The American Consumer Seesaw

By Ted Wright April 15, 2020

american consumer

The American Psychiatric Association says that 48% of Americans are anxious about the possibility of getting coronavirus, while 62% are anxious about the possibility of family or loved ones contracting the disease. Anxiety intermixed with the unprecedented boredom only weeks of social distancing can create and you have the unsavory recipe for the American consumer seesaw.

Americans are picking up new habits and doubling down on old ones to cope with anxiety and boredom. More people visited the King Arthur Flour website on a Sunday in March than the day before Thanksgiving, with marketing boss Bill Tine predicting “more than a million people a day at some point.” Alcohol sales are up over 50%. Porn use is up. Significantly. Digital activity is up 50% broadly, led by Zoom (20x) and TikTok (113M downloads in one month) as people crave new ways to interact safely.

The collective anxiety and boredom felt everywhere is weighing heavily on brand marketers, whose intricate customer segmentation is being unceremoniously supplanted by two personas – people who work from home and the unemployed. No small task! While the impulse to suspend or delay marketing plans is understandable, hitting the pause button may be unnecessary. An April 13th poll by Unruly found that only 2% of consumers think brands should pause all advertising. The same poll found consumers are looking for content that is informative (49%), warm or happy (37%) or inspirational (33%).

We are suggesting there are two primary paths forward for marketers to mirror the two current states of the U.S. consumer: Informative (solving for anxiety) and Entertaining (solving for boredom). We are also suggesting that you do everything you can in your communications to be clear that your POV is as much about the rest of us and as little about your brand or its concerns as humanly possible. “Share, don’t sell” should be the sticky note in your home office.

Already, smart marketers are creating and sharing informative and entertaining content. Doubletree is sharing the recipe for the chocolate chip cookie weary travelers get at check-in. The video has been viewed nearly 250,000 times. For a brand whose business is being decimated by the pandemic, a gigantic win. Nike’s “Play for the World” showcases athletes maintaining elite fitness at a time when normal training methods are impossible, inspiring fans across the world. NuFace, a beauty brand, is conducting virtual house calls via Zoom to help customers care for their skin when spas and salons are closed indefinitely.

Celebrities are also joining in. John Legend’s casual concerts are entertaining existing fans while creating new ones. Children’s author Mo Willems is delighting kids and parents showing them how to draw his iconic characters in LUNCH DOODLE.

People everywhere are craving interaction – not just with each other, but with brands that understand the seesaw and can authentically relate to them in a way that is informative or entertaining. How are you adapting your marketing strategies?


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