The pandemic’s perfect storm of market and mental conditions turns up the pressure on companies to rethink customer segmentation and reshape their messaging. From here on, marketers need new models. We get inspiration from Rosie Hawkins, Kantar’s Chief Offer and Innovation Officer. She discusses the COVID-19 Barometer, an ongoing research program from Kantar that draws from research that identifies six distinct customer “Tribes,” characterized by their reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic. We discuss how you can do business better by adding value where, when, and how your tribal audience will appreciate it most.
Peggy: Why will understanding six new consumers tribes formed by COVID-19 help you do business better? Well, in the next 15 minutes, we’re going to find that out. Hello and welcome to The Groove where I shine a light on the company’s cool people at the intersection of content, commerce, community. I connect the dots in the now to frame the future.
I’m Peggy Anne Salz, your host, mobile analyst, tech consultant, founder of MobileGroove, and a senior writer at Forbes. Today we look at an ongoing research program from Kantar. It draws from interviews from over 100,000 consumers in over 50 markets to identify six distinct consumer tribes, which are characterized by their reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. So understanding the traits of each of these tribes is critical to building a comprehensive communications framework and we get the inside track on new findings from Kantar that highlight how and where brands need to lead. New normal? Well, maybe but definitely new territory for your business.
So let’s get ready to explore with my guest. So my guest leads the offer and innovation strategy and development across Kantar for the insights division. Kantar is the world’s largest evidence-based insights and consulting company. Rosie Hawkins, Chief Offer and Innovation Officer. Welcome to The Groove.
Rosie: Thank you, Peggy. I’m excited to be here.
Peggy: It’s fantastic to have you and I am really enthusiastic about your research because you are very much aligned with Kantar as well as your research in how people think, feel, act globally, locally. We talked about the research program. It’s all coming together, the core of this, the COVID-19 barometer, but I think there’s much, much more in the strategic focus that you’re bringing here. Maybe you want to just give me the top-line view.
Rosie: Thanks, Peggy. So the COVID-19 barometer that you’ve mentioned really is at the heart of all of this and when the pandemic hit, we have a lot of questions from clients about what the impact was going to be on their category, on their brand, what they should be thinking about.
Should they be advertising? There are a lot of really practical questions that clients were looking to us to answer and in doing so, we felt we really needed to get a good understanding of just how consumers were feeling, what they were saying. And of course, we immediately had a very interesting dynamic in that different markets and different consumers, therefore in different countries were responding differently.
And it’s really from there that the barometer was born. And so we’ve been doing this very regular research to understand how consumers feel right across the world and turning that from very practical guidance and increasingly now to more strategic help that we can give to clients as they start to think about recovery.
Peggy: Now we have six tribes I said at the top of the show. I’ve written about this. This is very exciting because it’s another way to segment audiences. t’s a new view of audiences and it’s also dynamic. I’d like you to maybe start by just giving us a quick overview of the six and then giving me an idea about how that has shifted because again, we’re entering the second wave and I would imagine some shifts in the segments, how many are in each segment and, maybe what defines that segment as well.
Rosie: So they definitely have moved. And so the segments are really a way of just dividing the population into groups of like-minded individuals. Each group is defined by a set of behaviors and a set of attitudes.
As you’ve said, there are six of them. The main difference between the groups is the level of anxiety that they feel around the virus. But also how much information they want or they seek out about the virus. Maybe I’ll start with the extremes because I think that’s a helpful way to look at things.
At one end, we’ve got what we called the Ostriches. They’ve got their head in the sand about this. They think the whole thing is a little bit exaggerated and they make up about 12% of the global population. So they’re not particularly concerned and they’re definitely not looking for information about the pandemic.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have the groups that we called the precarious worriers. Worriers not warriors and they are very anxious and they are also very up-to-date.
Peggy: And possibly growing Rosie. Don’t you think?
Rosie: They are growing. So while the Ostriches haven’t really changed, so that group of people have stayed around 11, 12%.
