The good news is nearly nine out of ten Americans say they are loyal to at least a few brands a year after the COVID-19 pandemic. The bad news is we don't really know how their loyalty has changed because of it. That's the finding of the first in a series of "What's Next" for consumers tracking studies being released today by GfK.
The first wave, which was fielded in late February, nearly a year after the U.S. began locking down, does not seek to answer whether or how much brand loyalty changed due to the pandemic, but it serves as a benchmark for future research to understand what will happen if brands don't continue to get it right during a time of tremendous angst and uncertainty -- not just because of the health threats of a pandemic, but during a period of tremendous political and social justice upheaval.
“Most brands have tried hard to do the right things and respond to consumers’ needs and wants in the midst of 2020’s confusion and concern,” GfK Senior Vice President of Marketing Effectiveness Eric Villain explains in the research report, adding: “On the broadest measures, we see that brands held onto loyalty – and perhaps even grew their consumer relationships.”
While the initial study doesn't provide any pre-/-post 2020 insights, it does show that many American consumers have high levels of trust in brands, something other consumer research studies have shown over the past year, especially the Edelman Trust Barometer, but also Mindshare's ongoing COVID tracking studies.
Thew new GfK research does show an important new insight related to post-pandemic brand opportunity, or rather, responsibility: data.
The research found that 36% of Americans say they are more likely to trust brands with their personal data vs. how they felt before the pandemic. Only 15% said their level of trust dropped, indicating that roughly half of Americans haven't really changed how they view how brands handle their data.
Kudos to GfK for benchmarking how Americans feel about brands a year after the pandemic, but I have a feeling the most interesting insights are yet to come.