At the outset of COVID-19, we began reaching out to our fellow Americans through an ongoing study to learn how they were feeling, how they’ve been impacted, and what changes they’ve made due to the pandemic. So far, this research surveyed 1,647 Americans across three waves spanning April, May, and June 2020. It achieved +/- 4% margin of error with 95% confidence.
During this period, we discovered an increasing sense of isolation and self-reliance that has helped to renew focus on what’s truly important: the core values and essential experiences that define our lives. We were pleasantly surprised by the resilience, optimism, and empowerment we’re seeing right now – and how smart brands can help meet us where we are with values-driven language, action, and purpose. Here’s what we’ve found.
We have rejected the false binary of having to choose between health and wealth
Our first report in April indicated a binary choice for America: health or wealth. We found most Americans were prioritizing health and safety over the economy. However, while health and safety continues to be a priority with only a slight downward trend, we have seen a new pattern emerge.
As more and more Americans have prioritized the economy over the past three months, the vast majority still agree health and safety is the most important thing right now. In fact, many agree that the economy is most important and that health and safety is most important – at the same time. They are rejecting the false binary of having to choose between health and wealth and finding their own way forward.
We’re finding our own way by focusing on individual purpose and priorities
Even in the face of fear and isolation, Americans are getting introspective and focusing on individual purpose and priorities. Since April, they are listening less and less to health and government officials and are focusing more on what’s important to them individually. 48% of Americans agree we can finally focus on the important things in life. And what are those important things in life? Our respondents said that during COVID-19, the things that are even more important to them are connecting with family, staying mentally healthy, staying physically healthy, and saving money.
This sense of purpose coincides with an increasing sense of improvement: as Americans focus on what is most important to them, we’ve seen a rise in optimism. In April, 75% of America believed things were getting worse. Now, 66% believe things are getting better (despite the recent surge in COVID-19 cases across the country). But even as optimism rises overall, Americans are experiencing COVID-19 differently from one another.
Younger Americans are trying to survive financially: older Americans are trying to survive – literally
Since the beginning of COVID-19, younger Americans have focused on their financial health. They are the most likely to be affected financially and have been prioritizing economic issues such as making and saving money. 18-44-year-olds are also 440% more likely to want entertainment and distraction during this stressful time when compared to those over 60 years old. These older Americans are 15% more likely to focus on physical health and 46% more likely to want companies to implement safety measures when compared to their 18-44-year-old counterparts. As COVID-19 has progressed, Americans over 60 years old don’t want to be entertained and distracted like younger Americans: increasingly, they want to feel safe and informed.
Young or old, Americans are using their values to guide the way. They look to companies that share these values as well.
Over half of Americans believe that right now it’s even more important to have shared values with a brand or company they purchase from.
They also expect brands to take action based on these values and for the good of the world. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 situation, Americans especially appreciate it when they see companies acting for the good of humanity, supporting their employees, and creating a safe environment. Increasingly, they want brands to help by lowering prices, donating to the cause, and promoting social distancing.
What can brands do?
Over the past three months during COVID-19, Americans are showing surprising resilience and optimism. They’re looking within and letting their values guide them. They’re also looking to those who share these values. With fewer Americans listening to health and government officials and forming increasing expectations for companies, brand communication is more important than ever.
Three steps for brands to rise to the occasion:
- Re-evaluate your brand purpose.
Ensure it’s grounded in a universal human truth and can be credibly delivered.
- Communicate your brand purpose even more transparently
Be open and honest with employees and customers to build consensus and trust in the brand.
- Let purpose lead the way
Attract followers through meaningful behaviors and deliberate action.
If you’re interested in learning how to build a purpose-driven brand that consumers can rally behind, feel free to get in touch with us. In the next phase of our study, we’ll be exploring these shared values and looking for new patterns as Americans find their way forward. Stay tuned, and let your purpose lead the way.
Adam Shigem | Senior Strategist