 

More than half of the respondents (57%) want brands to “stop any advertising or marketing that is humorous or lighthearted.” And 54% percent said they are not paying attention to new products at present unless they are designed to help with their pandemic-related life challenges.

Lastly, 85% respondents said they want brands to use their power to educate, including offering instructional information on how to protect themselves.

(Photo: Pexels)

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