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How COVID-19 Has Impacted Media Consumption, by Generation

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covid-19 media consumption by generation

Media Consumption in the Age of COVID-19

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to wreak havoc across the globe, people’s time that would have otherwise been spent perusing malls or going to live events, is now being spent on the sofa.

During this period of pandemic-induced social isolation, it’s no surprise that people are consuming vast amounts of media. Today’s graphics use data from a Global Web Index report to explore how people have increased their media consumption as a result of the outbreak, and how it differs across each generation.

More Time to Kill

Global Web Index found that over 80% of consumers in the U.S. and UK say they consume more content since the outbreak, with broadcast TV and online videos (YouTube, TikTok) being the primary mediums across all generations and genders.

Unsurprisingly, 68% of consumers are seeking out pandemic updates online over any other activity. Gen Zers however, have other plans, as they are the only generation more likely to be listening to music than searching for news.

internet activities

Overall, younger generations are more likely to entertain themselves by playing games on their mobile or computer. Millennials also stand out as the foodie generation, as they are the most likely to be searching for cooking recipes or reading up on healthy eating.

Leaning on a Pillar of Trust

Across the board, consumers view the World Health Organization (WHO) as the most trusted source of information for any COVID-19 related updates.

This isn’t true everywhere on a regional basis, however. For example, while U.S. consumers trust WHO the most, UK consumers view their government as their most trusted news source overall.

media consumption trust

Trust in information shared on social media is higher than word of mouth from friends and family, and even foreign government websites. That said, it is lower than information shared on the radio or news websites.

The Need for Pandemic Positivity

While staying abreast of pandemic updates is important, ultimately, a positive mindset and the ability to switch off will help people cope better day-to-day.

Therefore, it seems reasonable that people are more inclined to invest in new subscription services since they have been in isolation, with almost one-third of Gen Zers considering purchasing Netflix, followed by Disney+.

media consumption subscription

Understandably, people are becoming increasingly worried about how much time they are dedicating to their screens. However, research suggests that screen time itself is no cause for concern. Rather, it’s the content we choose to consume that could have a significant impact our psychological well-being.

Perhaps most intriguingly, the TV shows and movies that are increasing in popularity on Netflix are about pandemics—which could signify the need for people to fictionalize the chaos we find ourselves in.

Regardless of what type of content we are consuming, the fact is that every generation is relying on their devices during this pandemic to inform and distract more than ever before, creating a huge opportunity for media companies to engage a captive audience.

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The COVID-19 Impact on Advertising Spend

Global advertising spending is estimated to see $50 billion decline across various mediums and industries as a result of COVID-19.

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covid-19 advertising spend

The COVID-19 Impact on Advertising Spend

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, global advertising investment was estimated to grow at a 7.1% clip in 2020.

Now, it is estimated to see a brutal contraction of 8.1%—equating to almost $50 billion—as a result of changing consumer behavior. The total loss becomes a bleak $96.4 billion when taking pre-pandemic growth forecasts into account.

Today’s graphic uses data from the World Advertising Research Center (WARC) to visualize the estimated decline in advertising spend by media format and industry.

As advertisers adapt to rising in-home media consumption, the tug-of-war for ad dollars between online and traditional media seems to have a decisive winner.

The Death of Traditional Media

After decades of experts predicting the death of traditional media formats, the COVID-19 pandemic could be the last nail in the coffin.

In fact, spend across every type of traditional media format will see a decline in 2020, while most online media formats are expected to see an increase in spending.

Mid-term, this era will be associated with an accelerant of latent and incremental trends towards more digital consumption, commerce, and thus advertising”

—Dr. Daniel Knapp, Interactive Advertising Bureau Europe

With consumers spending significantly more time at home, brands are allocating more dollars to certain media formats to reflect that. However, when it comes to traditional in-home formats such as TV, consumers are opting for streaming services instead. In fact, they are streaming twice as much online video on services such as Netflix compared to last year.

Spending Estimates, by Category

Almost every industry will see reduced spending. The one category that will buck the trend is “Telecoms & Utilities”, which will experience a 4.3% increase in ad spend throughout the year.

Interestingly, stay-at-home restrictions have increased consumers’ reliance on these services for staying connected with loved ones and working from home.

Moreover, the pandemic has proved to be a turning point for the telecommunications industry, as the importance of faster internet speeds are emphasized and the potential of 5G is realized.

The Road to Recovery?

When inflation and exchange rates are taken into account, the decline in advertising spend is expected to be worse than that experienced during the global financial crisis.

Although 2021 shows signs of recovery, WARC suggests this is reflective of how steep the decline in 2020 will be.

covid-19 advertising spend

Data shows that global advertising spending growth did not fully recover for eight years following the previous recession, so a swift recovery may be highly unlikely, and returning to pre-pandemic growth rates may not be possible for a number of years.

The Changing Advertising Landscape

As advertisers come to terms with their new reality, they are faced with the uncertainty of changing consumer behavior and the potential for a second wave of the pandemic, tightening quarantine restrictions once more.

Could COVID-19 be accelerating the inevitable shift to digital, or is the pain for traditional media only temporary?

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Demographics

The Most Loved Brands, by Generation

Can a brand transcend time and be all things to all people? This graphic seeks to find out by visualizing the most loved brands by generation.

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The Most Beloved Brands, by Generation

When it comes to buying into brands, consumers are spoiled for choice.

