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South Africans want brands to keep being active in their lives during lockdown



A study conducted by marketing communications agency HaveYouHeard has found that South Africans want brands to keep being active in their lives during the lockdown.

According to the agency’s Head of Strategy, Ryan McFadyen, the overall expectation of the 780 respondents to the survey is that brands should be active and should be useful, whether to them, the actual consumer, or the general public by large. In fact, 37% spontaneously stated they wanted brands to continue advertising or being active in their lives while only 8% felt the other way.

“More respondents were in favour of brands being in their lives than keeping quiet. They added that this communication should shift to those channels where they’re spending more time – for some this was in the traditional media but, for many more, it was social and online media.

“Those who said brands should not be advertising suggested marketing or advertising budgets should be spent helping consumers either through cheaper product offerings or by launching programmes that support South Africans’ efforts to remain safe from infection,” McFadyen said.

The study also highlighted that consumers are holding brands to the highest possible standards during the pandemic. Maybe more so than what is financially possible; but consumers do expect these brands to behave with a responsible ‘humanity first’ approach.

“Some consumers spoke of brands first protecting their own staff and saving jobs within their companies, being transparent and clear in how they have been impacted and explaining measures they would be taking,” McFadyen said.

Here, many respondents spontaneously mentioned which brands they felt were behaving responsibly.


The 14 brands with the most spontaneous mentions were:


· Pick n Pay

· Woolworths

· Checkers

· Spar

· Shoprite

· Nando’s

· Dettol

· Vodacom

· Dischem

· Lifebuoy

· Coca-Cola

· Old Mutual

· Tiger Brands

· Discovery

McFadyen stressed that the pandemic and the measures put in place to curb its spread, such as lockdown, are already influencing consumer behaviour and perceptions. This will have a profound impact on how brands behave post-COVID-19, he said.

“Consumers have had to alter their lifestyle, change their behaviours, and find new ways to purchase. They have been pushed into a zone of experimentation based on the new ‘need-and-want’ parameter and these changes are impacting how consumers are benchmarking value. It is still unclear if this will create permanent change, or a fast swing back to old norms, or something in the middle, but what is clear is that brand choice is undergoing forced shifts.

“People need people and have a desire to belong which is an important role of any brand. But lockdown, face masks, and social distancing are all limiting social connections and are creating an opportunity for social intimacy to be fostered within the constraints of the law. How brands provide spaces or ways for people to come together and to belong will be important.

“Further, ‘Corona Fatigue’ is starting to set in and it is exceedingly difficult to escape. This, therefore, will become a big driver for consumers and they will look for brands who can facilitate escaping the overwhelming stress and threat of COVID-19 to being able to think, do, believe and engage with what life used to be, what life could be or what life would never be,” he said.

Other key findings from the first survey include:


  • The government was seen to have performed their role very well and ensured that the majority of South Africans were largely in agreement with the Lockdown measures. Only 10% feel that the Government's response is lacking and 16% felt that it was too late, driven by lower-income respondents. There is unity across the board on the acceptance of this due to the severity of COVID-19, (although this sentiment has likely shifted in the past weeks).


  • A third of individuals with a monthly household income of less than R5 000 a month believe contracting Coronavirus will no longer be a problem by July 2020. The majority of respondents agree that it will be much longer.


  • Concerns around income loss/retrenchments and the economy are currently more top of mind than the spread of the virus. During the lockdown, the direct consequences of these financial losses were immediately felt by many South Africans, as well as indirect consequences such as increased inequality, hunger, homelessness, violence, crime, and civil unrest. A health pandemic of this nature hasn’t been experienced by this generation and is difficult to imagine. The impact on loss of life was not felt at the time of lockdown by many.


  • The majority of South Africans believe this pandemic will have a negative impact on South Africa’s future, while still feeling more optimistic about their own.


  • The long-term positive impact is likely to be increased social cohesion, empathy, and respect for frontline workers. Some are forced or are choosing to re-evaluate and reinvent themselves. Trust in Government’s capability has improved with a need to adapt and fix the inequality and problems South Africa faces.


  • Half of the consumers are spending less money, both because they have fewer opportunities to spend and reduced income. This is skewed towards upper-income brackets.

  • However, many people with lower household incomes had to spend more money at the start of lockdown, with the majority of this spend being on food groceries and household essentials.

  • The majority of people are baking and cooking more, but this is contrasted with many people who are going without food and struggling to pay rent. Cleaning, spending time with family, and creativity has increased while people are limited to the confines of their homes.

780 respondents were recruited through HaveYouHeard’s existing consumer panel, influencer network, and through Facebook and WhatsApp. This sample included seven different household income groups from those earning less than R5000 a month (27%) to those earning more than R50 000 a month (12%). Fieldwork was conducted between March 26 to April 28.

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