Consumers are unsure of how brands should advertise during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, according to research by GlobalWebIndex. In a survey of consumers across 13 markets from the 16th to 20th of March, 37% said brands should advertise as normal. However, the same figure (36%) said they were uncertain while over one-quarter (28%) said brands need to advertise differently.

Additional research suggests consumers are instead more interested in brands helping tackle the outbreak and providing key information.

Germany and France are the only two markets surveyed where more consumers think brands should advertise differently than as normal – 60% of Germans think advertising needs to change while 40% of French consumers think the same.

In comparison, at least half of consumers in Brazil (59%), the Philippines (53%), Italy (52%) and Australia (50%) believe brands should advertise as normal.

Male consumers are more likely to want to see brands continue advertising as they usually do – 40% agree with the statement compared to one-third (34%) of women.

This varies little by age but Gen Z is most likely to want to see advertising change, at one-third (31%), while this falls to one-quarter (25%) for millennials.

Two-fifths (39%) of higher income audiences want to see advertising remain the same, while low-income consumers are split – 33% say as normal, 32% say differently.

This comes as brands are deciding whether to shift in or out of short-term sales activation and long-term brand building, a particularly difficult decision as new media habits take hold and supply chains are challenged. The prospect of a global recession only adds importance to the decision and how consumers will react to campaigns.

For brands looking to shift their advertising, re-positioning to prioritise social values like safety and security may be a valuable strategy. The worst hit industries cannot ultimately return to business as usual but affected brands should look to comfort and distract consumers, grow into innovative areas and work with speed to recoup lost business.

This article is part of a special WARC Snapshot focused on enabling brand marketers to re-strategise amid the unprecedented disruption caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak.

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