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Planning for an inclusive recovery

As the pandemic continues to alter our world, many things as we knew them have changed. From digital acceleration to social justice, COVID-19 has left the world with a lot of questions as to how we move forward. Microsoft Advertising is looking to empower marketers to meet this moment, and the many more that will follow, with success.

We’ll start with an understanding of where brand loyalty comes from, and how the impact of COVID-19 threatens its very foundation. The inequitable impacts of the pandemic are well documented, but what we can do as marketers is not. How do we build brands that are welcomed into people’s lives by earning their trust and upholding their values? The answer: Marketing with Purpose.

Inequitable impact of COVID-19

The inequitable force of COVID-19 waterfalls down to specific communities. In a study conducted by McKinsey at the onset of the pandemic, the expectations around the impact of the pandemic were polarizing across various industries like Food Services, Accommodations, Educational Services, Health Care, and Retail. These industries disproportionately employ women, and there were 2.5 percentage points more women unemployed during the 2020 recession compared to the 2008 recession. This also impacted childcare, in which women play outsized roles. But parents of young children — and especially mothers, due to cultural norms and societal expectations — are only able to participate in the labor force when they have access to work-family supports, including childcare. Compared to non-pandemic times, mothers experienced the most dramatic labor participation dips out of fathers, women without children, and men.

Many other communities were impacted as well. For example, in the European Union, people with disabilities are two times more likely to be unemployed, and COVID-19 exacerbated their physical and mental health risks. In fact, there are more than one billion people with disabilities globally who have been at risk of further complicating their ability to care for themselves. For Hispanic and Black Americans, more than 70% are without emergency funds to cover three months of expenses, while this holds true for only 48% of white Americans. Globally, sentiments reflect a similar reality: 87% of people think COVID-19 will lead to more income inequality in their country while 66% think it will lead to more racial inequality.

Inside the consumer’s mind

Before marketers can talk about how to navigate these realities, we must understand more about how our consumers are reacting. Marketers must understand their consumers’ priorities, and how those priorities have shifted in the context of COVID-19 inequities.

One pattern that emerged this last year is that consumers are determining value beyond the price: In a recent survey, 56% of people said they've increased how much they spend at small and local businesses during COVID-19 to help keep them in business. Additionally, 72% said supporting a small business was more important than getting the best price. These decisions are well contemplated. While some consumers have enjoyed the extra spending money resulting from stimulus checks and fewer entertainment, travel, and leisure activity expenses, others have felt the impact of economic uncertainty, lost wages and jobs, and increased expenses in other areas.

Key consumer behavior takeaways

Consumers are going through many economic and personal disruptions, and these all play into the careful considerations made when they do spend.

An important consideration is that many people fall within multiple categories: intersectionality. When we consider the 70% of Black and Hispanic Americans living without three months of emergency funds, or the women who are 2.5 percentage points more likely to be unemployed, there are also Black and Hispanic women who may be even more disproportionally impacted. Ultimately, we’re finding out that consumers support those who support their values, and those values are as multidimensional as they are.

  • 63% expect companies to continue efforts around social and environmental issues, even after the pandemic.
  • 67% of respondents wanted brands to donate to people who have lost wages.
  • 71% of Americans believe companies have more responsibility than ever before to address social justice issues.

United States consumers may be feeling a sense of responsibility for the inequities of the world, but also a disconnect from the systems that control them. In response, they may turn to the systems they do control — their chosen brands and the recipients of their hard-earned dollars. Brands that champion their ethos around key social issues drive a sense of connection to the possibility of influencing these systems. If we want to gain the trust of our consumers, we must look beyond what they want and focus on what they expect and need.

The marketer’s advantage through Marketing with Purpose

What does a marketer need to do with this information? There are five mindset shifts every brand can make. Summed up: Bring purpose to your marketing — and purpose to the relationships you can build with your customers!

  • Be inclusive — it drives trust, loyalty, and purchase intent.
  • Determine what your brand stands for — infuse values in your marketing and advertising. Values drive value for you and your customers.
  • Don’t play it safe — incorporate words, images, and stories that are inclusive. Define how you want your brand to be represented in both words and images.

If marketers implement inclusive strategies in advertising campaigns, they’re Marketing with Purpose.

Marketing with Purpose resources

For more Marketing with Purpose resources, which include actionable insights, thought leadership, customer success stories, and tips and tricks, visit the Marketing with Purpose content hub to download the Marketing with Purpose Playbook and experience the accompanying Marketing with Purpose course. Also sign up for the Microsoft Advertising Insider, a weekly newsletter that will keep you up to date with Marketing with Purpose blogs, product updates, tips and tricks, and more.