Americans Talking About Racial Justice, COVID-19 Also Talk About Brands' Engagement With Issues

Marketers have turned their attention to racial justice and unrest, recognizing a long overdue need to use their influence in advertising and organic platforms to bring about change in America. 

Knowing how many brands have become engaged with both COVID-19 and racial justice is important. People who discuss racial justice or major health issues have 21 more brand-related conversations a week than the average American. These consumers talk more about most categories than the general public.

Engagement Labs found that among Americans, the most common conversations relate to racial justice and COVID-19, and an equal number of Americans say each of the two issues are the most impactful topics discussed, according to data released Wednesday.

Some of the data was analyzed between March 16 and June 21, 2020, while other data had a shorter span of June 15-June 21, 2020.  

Offline conversations focus on both racial justice and COVID-19, whereas social media chatter is focused more on racial justice and equality, according to Engagement Labs, which combines offline and online data.

The study found that those who talk about these issues also talk about brands, according to data that was pulled between June 15 and June 21, 2020.

Discussions about COVID-19 are most impactful among older and middle-income consumers, and Democrats. 

The Demographic Profile table looks at the proportion of people who talked about racism or racial justice during the day of the study and compares it to the Total Public percentages. The table also depicts the proportion of people who deemed a conversation about racism or racial justice as their "most impactful discussion" of the day.  

COVID-19 is heavily impacting people in the South. Talk about COVID-19 is lowest in the Northeast and the West.

Blacks, Hispanics and Asians talk about racism or racial justice the least, at 17%, 13%, and 4%, respectively.

While talk doesn’t make a topic less important, when it comes to racism or racial justice, 38% of Democrats, 29% of Independents, and 18% of Republicans talk about it. U.S. racial justice in relation to unrest is the most impactful among Democrats at 48%, Independents at 25%, and Republicans at 14%.

Some marketers think racial justice has overtaken conversations about COVID-19. Listening to social media signals might give them a reason to think that, but real-world conversation tells a different story.

Racial justice issues have greatly surpassed COVID-19 during the past four weeks by a factor of 10 times.

As is often the case in racial media, mentions of COVID-19 rose between May 27 and June 2, but have declined since. Racial justice mentions reached 16.2 million on social media this past week, compared with 2.8 million COVID-19 mentions.

Offline conversations of racism or racial justice moved up to become the top discussion topic, with 46% of Americans talking about this daily. Still, 45%, also talk daily about COVID-19 and major health issues.

The top 10 things people talked about between June 15 and June 21 include 46%, racism or racial justice; 45%, health issues such as COVID-19; 36%, the president and how he’s doing; 32%, places to shop for things wanted; 30%, nutrition, dieting, healthy eating; 26%, schools or education; 25%, vacation trips or travel plans; 24%, job hunting or concerns about looking; 23%, concerns about financial situation; 23%, overall state of the economy; 17%, what’s happening in other countries; 17%, the national election; 15%, health insurance; 15%, Congress and how they’re doing; and 13%, energy or gasoline costs.

The study also suggests that marketers should keep all this in mind as they respond to changing consumer behaviors and conversations. While social media may send one signal, what people talk about and what impacts them the most is often much more complex and is a major reason why offline and online are often not correlated to each other. 

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