Americans and Canadians are engaging with brands differently since COVID-19 turned up. Canadians are seeking a more emotionally-driven relationship driven by elements like empathy and understanding, while Americans demand more rational elements of the relationship fulfilled (like committed service and innovation), according to the COVID-19 Pulse Report from Emotive Technologies. This article is copyright 2020 The Best Customer Guide.

The Canada and US study measures current consumer attitudes to show how companies can navigate the difficult landscape of operating during and after COVID-19. The study took a rather unique approach. Instead of applying the traditional method of measuring consumer behaviour, Emotive focused solely on consumer attitudes that trigger those behaviours.

The study measured 16 distinct attitudes, including eight emotional engagement factors such as relatability, trustworthiness and joyfulness, and eight rational engagement factors like predictability, value, and community involvement. The study focused on the banking, quick service dining, hotel, mobile provider and retail industries. The goal was to understand the attitudes of consumers during the pandemic, so that brands can adjust their strategies in meaningful ways.

Key findings of the study included:

  • Key elements of life that have been negatively impacted are
    community, family and friends and personal finances.
  • 69% of people are overwhelmingly interested in seeing strong leadership from companies and brands in the months ahead, as they are more likely to feel a lack of confidence in governments.
  • Across industries, customers are looking for a reason to smile more than ever, yet have never had a tougher time finding one.
  • Delivering joy is currently the most critical and chronically underserved element of engagement across all industries tested
  • Adapt or disappear
    A third (32%) of respondents strongly agree that they will do more online shopping after the pandemic ends, meaning consumers are demanding more innovation from traditional retailers.

Since the onset of COVID-19, men and women are equally interested in engaging emotionally with brands - but not in the same way. Brands that demonstrate traits of ease and familiarity will win with those identifying as male, while females want to build a more personal connection, yet demand follow-through.

Attitudes towards brands have become more emotionally-driven since the pandemic. A previous Emotive study conducted in January 2020 found the key elements driving engagement across industries were more operational in nature.

"We measured 16 distinct attitudes that audiences have towards companies, organizations and brands, and how these attitudes drive their actions," said Marc Whitehead, founding partner and CEO of Emotive Technologies Inc. "With the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and world events, it's important to understand, respect and nurture these attitudes to enable businesses to make the right decisions. Just because governments and health agencies green light businesses to restart, it doesn't mean people will come running back. Our study helps shine a light on the most important attitudes to drive consumer action on the road to recovery."

Based on the current study, the idea of relatability or being personally invested in the success of a brand has become more important than ever. "Today, people want to see themselves in the brands they interact with," said Whitehead. "This level of relatability was once a nice-to-have for a brand manager, but today it's increasingly a must for any marketing strategy."

"We keep hearing companies say that 'we're in this together'", said Whitehead, "but it falls short when they don't walk the talk. Companies need to help their customers come to that conclusion on their own."

By measuring audience attitudes, Emotive is capturing consumer sentiment at a moment in time, then tracking how those sentiments change over time. In an ever-evolving world, this allows brands to quickly pivot, adapt, and measure again.

According to Whitehead, "The effects of COVID-19 will continue to dictate consumer behaviors and shape attitudes through uncertainty. If brands choose to win consumer confidence by tapping into their ever-changing feelings and beliefs, they'll stand a chance to build long-term trust and loyalty."

The full COVID-19 Pulse Report has been made available for download here: (free registration required).