The precarious worriers were initially 13% of the global population and they’ve gone up to 17% and I imagine that number has probably gone even higher.
Peggy: What’s interesting about the research is that it’s a way to segment. You can use it with other segmentation models, but it tells you a lot about, as you said, the information they can handle.
But that for a marketer, for a brand says, this is the way you need to deliver the information or how frequently or personalize it. It has to be, adapt to the tribes. Now you work with clients at Kantar and I’d love to hear, if you were advising clients or our audience, maybe you can tell me how to turn this power for dimension of segmentation into marketing expertise.
Rosie: One of the first things that we can do is to really think about the communication strategy, because those Ostriches that I mentioned, they don’t want to hear about the virus. They don’t want to hear about what’s going on. What they’re really looking for is an escape.
They want to be inspired. They want to be entertained. They want to be challenged. So if you were communicating primarily to that audience, you would think very carefully, not just about the messaging and the tone, but you would also think about where you place those messages. So platforms like TikTok, like Snap would work very well for that solution. But again, with the precarious worriors, they’re looking for reassurance, they’re looking for practical information. They’re going to be going to corporate websites or to government websites. And they’re looking for a very different style of information delivered in a very different way.
So the communication strategy, I think, is one of the first things that clients need to be thinking about.
Peggy: And there’s other aspects to this because if you think about it, you have to understand who your audience is and then understand the communication strategy. But there’s also the interaction strategy.
If I have for example, predominantly Gen Z audience, in the US alone it accounts for nearly 30% of consumers, $146 billion in spend. I really want to connect with them. Where do they fall in the tribes and how do I interact with them and get them to interact with me, interact with my brand?
Rosie: So Gen Z in the US is a really interesting and good example because they are overrepresented compared to the global population, at least by actually two tribes. So the Ostriches we’ve talked about them. But also a tribe that we call the Que Seras and the Que Seras are the whatever will be, will be. So they’re not too concerned. They’ve got a little bit more concern perhaps than the Ostriches, but they’re quite similar. Those two groups together make up over 50%. So 53% of Gen Z in the US. They’re kind of pretty chilled about the situation at the moment.
And so you would want to use, upbeat tonality, you would be optimistic in your communications, the content wouldn’t focus on the virus. Definitely none of those we’re here for you ads. That’s not going to work with this group at all. They want normal ads. They want to be reminded of real-life and they wanted escape from what’s going on at the moment.
And you would use primarily digital channels. So I mentioned TikTok and Snap, the Ostriches, the case arrives, they tend to over-index on more of the mainstream digital channels. So, there’s very clear direction there in terms again, of the tone that you would use, where you would find them to engage with them.
One of the other tribes that I think is quite interesting is a tribe that we call the Good Citizens. These are people who are just really trying to do their best. They’re trying to follow government’s guidelines. They’re trying to be responsible. They’re particularly prevalent in markets like China, where we have a very collectivist environment.
But they started off as quite a large group in the UK. And particularly during the early stages of lockdown, everyone was trying really hard to do their best and to be a good citizen, but we did see lockdown fatigue really kicking in. And this is why it’s important to measure these tribes on an ongoing basis because they’re not static.
And we did very clearly see people fed up of doing the right thing fed up of being good citizens, getting bored with being inside and starting to display more ostrich-like impatience.
I’d love to understand how are people applying the research and findings? Maybe there’s a standout way or textbook model.
Yeah. One of the things I really love is using this as an overlay on perhaps an existing segmentation or simply on research that’s being done. I know, in fact, there was one client who said to us that, this had really helped them to look at their target customer differently because their existing segmentation didn’t help them to capture the changing attitudes during a completely unexpected time and an unexpected set of circumstances. So I think it’s adding that additional layer on to research that’s already being done. A real example that I like, I’m not able to say the client, but it’s a retailer.