The vast amount of options available makes it increasingly difficult for brands to build meaningful emotional connections with them—but for the brands that do, the payoff can be huge.

Today’s graphic pulls data from MBLM’s 2020 Brand Intimacy Report and visualizes the top 10 brands that different generations connect with the most.

Can Emotion Be Measured?

Brands that tap into consumers’ emotions can establish higher levels of trust. This in turn creates a culture of loyalty that could ensure a unique standing in the market and long-term growth.

In fact, intimate brands that have a strong emotional bond with their consumers tend to outperform top companies listed on the S&P 500 and Fortune 500 in both revenue and profit. To measure how brands emotionally connect with consumers, MBLM looked at four key factors:

  • Users: The existing relationship between a brand and a consumer
  • Emotional Connection: The degree of positive feelings the user has for a brand, and the extent to which their personal values align with the brand’s values
  • Archetype: The six markers that are present among intimate brands, which include fulfillment, identity, enhancement, ritual, nostalgia, and indulgence
  • Stage: The degree of intensity in the relationship across three phases: sharing, bonding, and fusing
  • Intimacy Score: Based on these four components, a score is assigned, ranging from 0-100

The total score also reveals which brands rank the highest across different age groups. While there are some commonalities across each generation, can brands be all things to all people?

The Chosen One

There are very few brands that have the luxury of retaining loyal customers from different age brackets. Amazon, however, manages to transcend age. The retail giant appears in the top five for Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers—with the latter awarding the brand their #1 spot.

Every generation named “enhancement” as Amazon’s defining trait, meaning their lives have improved as a result of the relationship. The “ritual” trait also scored high, with users claiming the brand has become ingrained into their daily behavior.

Ranked: Top Brands by Generation

Gen Z and Millennials (18-34)

Sony-owned PlayStation holds the title for the most intimate brand among Millennials, climbing up from the 8th spot in 2019. Impressively, more than 50% of Millennials have an emotional connection to the brand, with men having a particularly strong affinity for it.

Having recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, the gaming brand’s success has been fueled by the increasing popularity of multiplayer and professional gaming, as well as new product innovation—with five of the ten best selling consoles owned by PlayStation.

RankBrandScoreIndustry   
#1PlayStation78.3Media and Entertainment
#2Amazon76.6Retail
#3Target68.7Retail
#4Disney67.8Media and Entertainment
#5Ford67.4Automotive
#6Jeep66.8Automotive
#7Apple65.9Technology
#8YouTube63.0Media and Entertainment
#9Xbox59.8Media and Entertainment
#10Nintendo56.8Media and Entertainment

Interestingly, when Gen Z (18-24) are singled out, Microsoft-owned Xbox ranks as #1, increasing its score to 73.5 in 2020 from 49.7 in 2018.

Gen X (35-54)

As the generational middle child, Gen X did not grow up with the same access to technology. However, their tech adoption is almost on par with Millennials, with similar adoption rates across tablet and smartphone ownership.

It is no surprise therefore, that Apple has captured the hearts of this generation, sitting proudly in first place. When the iPhone launched in 2007, this group was between 22-41 years old, so they have likely been loyal followers of the tech brand since its earlier days.

RankBrandScoreIndustry   
#1Apple72.1Technology
#2Amazon66.8Retail
#3Netlix66.1Media and Entertainment
#4Jeep65.1Automotive
#5Disney65.0Media and Entertainment
#6Ford63.6Automotive
#7Samsung58.5Technology
#8Xbox57.0Media and Entertainment
#9Walmart55.2Retail
#10Nike54.6Apparel

While this generation has no qualms about shopping online, 72% of them shop in brick and mortar stores and are satisfied with doing so—which may be part of the reason why retail giant Walmart joins Amazon in the top 10.

Baby Boomers (55-64)

Controlling almost 70% of disposable income in the U.S., Baby Boomers are arguably the most influential of all consumer groups.

While they feel the most emotionally connected to Amazon, it’s also true that Apple was another tech brand to win the affection of this age group.

RankBrandScoreIndustry   
#1Amazon70.0Retail
#2Toyota63.6Automotive
#3Apple61.4Technology
#4Costco61.2Retail
#5Macy’s55.2Retail
#6Hershey’s54.8Consumer Packaged Goods
#7Hewlett-Packard54.4Technology
#8Pillsbury51.8Consumer Packaged Goods
#9Kellogg’s50.0Consumer Packaged Goods
#10Pepsi50.0Consumer Packaged Goods

This generation dominates almost 50% of consumer packaged goods (CPG) sales in the U.S.—which likely explains why the rest of their top brands are more traditional household names, such as Macy’s, Hershey’s, and Kellogg’s.

It is also clear from the ranking that this group values brands with nostalgic qualities, as well as the ability to provide them with moments of indulgence.

The Changing Brand Landscape

The brand and consumer relationship has shifted with the ages, but each generation’s unique value system has remained the most important piece of the puzzle.

It is worth noting that none of the Baby Boomer’s favorite brands appear in the ranking for those aged 18-24 (Gen Z). Are the preferences of younger generations signalling a cultural shift, in which we place more value on distraction rather than satisfaction?

Note: The 2020 Brand Intimacy Report covers an age range of 18-64. The way that the ranking is structured makes it difficult to reflect conventional demographic groups (e.g. Gen Z, the Silent Generation etc.)

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