What Does It Take to Connect With Consumers Still Stressed by Covid-19?

Meaningfulness occurs in the moment

At the beginning of the pandemic, media served as a lifeline to the outside world. In late March, nearly half of consumers sought more connection with their chosen media compared to pre-pandemic times, according to the recent “Meaningful Media in the Time of Covid-19” study conducted by Havas Media.

Consumers craving an escape from their current stressful realities invested more time in exercising, cooking, reading and DIY projects. Media publishers such as Buzzfeed and Thrillist saw this need for escapism reflected through increased consumer interaction with content ranging from DIY to entertainment to memes.

As the U.S. enters its fifth month of battling Covid-19, normal has lost its original definition. Shelter-in-place measures have been taken across the country, restaurants have closed permanently, unemployment rates have risen and screen to screen has become the new face to face.

With connections to culture, entertainment and education becoming increasingly dependent on a Wi-Fi signal, new forms of burnout like Zoom fatigue and doomscrolling have surfaced. These consumption-related stressors are adding to the negative effect the pandemic has had on consumers’ mental health. Combined, these factors have strained many consumers’ relationship with media. So, as an advertiser what do you need to know and how can you help?

Consumers, media and mental health

Mental health management has entered into the spotlight. Media publishers have joined the conversation surrounding consumer mental health, sharing articles on how to decrease time spent doomscrolling or how to avoid Zoom fatigue by staying away from screens for longer periods. According to Brandwatch data, online mentions surrounding mental health and wellness in the last five months have increased by nearly 90%. And the daily wellness app Calm has seen a 29% increase in new downloads since the beginning of the pandemic. Telemental health solutions have also seen an increase in receptivity—according to a recent Accenture survey report, 4 in 5 respondents diagnosed with anxiety, depression, PTSD, ADD or addiction claim they would “probably” or “definitely” use virtual health resources to manage their conditions.

While the topics within the greater conversation surrounding mental health and breaking down the associated stigmas haven’t changed much—possibly due to U.S. millennials viewing health holistically—behaviors and priorities surrounding media consumption have shifted. While scrolling through media can be a helpful escape, meaningful media, or media that makes consumers feel and experience a true connection, has become what consumers crave. 

Make advertising messaging helpful and essential

Advertisers need to recognize the high levels of stress consumers currently face. Messaging should not only offer entertainment and escape, but also exhibit radical empathy to forge more personal connections. With consumers paying more attention across all platforms, advertisers must diversify platforms and messaging formats. Content and messaging should get tailored to both the consumer and the medium based on nuances in behavioral data.

Apple recently launched a campaign that embodies this notion. It inspires creativity amongst non-artistic and artistically inclined consumers alike. It highlights different individuals finding and creating something beautiful out of being stuck at home, ending the ad with the quote “creativity goes on.” Ads like this one demonstrate empathy with a target audience, inspire connection and highlight unique meaningful experiences.

Meaningful occurs in the moment. What matters to consumers now may not in three months. With the pandemic’s future still unknown, advertisers must understand how the definition of meaningful media shifts with the times. New forums have the potential to surprise and delight consumers, and marketers must look for ways to harness and optimize those channels to make a real impact, coupling creativity with intentionality. By remaining prepared to adapt to new mindsets, marketers can ensure meaningful media becomes the new normal.

Eli Habeeb is entering his third year working on the Insights and Data Strategy team at Havas Media in New York. With prior tech experience, he is a strong proponent of utilizing a variety of data to uncover actionable insights that help elevate client, planning and investment team strategies in a unique and meaningful way.