What’s going on inside the heads of consumers right now?
The following is a summary of an article published with the permission of CO—, a publication of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Tone-deaf marketing messages that fail to read the room — like a wool-themed fashion email blast hitting inboxes during a September heat wave — will fall flat no matter the socio-economic climate.
During a global health and financial-solvency crisis like COVID-19, however, they will sound like nails on a chalkboard to consumers, threatening to imperil a company’s brand equity long after the dark days have passed.
While the coronavirus and a world placed on a pandemic-imposed pause feels unprecedented in its direness and global impact, the consumer mindset during times of great crisis tends to follow a pattern, Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist and author, who’s counted brands from GE and Del Monte to Westfield malls among her clients, told CO—. “Everybody is going through the [buying] decision-making process with another layer of emotionality,” she said. So, “they’re more irrational than ever before.”
To meet consumers in the current moment, retailers and brands from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies face the tricky-yet-necessary task of being of service without being self-serving; replacing pure selling with meaningful, other-oriented storytelling; and rather than touting their generosity of spirit, demonstrating it, Dr. Yarrow said.
What’s more, businesses that recognize that connectedness is “a human imperative” and adapt accordingly, will strike a more resonant chord with consumers and stoke their loyalty long term, she said.
In the grips of this crisis, a shift appears to be occurring in the consumers’ collective psyche, Dr. Yarrow said. They’re pivoting away from worshiping false gods.
“We have a big, huge shift away from [exalting] phony actors and authorities, and towards those around us — the truck drivers, teachers, nurses, employees showing up to work,” she said “Suddenly, our interest [has shifted] from what these superficial big shots are doing to the people around us making our lives and businesses [better].”
Now is the time for companies to champion their employee heroes, she said, and an easy way to do so is to spotlight and celebrate workers on social media. “Here’s Bob delivering your groceries, here’s Nancy in pediatrics working in the hospital — she’s showing up for us … while the rest of us are quarantining ourselves,” she said.
Sam’s Club is doing that with a new commercial showing employees stocking shelves, disinfecting cart handles and loading orders into cars while calling out workers by name and store location to thank them as “The Weight” by The Band plays on.
“They are our frontline army,” Dr. Yarrow said. “They are our heroes.”
- A Consumer Psychologist Details What Businesses Need to Know During COVID-19 – CO—
- Sam’s Club – Thank You All –YouTube
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think is going on in the minds of consumers right now? What does that mean for how retailers communicate with consumers through various media and in person?