Christmas in the Age of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Christmas in the Age of the COVID-19 Pandemic
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Christmas: the most wonderful time of the year, even during a pandemic. Keep reading for stats on timeless Christmas themes to lean into this year while pivoting to the realities of COVID.

Christmas is one of the most beloved and widely celebrated holidays in America. Over three-quarters of each racial/ethnic segment celebrate it, and 73% of people view Christmas as the biggest holiday of the year.

Every year, consumers of all backgrounds traditionally ring in the holiday by spending time with loved ones, putting up festive decorations, giving gifts, and enjoying seasonal foods. And as Americans adapt to the pandemic, our research suggests they will continue to incorporate these traditional sources of comfort and joy into their holiday.

This year, brands are leaning into core Christmas themes in COVID-relevant ways.

For instance, McCormick reminds viewers that even if you can’t get together with your family this year, “their dishes can still make it to the table.” And Lowe’s emphasizes the importance of home as a central part of our lives. This year especially, with so much time spent at home, Lowe’s highlights home decorating as a gift that “brings joy to all.”

These core consumer Christmas values won’t be abandoned just because the circumstances have changed. You can, and should, still activate against these themes. But keep in mind that you also need to know how things are different to understand where and how to tweak messaging.

Our recent data gives us insight on the shifts you can expect to see in consumer attitudes and behaviors as they modify their plans to celebrate the holiday safely. Consider these high-level consumer trends as you prepare your final holiday push for maximum impact.

1. Consumers will celebrate in 2020, but celebrate differently.

2 in 5 consumers expect that the pandemic will prevent them from carrying out their usual Christmas plans. That may mean abstaining from large family gatherings, nixing travel plans, or forgoing festive outings.

Continue to activate on core Christmas themes like family – but do so in a way that’s relevant during the pandemic. For instance, recent holiday spots by Etsy and Chewy feature family members opening presents with one another over video chat.

Alternatively, shake things up by leaning into the probability that the pandemic will likely create new activities and traditions. Show how your product or service can inspire new ways to celebrate because of the pandemic. For instance a recent spot by Maker’s Mark features roommates getting together to decorate their fire escape with Christmas lights, then huddling outside on it to watch a virtual fireplace on their TV while sipping cups of holiday cheer. Or illustrate how new quarantine activities can inspire Christmas gift ideas this year, like Best Buy.

2. Consumers prioritize convenience and safety for holiday shopping this year.

With no end to the pandemic in sight, consumers are modifying holiday shopping habits as they seek convenience and safety. Many are looking for contactless options: 67% of people say they’ll probably shop online more for the holidays this year.

Telling people how they can shop online for your products needs to be central to your campaign. For example, Walmart recently debuted a heartwarming and relatable spot highlighting everything we now buy online these days to cope with the pandemic. And Sam’s Club customers can take a virtual tour of the Griswold “Christmas Vacation” house as they shop the festive décor and gifts Sam’s Club offers.

3. Many people are still struggling financially as a result of the pandemic and economic recession.

Half of all Americans worry that they can’t afford holiday shopping this year.

Show sensitivity towards your customers by offering extended discounts. For instance, Target and Home Depot are offering Black Friday deals all season long. Additionally, signal that you care by supporting vulnerable communities financially or through donated goods. Amazon, recently announced plans to donate to over 1,000 charities to support communities hit hardest by the events this year. And Visa encourages consumers to shop local this holiday season and give back to the small businesses at the heart of their communities.

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2020 Holiday Consumer Behavior: Thanksgiving in the Age of the COVID-19 Pandemic

2020 Holiday Consumer Behavior: Thanksgiving in the Age of the COVID-19 Pandemic
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The coronavirus pandemic is fundamentally changing how American consumers gather for Thanksgiving and shop on Black Friday this year. Read on for insight into the consumer mindset and advice on how to best position your brand for success in this untraditional holiday season.

Thanksgiving. The word immediately calls to mind iconic images of Americana: roast turkey, family gatherings, football, the Macy’s Day parade. But Thanksgiving isn’t just a truly American holiday—it’s also one of the most celebrated! Our research from 2019 revealed that 84% of Americans regularly celebrate Thanksgiving, making it the second most celebrated holiday for Americans after Christmas. White and Black consumers are most likely to celebrate, while Hispanic and Asian celebration rates are lower, perhaps due to members of these segments that have recently immigrated and not yet adopted the holiday.

