How is COVID-19 affecting American priorities and perceptions? We found out at our PRSA-SV #FridayForum featuring Andrea “Andy” Coville, author and CEO of global communications firm Brodeur Partners. Andy specializes in helping organizations achieve relevance – an elevated brand state that fully engages the market’s emotions, senses and community-minded impulses.
Andy discussed the results of research from Brodeur’s latest Relevance survey, “Growing Uncertainty: The serious toll that COVID-19, racial strife and political divide is having on all Americans.” The survey compared benchmarks from similar Brodeur studies in 2012, 2014 and 2016. Among other findings, the poll of 1,250 US citizens, from Gen Zers to Boomers, revealed a longing for kindness, honesty and optimism to address challenges of 2020 and beyond.
“Our data shows that the pandemic is generating considerable social and economic strain, exacerbated by an uncertainty on who to trust and where to go to get reliable information. Some fear for their personal safety. Others feel ignored, deceived or deprived of economic opportunity. People seek waypoints from trusted sources and organizations, which is why companies and organizations have an opportunity to lead the communities they serve,” said Andy.
Authentic communications, more than ever, continues to play a critical role. Here are 11 key takeaways we learned during our conversation:
- Americans place an increased emphasis on safety, mental/physical health, personal finances and friends/family. Older generations focus on family and health, while younger generations focus on finance and career.
- Since the pandemic outbreak, 50% of Americans report that finding reliable and accurate information is elusive. In this era of “fake news,” a majority of Gen Z get all or most of their news from social media – most notably from Facebook.
- Nearly half of respondents (42%) say they share political, cultural and social values with most of their friends, up significantly (26%) from 2016.
- The pandemic is prompting people to consolidate around ideological tribes. Tribes form around views and preferences – especially among Millennials.
- The pandemic also appears to have helped fuel a growing civility crisis, something that likely contributes to people’s challenge finding reliable, trustworthy information and sources.
- Looking at consumer loyalty, food and drink is the leading category people are most devoted to.
- For brands to connect with Gen Z, going green, having strong values and focusing on social justice are important for purchase consideration and brand loyalty.
- While people are preoccupied with saving money, charitable giving is happening. Over the past 12 months, the top four areas of donations were to human services/community programs (25%), health (23%), environment/animal welfare (15%) and education (12%).
- Nearly 1 in 5 respondents has lost or severed a relationship at least once in the last month because of an online dispute.
- Nearly 1 in 4 believe they’ve been “labeled a certain type of person” or experienced discrimination for their views.
- A silver lining: happiness seems to rise with age, with 31% of Gen Z and 60% of the “silent generation” ranked as being both happy and fulfilled.
In a year like 2020, it’s good to know that silver linings do exist. The Brodeur findings identify an opportunity for brands to become a “trusted voice” and “trusted source.”
“The world has changed a lot since first formulating our Relevance methodology – even more so in the last eight months. It is more important than ever that brands, institutions, and leaders are in tune with how Americans’ priorities are shifting and how the trends illuminated in our Relevance model may indicate meaningful behavioral shifts that are here to stay,” said Andy.