Insights — Consumers Will Lead Marketers Through Turbulent Times

Consumers Will Lead Marketers Through Turbulent Times

Strategy , COVID-19 , Media Planning / April 30, 2020
Sara Wallace
Sara Wallace

Each morning the past several weeks have started the same for most of us. We climb out of bed, scroll the news websites, or turn on the TV and see how things have evolved over the few hours of sleep we got the night before. It’s a constant barrage of information and difficult to sift through alongside figuring out how to balance work, family, and your own sanity.  

During difficult times, emotions take the reins for consumers, and as their world and brand views change, yours should too.

With all of the new information reaching us each day, one thing stands steady in the stream of conversation: consumers are controlling the narrative for every industry. During difficult times, emotions take the reins for consumers, and as their world and brand views change, yours should too. The more you adapt to the consumer narrative, the higher likelihood of survival and success in a disruptive and messy landscape. 

Consider these data points when strategizing outreach to your prospects, incoming and returning students, and alumni

Traditional media is in

  • Consumers of all ages are relying on traditional forms of media (think TV, radio, newspaper) to get information and hear from brands. 37% of Americans in a recent Edelman study prefer these media for brands’ pandemic messages.   

There's a lot of noise out there

  • Increasing the volume and quality of your communications will provide your audiences a frequent outlet for information that they can trust. Be prescriptive in your communications and tell them why this information is relevant to them. As we’ve seen in our replication study, 69% of college students who say their institution’s COVID-19 communications are fair or poor have a worse opinion of the school than they did before the pandemic hit. This means effective communication is more important now than ever before.

Students are searching for connection

  • Current & incoming students alike are missing out on the on-campus experience, so there's a pressing need to simulate as much experience and conversation as possible during digital engagements. Assemble like-minded students to foster relationships and consider letting them lead portions of your tours, meetings, and discussions. 50% of respondents in a 2019 survey conducted by ZAK state that they feel safer in smaller, more personalized environments for communication.  

They want quality over quantity 

  • Especially when it comes to getting to know people and investing time in relationships and decisions. Younger generations are leaning more into small, tight-knit groups and rejecting large social networks.

Students are grieving

  • Whether it's the loss of their friends, their education and outlook on career prospects, or the life experiences that come with a traditional college experience, students are hurting. Health & Wellness are great topics to focus on for content to be present to current and prospective students. Check out USC’s Facebook page to see how they are engaging audiences with wellness-based content.  

Expectations of brands are increasing 

  • From supporting the environment to labor practices to being mindful of the greater good of society, the bar continues to rise. Younger generations are continuing to push this strategic imperative and want more conversation from institutions around this. Kantar is capturing this narrative in ongoing research around the pandemic from consumers. Institutions also need to consider cultural implications when considering international student communications.  

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