Consumer Trends During COVID-19 and The Evolution of Advertising

Six months into a global pandemic, it is possible to make certain conclusions about consumer behavior and observe how the world of advertising has adapted to these changes. Society experienced different waves of consumption that were direct responses to the virus. Most went from clearing off store shelves to resorting to online buying daily. As businesses looked to continue profiting, many shifted their strategies to e-commerce solutions that could benefit their customers and keep their companies afloat.

At the start of the global crisis, especially in the U.S, we saw how crowd-mentality and panic buying became the leading consumer trends. Brands in the hygiene industry profited greatly from this. Toilet paper, hand sanitizer, surgical masks, and cleaning products flew off the shelves, and the more people perceived scarcity the more they purchased. Panic-buying led to unprecedented purchase limits imposed by stores and supermarkets and made everyday commodities rise dramatically in value. 

At this point, advertisers in other industries started to worry, the focus was on preventing COVID-19 and preparing for at least a few months of quarantine. Anything not related to this was deemed unnecessary and even frivolous. It also became evident that brands had to start considering a myriad of nuances: the possible economic recession looming on the horizon, people losing their job and most importantly, people losing their health and lives. The tone and feel of advertising campaigns changed dramatically to accommodate the general atmosphere, and many businesses that were unable to pivot their strategies decided to forego their media budget completely.

As time passed, people’s attitude towards consumption and advertising started to shift again, and the concept of  “self-care” became stronger than the need for personal austerity. We were able to observe the growth of loungewear and athleisure brands that offered consumers style and comfort to face the new reality of remote work and social distancing. Other industries such as skin care also took precedent above makeup as people became unable to leave their homes. Esports, streamers, vloggers and other content creators grew their followers in platforms like Tik tok, Twitch and Youtube. And suddenly, everyone started baking. Making usually accessible products like flour and baking powder harder to find.

Advertisers saw that opportunities to innovate started to appear again and those who made the right decisions were able to come out victorious. The most important decision that many businesses had to make was to go online. Local restaurants partnered with several delivery services, brick and mortar stores built their e-commerce capabilities and entrepreneurs focused on their digital marketing campaigns. The language and tone of advertisements also evolved throughout the months, with more upbeat, optimistic campaigns replacing the “we’re all in this together” phrases and the serious undertones that had taken over the industry.

In the world of advertising, now more than ever, having a team prepared to switch gears is a necessity. Businesses and advertising professionals alike must observe and understand how consumption trends are changing and evolve with them. Many businesses that were able to pivot and use their media budgets smartly are now enjoying the fruits of their labor, as they were able to predict that even in times of crisis, consumers will still find comfort in their favorite products.