Nearly 6 out of 10 consumers (58 percent) say their perception of brands has been affected during the coronavirus pandemic, with the younger generations being particularly influenced, according to a new survey.
The COVID-19 Brand Sentiment Navigator from Social Media Link gathered insights online from 6,340 U.S. consumers within its peer-to-peer influencer community, Smiley360, from March 20 to March 30.
More Millennials (63 percent) say their perception of brands has been affected than boomers (46 percent), while Gen Z is the most likely group to be feeling positive about all brands at this time.
While COVID-19 has had the least impact on brand sentiment for Boomers, the group has more positive feelings right now than other generations about the grocery category (52 percent), restaurants (32 percent), food and beverage (31 percent) and pharmacy (30 percent).
The airline and travel, bars and financial industries have taken bigger brand sentiment hits among Gen Z than other age groups.
Millennials in the survey gave the most positive marks to brands showing empathy (43 percent), as well as those extending benefits (38 percent) and helping the community (36 percent).
Boomers, on the other hand, care more about brands keeping their customers (63 percent) and employees (60 percent) safe and well. This generation also prioritizes clear and reassuring communication from brands (35 percent) more than other age groups.
“It’s clear that each generation brings a unique viewpoint to this crisis, and brands should not operate with one-size-fits-all messaging,” said Susan Frech, CEO and co-founder of Social Media Link. “Brand perception is especially influenced among younger consumers and now is a critical time for marketers to imprint themselves in consumers’ minds to ensure staying power through the crisis and beyond.”
Walmart, CVS, Disney+, Costco and Huggies were specific brands called out in a positive light by consumers of all ages, while Hobby Lobby, GameStop and Amazon were viewed negatively.
When things start to return to normal, the younger generations are eager to start spending, with Gen Z and Millennials expected to spend more on health and wellness products (48 percent Gen Z, 38 percent Millennials), along with cleaning and sanitary products (40 percent Gen Z, 34 Millennials) and online purchases (36 Gen Z, 32 Millennials).
“Consumers are clear in what they are looking for from brands that they intend to support today and the brands they plan to purchase once more normal life returns. Staying power depends on a brand’s ability to show, not tell, how they live out their brand promise and company value,” added Frech. “Contrary to what some may believe, consumers are paying close attention.”