Thanksgiving is normally a popular occasion for Americans to travel and reunite with family and friends. Last year more than 26 million airline passengers were screened by the TSA during the week of Thanksgiving. And a survey we ran in 2019 revealed that 59% of Americans reported typically celebrating Thanksgiving with extended family, while 40% reported celebrating with friends.

But this year, nothing is normal. When we surveyed consumers in August 2020, 44% already expected the COVID-19 pandemic would interfere with their normal Thanksgiving plans. Since then, coronavirus cases and fatalities in the United States have risen dramatically.

Another survey we fielded in September 2020 found that only 19% of American adults reported feeling safe travelling on commercial airplanes. And the CDC recently issued official guidelines recommending that people stay close to home and only gather with immediate family members on Thanksgiving to lower the chances of spreading the virus. These fears are not unfounded. In October, Canadian officials linked rising case numbers all over the country to Canadian Thanksgiving celebrations

The coronavirus pandemic will likely result in a larger number of small Thanksgiving gatherings across the United States. And this means that many Americans—perhaps 18%—will be cooking their own Thanksgiving meals for the first time. Despite these changes, many other aspects of Thanksgiving 2020 will look the same as any other year. 

For example, the top things that people associate with Thanksgiving (spending time with family, eating delicious foods, cooking, baking, and watching football) are still possible, in some form, during the pandemic. And maintaining these traditions will likely be a welcome reminder of more normal times.

Brands can use these challenges to connect with consumers. McCormick’s new ad does this by showing how their products help create a sense of togetherness and ensure success despite separation. They encourage people to cook their relatives’ signature dishes as a way to be together. And they use the image of a young woman fumbling with a turkey—an inexperienced Thanksgiving cook—to remind viewers that “it’s gonna be great” despite the challenges

Thanksgiving is also a crucial time of year for brands because of Black Friday and the beginning of the holiday shopping season. This is yet another aspect of American life that will look different in 2020. According to recent research, two thirds of consumers plan to shop online more for the holidays this year, while 60% plan to put off shopping until it’s absolutely necessary.

Brands and stores have already begun to adjust their Black Friday campaigns in expectation of untraditional shopping patterns.

A common move is to expand your online strategy well beyond Cyber Monday as consumers fear shopping in crowded stores. For example, Target and other retailers are advertising that all deals are available both in-store and online. Retailers are also fighting against consumers’ instinct to hold off on shopping by offering Black Friday deals throughout November.

Unfortunately, about half of consumers are worried they won’t be able to afford holiday shopping this year. Brands can activate on this moment by showing how their products can figure in homemade or low-cost gifts. For example, Ashley Home Store released a commercial showing two children who make their parents a simple dinner and decorate the table with homemade decorations. The parents love it! And with the slogan, “celebrate the magic of home,” Ashley Home Store is also subtly reminding people of the importance of staying home and safe during the pandemic. Similarly, Ross advertises their Christmas bargains by saying, “you don’t have to spend a lot to give a lot to the ones who mean the most.” By offering extended sales, brands can also show they recognize the economic challenges many are now facing.

This Thanksgiving and Black Friday will look different than those past. But that doesn’t mean marketing is out. Brands can still connect with consumers by activating on tried and true themes and reminding people they understand the challenges they face.

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The Multicultural Growth Opportunity: 2020 Update

The Multicultural Growth Opportunity: 2020 Update
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Fill out the form to download an excerpt from Essentials of Multicultural Marketing: Demographics and Economic Opportunity.

The multicultural population in the United States is transforming American culture. For the first time, the white population registered negative growth across the last five years of available data, meaning Multiculturals are now driving OVER 100% of growth and a major share of expenditure growth.

The multicultural population in America has become a major source of growth, influence and change.  The impact of this group of consumers, once an afterthought in marketing, has now become central to the success of every consumer brand in the United States.

The year 2020 could not have made this point more clearly.  From the dramatic impact of the COVID crisis, to the racial justice protests prompted by the detailed video of George Floyd’s killing, and to the extraordinary and often unexpected impact of Multiculturals on the 2020 election, brands have been thrown abruptly into a future thought to be some decades off.

Multicultural population and expenditure growth are only the tip of the iceberg.  Multiculturals, especially Hispanic and Black consumers, are also more influential on a per-person basis than other segments, with that impact is clearly revealed in the attitudes and behaviors of younger Americans across every racial and ethnic segment.

