ANALYSIS - How the last four months have changed Australia

By Carolina Ferreira | 2 September 2020

Carolina Ferreira, intelligence director, dentsu

2020 has been an extraordinary year. From bushfires, to floods and now a pandemic, these events have changed Australia.

When the first lockdown hit, all Australians were all essentially in the same situation, living a comparable life indoors. However, when states began loosening their restrictions at different times, our behaviours and attitudes started to shift in different and unparalleled ways.

The dentsu Intelligence team has been on this journey with Aussies, surveying 400 random people each week since the beginning of April to capture how their moods, behaviours and lifestyle choices have shifted.

People’s trust in institutions and brands have changed; our Aussie values have been tried and tested, and how we consume media, information and buy goods is now different.

The implications for brands and marketers is huge, and as we approach Christmas, we need to understand how the last few months have changed Aussies to ensure we are using the right messaging, on the right channels, and at the right times.

Why is this important? Because the customers you knew in March are not the same customers today.

People are becoming less optimistic and in-control over the situation
Australians were praised in their handling of the first outbreak, which only made the shock of a second wave that much bigger.

Dealing with the fear of a nationwide spread is making consumers feel less in control over the situation and more vulnerable to unexpected events, particularly younger people.

Whilst Australians aged 60+ are showing a higher propensity to be feeling in-control of the situation, those aged 16-39 over-index for among the group feeling overwhelmed

Brands play an important role in making people feel in control. In the back half of this year, marketers need to focus on reminding consumers about the small things they can control in their lives, and to reassure them about the today and tomorrow.

The focus shifted back to the outbreak and new fears are rising
During the initial weeks of recovery, we noticed that people’s focus was shifting from the outbreak to issues such as the economy and job security. Since the spike in cases in Victoria, the attention has turned back to the health crisis with 48% of people claiming the outbreak is a top concern.

Unsurprisingly, fears related to family health is back in the spotlight, as is mental health.

If during the initial outbreak there was a common feeling of being in this together, this is no longer the case. Although themes are consistent nationwide, each state is going through a unique journey now and this is making them react to potential treats differently.

  • VIC – more likely to be concerned with job security
  • NSW, QLD and SA – more likely to worry about the availability of items like food and medicine
  • WA – showing stronger signs of distress over household finances
  • TAS - more likely to fear for their mental health

Marketers need to understand these concerns and plan how to react accordingly with empathetic and genuine messaging that makes people feel better.

Consider the unique situations of different communities
This crisis is unfolding at different rates for different communities and individuals. For brands, understanding how each community differs is essential.

The initiatives taken and the tone of voice used needs to be decisive to build a sustainable relationship between brand and customer.

In Victoria, we have unsurprisingly seen a shift in people’s lifestyle habits.

  • 28% of Victorians are now exercising less
  • 32% say they are snacking more.
  • 74% are spending their leisure time watching TV, compared to only 39% spending their time reading books.

As time goes on, people are conforming to the idea that we will be living like this for quite some time. It’s becoming clearer by the week just how much Australians value working from home.INFOgRAPHIC 1

Overall, 73% of Australians now want to work from home more often once coronavirus is over.

  • 49% of people have said that working from home has had a positive impact on their mood
  • 53% of people have said that their work productivity has increased.

As marketers, think about how you can use these insights to your benefit – how can you craft your campaigns to deliver personalised messages.

Shifts in media consumption
Some of the newfound media consumption habits are also here to stay. A lot was said about the rapid rise of specific media channels when isolation first started. Yet, when comparing responses from the last three months of surveys, some key behaviour shifts have remained consistent.

To understand the potential long-lasting impacts for media, we compared respondents who claim to have increased their consumption of each media channel with those who have decreased. The results help measure the perceived incrementality for each medium.

Video streaming services, including BVOD and SVOD, are benefiting the most and recording a 33% incrementality in the frequency of consumption.

For brands, planners, media owners and content creators alike, consider how the consumer lifestyle is being revolutionised and ensure you are using the right channels to maintain relevancy with your target audience.

The pandemic has been the accelerated adoption of ecommerce platforms. Online sales have been deeply impacted this year and have seen several spikes in the last six months.

It is now up to the brands to find the right way to retain those new audiences. Online sales represent the biggest expansion opportunity for retailers; however, they must focus on keeping customer’s attention online to maximise the potential of their owned channels.

Intrastate tourism is the most immediate opportunity for the travel industry
The new outbreak made some consumers delay their plans to travel within Australia, but the desire is still there with 49 per cent of people intending to travel domestically within six months.

Travel is becoming personal, with people seeking a sense of freedom and trying to reconnect with family and friends after months of isolation.

Queensland is the most desired destination within Australia, with 42 per cent of people dreaming visiting there. However, residents of all states have also shown intent to travel intrastate.

Following a period of severe hardship, domestic tourism can be a good outlet for marketers, particularly for regional Australia that often relies on tourists. This is a good opportunity to boost marketing and showcase local businesses and activities.

Feeling safe and stable are what matters the most right now
Months of uncertainty have left consumers craving to feel safe – whether that’s from a health or financial perspective. As the nation is challenged with setbacks, consumers are also eager for stability and leadership.

This indicates that the COVID fatigue that was once mounting up is now turning into a cry for guidance and confidence.

Marketers must consider the current state of mind when deciding on the brand message and positioning.

Supermarket chains continue to be by far the most praised brands during the crisis, even as rumours of a new product shortage arise.

But through a magnifying glass, the different brand expectations from each state come to light

  • NSW: 22% of people want brands to help them contribute to the response
  • VIC: 41% of people value companies that respond to the outbreak
  • QLD: 41% of people think companies should advertise as normal
  • WA: 47% of people think brands should stay silent on the issue
  • SA: 29% value brands that donate to causes or those in need

When able to target their messages on a state levels, marketers must consider the unique journey each state is experiencing and how it affects their expectations from brands, then respond 2

The buy-local mentality could be a recovery driver for businesses
A patriotic appeal can be a great trigger for consumers wanting to do their part in rebuilding the economy.

49% of people say they are very worried about the impact of COVID-19 on local businesses and one in five Australians are prioritising buying groceries and products that are Australian made.

Local brands or those with locally sourced products should now be looking to leverage this sentiment to start a conversation with their audience.

As we approach the remaining few months of the year, consumer behaviour may very well change again. What’s important is for brands to stay alert and have their finger on the pulse with how people are feeling and the role they can play at helping Aussies get through this pandemic.

If you get this right, you may just have a whole lot of new, loyal customers going into 2021.

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