And I think they’re doing some really interesting work to think about how they need to appeal to different tribes in a physical store environment. They typically look at dayparts. They typically look at demographics, but they’re now saying, how do I manage my physical environment so that the Ostriches who just wants a quick frictionless experience, they don’t want to be held up.
How do I manage it so that they get what they’re looking for, but some of those other segments. People who are a bit more concerned that I’m reassuring them, that I’m taking their safety seriously. And these can feel like conflicting challenges, but in fact, the more concerned are going to be looking for the very physical evidence that safety is being taken seriously.
They’re going to be looking at whether the staff are wearing masks. They’re going to be looking to see if there are social distancing signs, whether there’s hand sanitizer available, whether they can pay using contactless. So they’re going to be looking for those physical signs whereas the Ostriches just want to breeze into a relatively empty space, use contactless and get out quite quickly. And actually, those things aren’t contradictory at all. But it’s thinking through very carefully specifically what it is that they’re going to be looking for and using that then to think about store layout. So that to me is a really exciting and a real example of the way clients are using this.
Peggy: That is fascinating because it’s the pathways that you’re building. We talk about digital pathways, the customer journey, right? How you get them from one end of the funnel to the other. Now we’re saying, no, we get them from one end of the store to the other, just get them in that one area, because they don’t want to be bothered to even connect with other customers.
They just want to go in, get out. So you literally have to build the journey in the store. I think that’s fascinating. And Rosie, you brought up a point, you said the word yourself, they want to be reassured. That’s an aspect of your research that is also fascinating because you’re closing this research program and it will be ongoing, but in your most recent view of the research, you’ve been looking also at how people look at brands.
And I’d love you to unpack that for us, because it’s fascinating how we look to brands that we want them to reassure us in some cases more faith in brands than in governments.
Rosie: Yeah, that’s right. So one of the things that we’ve very definitely seen throughout the pandemic is that expectations of brands have changed.
And again there’s a bit of a recurring theme here, but early on, people were really looking to brands to do their bit. That might be making hand sanitizer, donating to vaccine research or whatever that was, or doing very practical things to help me as the consumer. So that might be the mortgage holidays that financial services companies were giving, or maybe it was just practical, help, how to keep your children entertained, how to make easy nutritional meals at home.
So people were looking for that very practical help from brands. What we then seen, and this is particularly amongst the Gen Z and the Millennials, over time there’s more of an expectation that brands need to step up and be part of the future and rebuilding the future. That does seem to correlate with, or at least coincide with a decline in trust in governments.
So it’s almost as though brands have an opportunity to step into that leadership gap that we’re seeing from governments at the moment.
Peggy: That is fascinating. If you think about that, we have brand purpose, twenty years ago we had no logo. I don’t know if you remember that, but it was about brands having to stand for something and we will hold them accountable.
And that has just accelerated. Have you looked at that or have you also in your guidance to companies said, it’s not just about communicating and connecting with tribes based on their reaction to the pandemic, but also considering social responsibility, social justice. We don’t just have the pandemic, we have a completely new and open discussion about diversity. We have a lot of things going on in this year. There’s a lot of demands on brands.
Rosie: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. And it’s important that we don’t just focus on the pandemic because as you’ve said, there are lots of other dynamics happening.
I think what’s interesting is that this sort of forced isolation has caused people to rethink their priorities. And so we’ve very definitely seen a renewed concern around environmental factors. For example, now that was quite high for a lot of people anyway, but we’ve seen a lot of people saying they’re now increasingly concerned around the environment and we’ve seen lots of pictures of the clear skies that resulted as the lack of some of the pollution that we’d had after long periods of locked down.
So that’s been quite visible to people, but it has caused them to rethink their priorities and also to think about things like buying locally. For the first time for many, they’re thinking about supply chains because they’re realizing that things can be out of stock. Which is not something that, many of us have been fortunate enough not to experience that in our lives.
