Data-Driven Brand Communications During COVID w/ Michael Ramlet
During the June 12 Friday Forum, we were joined by guest speaker Michael Ramlet, the co-founder and CEO of Morning Consult, a data intelligence company that delivers real-time insights on consumer trends.
In the midst of a civil rights movement and a pandemic, the need for accurate data and information on the realities we face is critical. Ramlet shared timely data on the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the government’s response, the impact of COVID-19 on consumer confidence and public opinion, employment tracking and more.
He spoke to how their survey research, pooled from tens of thousands of daily interviews nationally, are shaping the economy, politics, culture, and daily life.
According to Ramlet, “The challenge to the communicator has never been more acute than it is right now. Executives don’t have a way to collect, organize, or share data on what people think in real time. The way that we have historically gathered consumer data (quarterly, annually, etc.) used to work for the pre-24-hour news cycle, but communications technology has not kept pace with the technology that we have to evaluate. By taking consumer insights to a daily level, it becomes easier to see how brands react to events in real time and allows data to function as a more effective storm warning tool.”
Brand and consumer insights not inextricable from political insight
Ramlet shared examples from the data that Morning Consult collects to show how consumer confidence levels reacted to events like the COVID pandemic and the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests. He explained how this data can be used to show consumer confidence with precise social and geographic demographics.
Applying the same data collection ethic, we can see how confidence in political actors and events are influenced by current events. This can have far reaching implications for communicators and the companies they serve.
The data shared by Ramlet showed how support for the George Floyd/Black Lives Matter protests have had a drastic increase in support from those on both sides of the political aisle:
Further research from Morning Consult showed that there is a larger population that would look at a company more favorably for making a statement in favor of the movement than those who would look at them less favorably. According to different data sets, 69% of adults say that the response to the Black Lives Matter movement by CEOs will permanently affect their decision to buy from the company and 68% of Americans say it’s important for CEOs to address racial inequality:
Morning Consult found similar responses around the COVID pandemic. An- overwhelming majority consumers (around 80%) would look at a company more favorably for supporting those made more vulnerable by the pandemic, including increasing health benefits for workers and reducing the price of essential items, and 71% of consumers believe that it is the responsibility of CEOs to help during the pandemic with an even higher population wanting to hear and see from CEOs a real commitment to change.
This call for equity is not just a response to the pandemic and protests. Since September 2019, the consumer consensus around whose interests and wellbeing should CEOs prioritize has also seen drastic changes. From an even split between shareholders and employees in September to a near 3-to-1 ratio in favor of the wellbeing of employees, it is no longer enough to prioritize shareholders.
These data points show that standing up for justice is no longer a poison pill for companies, it’s an expectation.
Q: How would you show how a particular action (let’s say Starbucks’ BLM clothing ban on baristas and subsequent reverse) impacted brand sentiment?
MC: We are tracking Starbucks on a daily basis with 200 interviews every single day. So as this news continues to gain momentum we can monitor Starbucks’ brand metrics over time. On the other side, we actually have a custom survey that went into the field yesterday on this topic.
Q: Why hasn’t consumer confidence rebounded with early openings — how much of that is weighted toward the feeling that it is too soon to be safe, vs job losses that is depressing consumer spending overall, etc?
MC: : We’re seeing a small rebound in consumer confidence in some states,particularly in Western states such as Montana, Utah, Idaho and Colorado). Georgia has not seen a rebound, despite its reopening because consumers in the state have yet to grow more confident in the economy.
Q: Regarding investor relations, how should management teams think about the stock market’s disconnect from economic data?
MC: The coronavirus pandemic has created the largest disconnect between consumers and investors. From peak to trough, our data shows consumer confidence fell by 20 times its pre-COVID daily standard deviation, whereas stock prices fell by only six times.