People-friendly brands lead with empathy, not empty words or platitudes. Americans are living through a time where we are encountering triumphs and challenges, despair and hope, profound anxiety and simple pleasure, all at a whiplash-inducing pace.  So while we may be only a few weeks into this crisis, the endless barrage of “We’re all in this together” posts is already starting to take on the empty sentiment of “thoughts and prayers.”

To get to the bottom of how people are really feeling during the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked over 350 of them to identify the emotions they have experienced over the previous 24 hours … and it is complicated, to say the least.

We found that a vast majority of Americans are experiencing a range of both positive (85%) and negative (92%) emotions in the midst of this pandemic. Americans who reported feelings of anxiety were also more likely than those who had not experienced anxiety to say they’d felt love (43% v. 34%), gratitude (35% v. 22%) and comfort (37% v. 30%). And interestingly, half of the people who experienced serenity also report feeling stress and anxiety. Keep in mind — this is all over a span of 24 hours.

COVID Consumer Emotions

At the same time, those who reported gratitude were significantly more likely than those who hadn’t felt grateful  to say they were worried about planning for the future (59% v. 48%), financial instability (61% v. 45%) and relationship stress (29% v. 16%).  Because let’s face it, we’re all on an emotional rollercoaster!

We’re not suggesting that brands run around with their collective hair on fire and amplify anybody’s anxiety, but maybe now isn’t the time to pretend we’ve all “got this,” either. Instead, brands can show some humanity: Acknowledge the very real highs and lows we’re experiencing, understand that anxiety and optimism can exist within the same breath and find the courage to admit they don’t have all the answers.

In true people-friendly fashion, Allbirds stopped posting sales-driving, product-focused content on Instagram about two weeks ago in favor of content that addresses what their digital community needs most — humility, transparency and comfort. Allbirds did just about the most human thing they could do — humbly admit they don’t have it all figured out. They wanted to be as relevant and meaningful to their audience as possible, so they asked their followers to let them know what they wanted to see from them at this time.

 

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Hey Flock. It’s hard to know exactly what to do or say in these unprecedented times, but supporting our community remains of utmost importance to us. We are very aware that navigating this modern global crisis includes navigating an abundance of digital content. As we reflect on this fact, it is important to us to make sure that we are supporting our digital community and providing you all with what you want and need to see in this space. So we open the question to you: what would you like to see more of from us in this time? Cute sheep for a moment of respite? Virtual lunches with members of our team? Ideas for fun activities to do at home over video chat with family and friends? We are all ears and we are here with you. We have some fun ideas of our own planned over the next few weeks – so you’ll be seeing some content that we thought could be a nice change of pace. And as always, even if you just need someone to say hi to – slide into our DM’s. Send us photos of dogs napping on shoes, or ask us what color shoe goes better with your outfit, whatever it is, we’re here for you. #weareallbirds

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Summersalt, a swimwear startup, shifted its regular customer service channels into a resource where the brand is providing emotional support. People from Summersalt’s “customer happiness” team will send over a 10-minute meditation video, self-care ideas or a puppy GIF to anyone who needs a little dose of happiness. Summersalt isn’t pretending everything’s fine, and they certainly don’t claim to have a solution for the big problems we’re facing, but they are offering to carry the emotional load with their community.

This stuff isn’t easy — some brands won’t have the ability to get as real as we’re suggesting here, for any number of reasons. And we’re not here to pretend that we have all the answers, either. But we do believe the brands that go beyond the generic gesture, acknowledge the emotional intensity and ambiguity of the moment and connect with people where they are (emotionally and functionally) can forge a powerful bond.

Of course, in a time of crisis, people-friendly brands need to do much more than talk the talk. They need to act with integrity and provide real utility in ways that make people’s lives easier and meet their most pressing needs. For example, Allbirds isn’t just posting soothing pictures, they donated $500,000 worth of shoes to healthcare workers. Over the next few weeks, we will be releasing content focused on what it means to act with integrity, provide utility and deliver simplicity in these incredibly complex times.

If you’re interested in learning more about our People Pulse or how your brand can forge a deeper connection through a People-Friendly approach, give us a shout!