People think they’ll lose their jobs and are struggling with mental health – our marketing messages have to reflect that

Josh Manning's data shows that Australians are worried about losing their jobs and getting paid, and struggling to connect and manage their mental health. Marketers need to understand these motivators, and shape their messages accordingly.

In these challenging times, mass expressions of empathy will only go so far. As marketers, to make a real impact for our brands and our customers, we need to pull on more substantial levers of change, such as price, distribution and product innovation.

In the short, medium, and long term, we need to be thinking about COVID-19 in three phrases: the crisis, the recovery, and the new normal.

To dig in to what Australians are thinking, and therefore what marketers need to be doing, we went to a significant sample size of Australians – 500 – to bring you the current state of confidence, lifestyle and consumer behaviour, and insights for marketers across a range of categories.

Let’s get to the data.

Low confidence and reversion to base needs

It is no secret that confidence is extremely low. Less than half of Australians are confident they’ll be in a job and earning next month and there are similar levels of confidence in the government’s response. This is despite significant rises across both these areas over the last week, likely driven by the announcement of the Jobseeker package and progressively stricter self-isolation measures.

With low confidence comes a focus on base needs. Any attempts to play in more aspirational areas, such as self-esteem and self-actualisation, run the risk of appearing tone deaf. Consumers are more concerned with physical safety, financial security, and maintaining human connection and happiness. As marketers we must shift our focus to ensure we are addressing these needs.

How confident are you that you will be earning and in a job next month? Source: VCCP Coronavirus Confidence Tracker of Australians, week commencing March 30, 2020, n=500. Base: Australians aged 18+.

We’re beyond the pandemic basics

If close proximity to others and hygiene are relevant to your category, encouraging social distancing and hand washing would have been appropriate in the early stages of the pandemic. However, these are now almost automatic, with the majority washing their hands more frequently, avoiding leaving the house, and avoiding public spaces.

And, we are going to be in this for quite some time. It has just been announced that lockdown police powers in New South Wales will last for at least 90 days, and according to our data, 65% of Australians believe that things will not get back to normal for at least four months. If brands are to continue communicating and responding meaningfully, they need to move beyond pandemic basics and look to play a role in alleviating the negative effects COVID-19 is going to have on people’s lives over the coming months.

How soon will things go back to normal? Source:VCCP Coronavirus Confidence Tracker of Australians, week commencing March 30, 2020, n=500. Base: Australians aged 18+

Struggling to connect

Brands can have a big impact when behaviour is yet to catch up with inconvenience. For example, there is an opportunity to counter the effects of self-isolation, with over 70% of people reporting that their ability to connect with friends has been negatively impacted.

Despite this considerable inconvenience, less than half of all people have started using video calling more often. Herein lies an opportunity for the digital platforms that offer these services, or brands whose positioning is grounded in human connection, to help people find better ways to connect.

Impact on ability to spend time with friends. Source: VCCP Coronavirus Confidence Tracker of Australians, week commencing March 30, 2020, n=500. Base: Australians aged 18+

Changed behaviours may accelerate the need for digital transformation

Continuing with digital behaviour, nearly a third of Australians are using online banking and looking to shop online more often. The largest changes are with older millennials and Gen X, as would be expected, but the trend is across the board.

For retailers behind with their online shopping experience, this spells bad news – or at least acts as a kick up the proverbial to build better online experience. Banks lagging behind could see customers switching in the short-term.

With almost a third of over-60s reporting using online banking more often, it is also possible that the crisis could accelerate adoption of digital banking behaviours and the demise of branches, with digitally enhanced banks stealing market share from those more branch dependent.

Maintaining health is a challenge, especially among essential workers

It is no surprise the crisis is having an impact on Australians’ mental health. 46% report being negatively impacted. This alone is concerning, but there is a disproportionate effect on essential workers – those not currently working from home more – with 54% of this group reporting a negative impact on mental health versus 41% of those working from home more.

Essential workers are also more likely to report a negative impact on their ability to perform their job and spend time with family. One can hypothesise that these factors are all connected. For companies that employ essential workers – such as supermarkets, retailers, and medical services – there is an opportunity to alleviate these stresses through employee wellbeing programs.

And, while the thank you messages are heart-warming, brands with a positioning grounded in generosity or happiness could be looking at more lasting ways to positively impact the mental health of these workers.

Impact on mental health of workers. Source: VCCP Coronavirus Confidence Tracker of Australians, week commencing March 30, 2020, n=269. Base: Australian workers aged 18+

Josh Manning is a planner at VCCP


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