New research from Newsworks, the marketing body for UK national newspapers, shows that the coronavirus pandemic poses a unique threat to consumers’ key priorities in life.

Marketing in the COVID-19 crisis

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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COVID-19 is the biggest peace-time crisis this country has ever encountered. We’re faced with a humanitarian emergency and a need to come together to face the challenges ahead.

To coincide with the UK government’s COVID-19 newspaper advertising campaign ‘All in, all together’, I took a look at the first results of our study ‘Come together’, which looks into what people find important and how this is put to the test at a time of crisis.

As a follow-up to the ‘Getting Closer to the Great British Public’ study released in 2017, Newsworks commissioned some new research back in January and February of this year. This was a time when self-isolation, self-distancing and lockdown were only just beginning on the other side of the world and it seemed inconceivable that the same would be coming to the UK just a few weeks later.

The research shows that health and money are still the biggest concerns for people in the UK, mirroring the findings from three years previously. Half of people stated a health-related issue as being the greatest personal concern in their life, with over four in 10 (42%) stating money. 

“If you haven't got your health, then it impacts upon virtually everything else you do in life. And if you haven't got money, that also impacts your life. So those two things are quite important – Male, Dundee 

Furthermore, the health of the nation is an even bigger concern than personal health worries (62% vs. 50%). The NHS is the problem most people want to fix in this country. Over 50% more people said they want to fix it compared to the second most important problem, the environment. These findings were not discriminative to any particular demographic, highlighting that as a society, we care about the same things.

“The NHS is important to everybody and at the moment everyone thinks we are in danger of losing it.” – Female, Scunthorpe

COVID-19 is a huge threat to the two things we’re most concerned about in life. This makes it different from previous crises such as the financial crash of 2008, primarily about money, with a secondary side effect on health. What we face right now is a direct impact on both our personal and national health as well as our finances. Additionally, it further erodes the local community and high street, an issue that was third on many people’s priorities, closely followed by work, which was fourth.

Fieldwork was carried out at a time when the UK had just officially left the EU. Interestingly we found that eight in 10 (79%) agreed that we need to put our differences aside and come together as a country – a resolve to try harder with one another. Even more (85%) agreed that it’s important to come together when bad things happen. 

This pandemic has put these good intentions to the test and shown that, despite a cynicism and antagonism bred by years of division, people are more than capable of putting their differences aside in the spirit of greater co-operation and looking out for each other. We’re witnessing genuine solidarity and the coming together of the British public. From ‘clap for carers’ and NHS volunteers to supermarket opening hours for the vulnerable, free online theatre productions, postcard campaigns to battle loneliness and an abundance of free home-schooling support, to name just a few.

To get through these uncertain times we all need to find empathy, agility and resilience. What we’ve witnessed over the last few weeks has shown a nation that is truly coming together to support one another in this.

“Or thinking about the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, or the stabbings in London. When something bad happens, we’re all back together again.” – Male, Southampton

We’re also seeing brands such as supermarkets and banks utilising the huge reach that news brand platforms offer, to meaningfully communicate with customers and the wider general public. In doing so they offer help, support and understanding in what are very unsettling times.

Our research showed the very important role of news brands at a time of crisis. Over 43% turn to them for a deeper understanding of key issues – greater than any other platform. Additionally, they were second only to family and friends for finding solutions to real-life problems. News brands matter to people, now as much as ever.

And there is no better example of this than the government’s primary use of news brands to deliver critical messaging and drive unity via its ‘All in, all together’ advertising campaign. It’s real testament to the ability this medium has to talk directly to the public and in doing so, bring us all together at a time when we need it most.

“In times of crisis, people come together” – Female, Southampton


The research was conducted by Flamingo and Tapestry during January and February 2020. The team went out on to the streets of Dundee, Scunthorpe and Southampton to get a read of the mood of the nation, as well as chatting in more detail to people in those locations in a series of focus groups. This was followed up with a nationally representative quantitative survey of 1,000 adult news consumers aged 18-65 (90% of the population).

The full ‘Come together’ study will be released in the upcoming months.