In the excerpt above, you’ll find a sampling of our most recent findings on multicultural growth opportunity, including must-have information on:

  • Population Size and Growth
  • Geography
  • Family Characteristics
  • Language
  • Economic Opportunity

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Who’s on My Side? Multicultural Perceptions of Polarization and Major U.S. Political Parties

Who’s on My Side? Multicultural Perceptions of Polarization and Major U.S. Political Parties
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Regardless of the outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election, many Americans will not feel as if America’s political parties truly represent people like them. Here’s what we know about whether multicultural segments think either Democrats or Republicans have their best interests at heart.

With America’s cultural transformation, all brands must pivot to reach and meet the needs of multicultural consumers. Political brands are no exception – so how well are these brands, more commonly known as parties, doing with America’s fastest-growing segments?

This October, we at Collage Group surveyed 2,372 Americans on a series of questions about the current state of U.S. politics. We sought to learn how multicultural segments approach the issue of political polarization, and, importantly, which groups of people they think the Democratic and Republican parties represent. From this, we learned to what extent each multicultural segment perceives the major parties as on “their” side, as well as serving the interests of a selection of other groups, including women, the LGBTQ+ community, and retirees.

At the topline level, the answers are largely to be expected: Americans see the Democrats as most likely to support the interests of multicultural segments. Indeed, Americans overall see the Republican Party as best serving the interests of “White People,” and Democrats the interests of the Hispanic, Black, and Asian communities.

But there are important nuances, including:

1. While a plurality of consumers sees the Democrats as better for certain constituencies, these numbers never reach a majority, even when considering segments traditionally thought of as being supported by Democratic platforms.

We find the greatest consensus when considering the LGBTQ+ community, for whom 43 percent of Americans see the Democrats as being the favored political party, with only 14 percent choosing the Republicans. For other segments, such as “parents,” the gap is far narrower, with 27 percent of consumers thinking Democrats are better for America’s parents, and 23 percent choosing Republicans.

2. Black Americans are the most likely segment to see Democrats as best serving not only Black communities, but also the interests of parents and retirees.

The affinity Black consumers have towards the Democratic party is more complex and nuanced than one might think. Over half (55 percent) of the Black segment sees Democrats as doing the most for Black communities, which is the strongest level of agreement for any racial/ethnic segment regarding any of the constituencies addressed. But Black consumers independently over-index on seeing Democrats as doing more for retirees (41 percent) and parents (38 percent).

3. Hispanic Americans, especially the Unacculturated segment, are least convinced that either major party does the most to serve the interests of immigrants.

While 43 percent of consumers see the Democrats as best serving the interests of the immigrant community, the Hispanic segment under-indexes here, at 35 percent. But it is not that they think Republicans are good for immigrants, as they under-indexing on that sentiment as well. Rather, Hispanic consumers are most likely to say that neither party serves the interests of the immigrant community. This is especially true for the Unacculturated Hispanic segment, of whom 30 percent see neither Republicans nor Democrats as supporting immigrants.

4. While three quarters of Americans are concerned about increasing political polarization, less than half of the Bicultural and Unacculturated Hispanic segments are concerned.

Only 46 percent of Bicultural Hispanic consumers, and 16 percent of the Unacculturated Hispanic segment, are concerned about the state of political polarization in the United States. We think there are three interrelated reasons for this. First, across a variety of subject areas we see Hispanic consumers expressing higher optimism than other segments. Second, Bicultural and Unacculturated Hispanic consumers are more likely to compare their experiences in the U.S. with those of their countries of origin, which, especially from their perspectives, are often worse when it comes to governance and the political process. Finally, many of these consumers are not citizens, and therefore may feel a lower personal stake in the in the American electoral system.

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Measuring the Cultural Fluency of USA Today’s “National Brand Statement” on Black Lives Matter.

Measuring the Cultural Fluency of USA Today’s “National Brand Statement” on Black Lives Matter.
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In our latest round of ad testing using AdRate, we focused on USA Today’s “National Brand Statement” on Black Lives Matter.

In this video, USA Today takes a clear stance on the issue of racial injustice. The plain black screen starts out with just one name – George Floyd. In a matter of seconds, the screen populates with names of other Black Americans that have unjustly lost their lives, and in the background, voices of protesters grow increasingly loud. The spot concludes with an explicit message: “Silence is not an option.”

Screenshot of USA Today's Response to Black Lives Matter

USA Today’s poignant ad did not cross the resonance threshold with everyone, but it was a clear winner for the Black segment. It was the highest performing media/telecom ad for Black consumers, with an A-CFQ score of 80. This ad joins a very small elite group of ads that can provoke that level of connection (Head & Shoulders “Royal Oils: BET Black History Month” and Coca-Cola “History Shakers”).