So it has caused people to think quite differently. And then as you’ve mentioned, we’ve had the social justice movement layered on to that as well. And so we’re very, definitely seeing a sense or an acceleration of that brand purpose that you’ve mentioned. It was a trend that we were seeing before the pandemic, but now more than ever, we are seeing that people want to buy brands that they feel connected to in some way that they feel share their values in some way.
Peggy: I did say at the top, this is how to do business better by understanding and connecting with the tribes, the tribes based on their reaction to the pandemic, but also their sense of purpose.
Tribes are bound by belief. There’s not a checklist, but in closing Rosie, if you could give some advice to clients, to audiences around what they need to do in their communication to reflect this.
Rosie: I think understanding consumers at the moment is more important than ever. I think from a brand perspective though, it is really important to, and this is where the tribe’s help, to understand which are the core tribes for your brand. How they’re feeling, how they’re behaving and how best to connect with them. I also think if I slightly look ahead, that there is still quite a lot more work to do. So as well as the acceleration around things like brand purpose, we’ve seen an acceleration of digital transformation and so we’ve done more in probably a short few months than would otherwise have been done in five or 10 years.
And yet the infrastructure isn’t always there yet. Brands aren’t always ready for that yet. I think my key advice for brands would be to say, this is now the opportunity, the behaviors that have been learned through lockdown aren’t yet embedded. There is still an opportunity to understand how behavior has changed, what you as a brand would want to encourage and what you as a brand would want to change because there’s still everything to play for.
Peggy: I did want to end with one question because we talked a while back and I wrote about it in an article. I’ll be writing about this as well on Forbes. So that’s where you’ll see some of these insights, but Rosie, you said that this was going to be the predominant segmentation. This was going to be like the one that we overlay on all the others.
How do you feel about that now?
Rosie: Oh, I think it’s as important as ever. As we’ve mentioned, it is very dynamic and that’s not set to change for a while. So I think we’ve found it to be a really helpful lens for our clients to think about who they should be connecting with, how they should be connecting with them and how they can think about different tribes on the road to recovery.
And that, as I said, there’s still everything to play for. So I think the segmentation still provides a really powerful lens to help brands get back to recovery.
Peggy: Now they have to figure out is how to show real leadership qualities. You don’t really necessarily think about that. Some brands are very good at this.
You think about, for example, when I think about leading the cause of diversity or how we express ourselves. You automatically come to those huge consumer brands, Nike’s of the world. What does everyone else do?
Rosie: Yeah, I think that’s really interesting. And there’s been some articles written recently about that, and there’s a quote that sticks in my mind.
I might be paraphrasing, but you don’t necessarily want your yogurt to save the world. I think it’s a really good example of purpose isn’t just about social purpose. It isn’t necessarily about solving all of the world’s wrongs, but it is about playing a meaningful role in people’s lives.
And you can do that in a very small way by making their lives a little bit easier by bringing a bit of joy to people’s lives, to bringing people together. So there are lots of small ways that brands can be incredibly valuable and then I think there is certainly a place for the bigger brands to take on some of these bigger social causes.
But I think for all brands, all brands make choices, all brands make choices about what they want to stand for about the diversity that they show, maybe in their advertising, the tone that they use with people and all of those choices that brands can use and make every day really to help make people’s lives a little bit easier.
Peggy: Well Rosie, this has been a fantastic conversation. Thank you so much for sharing. Thanks so much for taking the time.
Rosie: It’s been a pleasure. I really enjoyed it. Thank you.
Peggy: And thank you of course, for tuning in, and there will be more in the series. We look next time at new findings from Facebook, we talked to the researchers there.
And in the meantime, if you liked the show, I encourage you to like it, share it, subscribe to it, subscribe to the channel, spread the word. It’s all about knowledge sharing. That means sharing it. With your friends as well. Hey, we aren’t live, but we try to keep it lively. So if you want to find out more about how you can get a guest on the show, DM me or just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until then this is your host, Peggy Anne Salz signing off.
Have a great day.