Rahul Sachitanand
Nov 30, 2020

Four ways the pandemic has changed the consumption playbook for brands

A new report from Pulse, Part of WPP AUNZ's OPR, shows how COVID-19 has recast the way consumers are considering their purchases.

Four ways the pandemic has changed the consumption playbook for brands

The COVID-19 pandemic has sharply changed how consumers interact with technology, make purchases, how they (don't) travel and consume and share information, news and entertainment. As confined consumers rethink their purchase habits, it is giving marketers reason to pause and reconsider their strategies as the world gets swamped by another wave of this virus.

A report from Pulse, part of WPP AUNZ's OPR, entitled Culture of Consumption looks at how societal, political and human behaviour changes have driven a series of new patterns in news and content consumption and the key trends in brand storytelling that have emerged as a result. Here are four key takeaways from the report for brands, businesses and marketers, aiming to condition new ways of storytelling and building communities and audience advocacy in 2021.

Here's how brands can react proactively to these changes:

1. Staying flexible

Marketers have had to learn how to develop strategies that flex with the changing times, because the messages aimed at desired audiences are likely to change. Rapid agility has become an essential attribute. This is seeing brands test and learn, taking risks with content-led campaigns, and trialing the use of new platforms or modes of storytelling.


The tourism industry, which has been ravaged by the pandemic, is a strong example of this shift, with agencies ranging from Tourism Australia to the Iceland Tourism Board using innovative means to keep their brands current. Other brands hammered by the pandemic such as Nike, with its you can't stop us campaign that used old and new content to focus on resilience and Jimmy's Ice Tea that pieced together a campaign in under a week, are other notable examples of this flexibility.

2. The rise of non-traditional earned channels

As brands have looked for innovative ways to reach consumers, there has been a sea change in the influencer and creator content market, the report suggests. Brands are increasingly looking to influencers, entrepreneurs and creators as a trusted channel to reach desired audiences, as well as a solution for creative content curation in the communications and marketing mix. Some brands, such as Samsung, have even spoofed the community to build influencer-led campaigns.

To be truly effective, brand managers need to work with the most authentic and influential voices (rather than ones with just the most followers), be transparent in their communication with these KOLs and work with content creators who can quickly and efficiently turn around campaign requirements at a time when conventional in-house production teams may be homebound.

3. Finding your niche

In an era of growing distrust from consumers, brands with stretched marketing budgets, may be best advised to find profitable niches. The internet has given us access to more information, choice and freedom and brought together more like-minded people, making it easier for consumers to to follow their passions.

It’s provided a soapbox for all kinds of subcultures to shout about their obsessions, giving brands an opportunity to more effectively reach specific target audiences. For example, Xbox ANZ's launched a promotion for consumers to try and win a special Ori Bonsai for its Ori and the Will of the Wisps game.

4. Culture converts

Marketers must benefit by keeping their ears to the ground to spot shifts in popular culture that could benefit their brands. Thanks to the internet and measurable and culturally relevant content-led storytelling, brands can demonstrate how much new revenue and business they are generating with every story they tell.

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