The top performing feature of this ad was the message. And while it’s sobering, about half of all respondents appreciate the message and say it was their favorite feature of the ad. On top of that, 72% of all viewers, and 81% of Black viewers, agree that it’s an important message. This was higher than any other ad in the study. Black respondents shared that they love the solidarity from USA Today supporting Black Lives Matter.

USA Today’s ad is unique in evoking an array of emotions. While many ads tend to cluster around one emotion, here the data is more fragmented across emotions, which would be expected given the sensitivity around the topic. Even still, feeling proud is the highest reported emotion, and this is especially true among Black viewers at 31%.

USA Today not only took a definitive stance on this issue – they went all in. They used explicit language to name and remember the Black Americans whose lives have been taken unjustly. They expressly referenced Black Lives Matter. And they made a clear assertion that staying silent on the issue is harmful. This course of action was powerful in both supporting and connecting with Black Americans.

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Slow Improvement Amid Cultural Uncertainty: Updated Economic Forecast and Survey Results on Consumer Finances and Purchasing

Slow Improvement Amid Cultural Uncertainty: Updated Economic Forecast and Survey Results on Consumer Finances and Purchasing
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Given all the uncertainty and stress of COVID, it’s more important than ever for marketers to keep a finger on the pulse of important consumer attitudes and behaviors.

To support this need, we at Collage have been conducting an intermittent tracking survey of how 18 to 39-year-old Americans, a group we call the New Wave, are responding to this extraordinary time.  In our most recent update, we compare the trailing average of four pulse surveys through mid- September to the trailing average through late August.  Read further for excerpts from our full report available exclusively to members.

Consumers Remain Generally Hesitant to Engage in Social Activities But Trending Slightly Positive.

One key indicator for increasing economic activity is how comfortable people feel engaging in the social activities which drive personal consumption and job creation. The story here is that of little meaningful change: consumer hesitancy to participate in these activities is clear across the board. We’re over six months into a worsening pandemic and unsurprisingly we see that most consumers just aren’t comfortable getting back to life “as it was.” The only substantial difference across multicultural segments is that non-Hispanic white consumers tend to be more comfortable engaging in these social activities, while unacculturated Hispanics tend to be less comfortable overall.

Purchase of Home Care and Personal Care Products May Be Trending Positive.

Despite the greater concern with finances and slightly reduced comfort with public places overall, New Wave consumers report they plan to spend more in a few areas, notably home care, personal care, and beauty. We see some small movements in other categories as well, including food, home care, and beverages, but the real story is lingering overall hesitancy to increase spending on non-essentials.  The increased spread of COVID-19 as we head into the cooler months may be driving the expected increase in home care spending.  As the downloadable presentation shows, personal care and beauty vary considerably by demographic.

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Measuring the Cultural Fluency of Ads: Home Care

Measuring the Cultural Fluency of Ads: Home Care
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In this AdRate study, we had the opportunity to test a recent ad by Lysol, “Questions Need Answers,” released in July 2020.

Amidst these uncertain times, Lysol’s ad aims to answer people’s common questions about how and where they can use Lysol disinfecting products.

The ad creatively displays the questions as if someone typed them into an internet search engine and shows people all the unlikely places they can use Lysol – including game controllers, packages, couches, and laptops. And it was a hit! This was one of the highest-performing home care ads of the set, resonating with all four consumer segments – Hispanic, Black, Asian, and White – with an A-CFQ score of 75 or higher for each group. And this ad ranked within the top two for each segment.

The top performing features of this ad were the message and visuals. And a whopping 80% of consumers agreed that this ad has an important message – higher than any other home care ad tested. This ad does a great job of capturing people’s attention in a relatable way – typing questions into a search bar – even ones that may seem a little outlandish! And viewers seem to like the format of learning about the product this way.

Lysol’s ad clearly and effectively communicated the value of their products, mitigating viewer confusion. The ad’s confident tone resulted in high rates of positive emotions across segments, like happiness, excitement, and pride.

Interested in seeing this study applied to your business?  We offer all Collage Group members a free detailed mini-report on one ad and one brand for each membership subscription (Latinum and GenYZ). Members may obtain more reports on any ad or brand at an additional cost.

For membership inquiries, demos, or questions, please fill out the contact form below. 

 

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Measuring the Cultural Fluency of Nonalcoholic Beverages: Jarritos

Measuring the Cultural Fluency of Nonalcoholic Beverages: Jarritos
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In this BrandRate study for non-alcoholic beverage brands, we had the opportunity to test Mexican soda brand, Jarritos, with multicultural consumers.

