During the COVID Era, 50% of Americans are discovering new brands – is yours one of them?

Since COVID first became a household name, uncertainty has loomed large in American households. We have heard the phrase “uncertain times” ad nauseam – and we hate it. But as we continue to endure massive uncertainty, there is one sure thing: consumers are questioning everything, including brand loyalty. No wonder recent IRI data indicates that 50% of consumers are discovering new brands.

What does that mean for your brand? Are you setting yourself up to be found by your target audience during this wave of brand discovery? And will your product pass the muster when someone decides to give it a shot?

I can’t help you with that latter of those questions (that’s on you), but I can share some marketing insights and tips on increasing your brand discoverability.

1. Discovering New Brands: Dig Into Financial Appeal

As of this writing, almost half of the US population is living on a lower income when compared to pre-COVID earnings – an average of $8,900 lower. (Source: Society of HR Management Study) That shouldn’t come as a surprise; each day we hear about rising levels of unemployment, due to massive layoffs and the extinction of many small businesses. People are slashing their spending, with 3 out of 4 delaying a major expenditure.

Those who have money are doing whatever they can to save it: according to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, 33% of people earning $100,000+ have increased their savings – that’s higher than any point in 2019, when fewer than 10% were amping up savings.

If incomes are down, how are savings up? People are examining every choice they make – and engaging in more conscious consumption – including scrutinizing the value received for dollar paid.

What’s more exciting than the fact that 1 out of 2 Americans are trying new brands? Two-thirds are likely to stay with those new brands! Why? Because those brands are meeting or exceeding their expectations. That’s not just trying something – that’s truly discovering new brands.

If you can deliver more than your competitor per dollar spent, now’s the time to go heavy on that messaging. It doesn’t have to cheapen your brand. When done right, it can actually elevate your brand perception.

2. Discovering New Brands: Minimize Anxiety

When discerning the motivational forces behind the current wave of brand discovery, findings from ENGINE point to three primary factors: 1) concern about finances, 2) concern about anxiety / mental health, 3) concern about family well-being. If your brand can alleviate one or more of these concerns, shout about it – and if it can’t, find a way to make it happen.

Offering the best value for a price point is just one approach. Yes, it helps with financial concerns, but there are plenty of opportunities for your brand – which means you can definitely be in the consideration set for discovering new brands, even if you can’t claim the best value position in your category.

You can minimize anxiety by offering other means of protection. Have you gone to great lengths to protect your employees? Keep that info front and center. Are you innovating ways to keep customers safe? Brand that innovation and build it into your messaging. Are you doing something special to help the world? People want to be a part of the solution, so give them a chance to do something with you. When brands bring consumers together to do something bigger, it creates a bond.

3. Discovering New Brands: Create Moments

I know you’ve heard of FOMO (fear of missing out), which has been a huge driver of social media activity. With quarantines, sheltering in place, reductions in travel and gatherings, there hasn’t been a whole lot to miss out on.

ENGINE reports that people are focused less on FOMO and more on NOMO: “no moments” to look forward to celebrating with friends and family. With COVID, economic collapse, civil unrest, and political division, the serious lack of big parties and vacations is really bringing us down.

Rather than thinking about how you can revise campaigns in your existing marketing channels, ask how your brand can create moments of happiness. Can your brand enable enhanced virtual gatherings? Can you bring elements of desired destinations to their homes? Can you create a hybrid digital-analog experience that offers a multi-dimensional diversion? Focusing on anything your brand can do to help release serotonin will be met with open arms – and shared with open mouths!

It’s easy to get caught up in negativity, especially at time when we are faced with difficulties no matter which way we turn. Let’s take this opportunity to be a force for good. That’s the most certain way to stand out in an uncertain world – and to stand out as a choice when consumers are discovering new brands.