Consumers have made it clear they will judge brands on how appropriately they respond to the COVID-19 crisis, by looking after their staff and help society meet the challenge, according to a special Edelman Trust Barometer report.

There is widespread expectation that brands will act and communicate differently during the crisis, and 65% say how brands behave will have a “huge impact” on how likely they are to buy a brand’s products.

For the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Brand Trust and the Coronavirus Pandemic, the marketing consultancy quizzed 12,000 people, 1,000 in each of 12 of the world’s leading economies, and the message was consistent across markets.

One in three consumers said they had already stopped buying a brand they believed had not done the right thing in the face of the crisis – in Brazil that figure rose to 76%, and to 60% in India.

Consumers stressed the importance of brands in battling the pandemic, with 62% saying their own country would not get through the crisis without brands playing a critical role in addressing the challenges ahead. And most people believed brands were behaving responsibly, with some 55% believing brands are responding more quickly and effectively than governments; but 71% agreed that if a brand was seen to put profit before people, then they would lose trust in it for good.

And people are uppermost in consumers’ minds: they overwhelmingly want brands to do everything in their power to protect the well-being and financial security of their staff and suppliers (90%), and they expect to see this even if it means brands have to bear substantial economic losses.

Consumers also want business to shift its resources to make products that help consumers meet today’s challenges (89%), and they expect them to offer free or lower-priced products to health workers, those at risk from the virus, and those whose jobs have been hit by the crisis (89%). And 90% want brands to act to fill any gaps left by governments’ responses to the virus (86%).

Communication is also important to consumers, the survey shows: 90% say they expect brands to be wholly transparent in what they are doing and to keep people fully informed.

A majority, 57%, of those surveyed said they preferred brands not to use humour or light-heartedness in advertising or communications. And, at this time of unprecedented crisis, it seems consumers prefer a more traditional approach to communication, with 45% saying they wanted brands to communicate virus-related information through traditional media (45%) or email (42%), as opposed to social media (19 – 31%).

The survey was carried out between March 23 and 26 in Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, South Africa, South Korea, the UK and US. 

Sourced from Edelman