You might expect Jarritos to do well with Hispanic New Wave consumers – and you’d be right – but you might be surprised to know that the brand achieved a cultural reach score of 2, being culturally resonant with the Asian New Wave segment as well.

You may be wondering why Jarritos performed so well with these two groups. On the slide below, you see the percent of each segment that agrees with each of the six components of our Brand Cultural Fluency Quotient (B-CFQ). We see trends both across segment lines (columns) and across specific components (rows).

When you look at the different components, you’ll notice that pretty much across the board, Hispanic Acculturation segments score Jarritos very highly. Asian consumers share much of this sentiment, but aren’t as fanatic when it comes to perceiving Jarritos as a brand which shares their values. So there’s still room to improve, but Asian consumers – who are often adventurous and seek out authentic options for food and drink – clearly have strong affinity for this Hispanic heritage brand.

For Black and white New Wave consumers, though, Jarritos falls behind. With one exception – the Black segment sees Jarritos as a brand they can advocate for, potentially for its cultural significance, even if it’s not one they relate to personally. This sentiment is something Jarritos can leverage in future campaigns seeking to broaden its consumer base.

Collage Group members get access to a free, detailed report on one ad and one brand per year. Members may also obtain more reports on ads at an additional cost. Fill out the form below to learn more about the benefits of membership, cultural fluency, brand testing and more.

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Multicultural Consumer Category Pulse Check: F&B, Alcoholic Beverages, Media, Telecom & QSR

Multicultural Consumer Category Pulse Check: F&B, Alcoholic Beverages, Media, Telecom & QSR
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The life of American consumers today seems to have only one constant – change. To keep up with these changes, we provide our members timely and relevant learnings they can use to fine-tune their multicultural consumer research and marketing strategies.

We offer these learnings at three levels:

1. Consumer demographics, cultural values, and passion points (Multicultural Essentials)

2. Consumer attitudes and behaviors within specific categories (Category Essentials)

3. Consumer perceptions of individual brands and advertisements (BrandRate and AdRate)

Understanding this second level – how diverse consumer segments approach the industries relevant to you – is the focus of Collage Group’s Category Essentials reports.

These biannual reports provide a high-level view of the category-specific trade-offs and considerations facing today’s consumers.  They contextualize what you learn about America’s major consumer segments in the Multicultural Essentials by placing these segments within specific industries and categories. The reports’ category-specific coverage also provides insight that can help you better understand how your Brands and Ads are doing as revealed by your BrandRate and AdRate reports. 

Through Collage’s consumer-level expertise and the input we receive from members on issues of high priority, we develop the insights you need to understand key similarities and differences across multicultural segments. Equipped with these insights, you will be able to better navigate topics of interest and importance for your category and target consumers.  We plan on revising all Category Essentials decks twice every year.

Collage Group members can exclusively access full webinar replays and more in-depth Category Essentials materials for the following categories:

Food & Beverage

QSR

Alcoholic Beverages

Media

Telecom

To learn more about our multicultural consumer category research, fill out the form below.

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Pulse Check on Multicultural Health Care Consumers

Pulse Check on Multicultural Health Care Consumers
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Multicultural and generationally diverse Americans express unique health-related values, preferences, and desires.

These include valuing health insurance for different reasons, preferring specific types of benefits over others, desiring health care providers that understand and respect their culture and background, and leaning on different resources when experiencing health issues and seeking support.

Health care organizations—payers, providers, and related companies—need to understand the many ways multicultural and generationally diverse consumers differ in order to successfully capture their attention through marketing, provide products and services that ensure they will remain “brand” loyal, and manage their care in a way that leads to optimal health outcomes. Our research provides insight into diverse health care consumers from five angles:

1. How do consumers choose a health insurance plan?

2. How well do consumers understand their health insurance plans?

3. How do consumers select a health care provider?

4. How do consumers make medical decisions?

5. How do consumers engage in health outside the clinic setting?

Below are two key insights and action steps to aid your strategy to engage with and win-over multicultural health care consumers:

1. Populations that may have immigrated more recently – Unacculturated Hispanic and Asian Americans – are the least likely to understand their insurance plans. Double down on providing resources for segments who may have language barriers or a general lack of understanding of the U.S. health care system.

2. While most people prefer to communicate with their health insurer by phone, multicultural and younger consumers are most likely to utilize digital channels. Make sure live CSR’s are available to assist over the phone with plan-specific questions, and continue to market your digital channels, focusing on their value and ease of use, to realize the efficiency they offer.

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