We are already seeing the devastating impact of Coronavirus on businesses across the country, and my sympathies go out to all the owners and employees who are already feeling the life-changing effects. As people all over the world increasingly spend more time at home, many brands are looking for new ways to survive the dramatic loss of revenue that is the inevitable result of the change in behaviour. We’ve already seen Universal Pictures putting new movie releases up for online streaming, local restaurants offering to deliver meals to regulars, and Iceland stores devoting dedicated opening times to the elderly.   Homeworking and social distancing are temporarily making out of home advertising a less effective medium. Meanwhile, internet searches are experiencing massive upturn as we look for new ways to live our lives.Now more than ever is the time for online content as people turn to digital for information, entertainment, and connection in an increasingly isolated world. We are seeing a huge increase in social traffic and digital connections, as people are unable to have those experiences in person, and it’s fundamentally changing how we behave online.With people looking to social to entertain them during this time, what will be the impact on brands in the months to come?  People’s behaviour is changing in the current climate, and this month there is already a five-year high in demand for content and Gen Z are 60% more likely to believe some of the myths that are being spread online.

A growing need for content

Across the whole of the last five years, the number of Google searches for ‘what to watch’ has never been so high. In the three months since we were first aware of Coronavirus, there has been an increase of between 400-500% in global searches.The trend is clearly associated with the increasing amount of time people are spending at home as they avoid public spaces like transport, offices, and restaurants – and it’s only going to accelerate as restrictions on our movements and our ability to socialise become more a part of everyday life.GWI reports that 25% of people are checking social media more regularly during this period for information and support, seeking out up-to-the-minute advice on best practice and, perhaps, looking for the memes and jokes that provide a bit of light relief and humour as we navigate the uncertainty and anxiety.In response, some influencers are using their platforms to pass on government advice, as they are able to amplify this message in a relatable way to their audiences, and in doing so help the spread of truthful and safe information. For example, creator group ‘The Try Guys’ have released an18-minute video explaining some of the best practices to help their seven million-strong audience stay safe, but they haven’t forgotten the value of entertainment, and are happy to show the funny side of evacuating their offices and the challenges of the home workout.We’re also seeing other influencers shake up their content. For example, Gok Wan has just announced a new cooking show via Instagram for his followers, now that so many people will have more time and motivation to make meals from scratch. We may not be able to dine out at restaurants, but we can create the restaurant experience in our own homes. This is just one way in which content is able to adapt to the increase of digital activity and remain relevant.

Where do the brands and influencers fit in?

Identifying which industries, communities and ambassadors best align with your brand is vital when realigning your strategy with current behaviours. Are you a restaurant that is losing footfall, but could develop a strong online following to keep up your presence until your customers start to return? Are you a dating app that’s seen an increase in usage, but finding that visitors have new concerns about health and safety that need to be addressed?There are so many ways in which brands will be influenced – and influencing – in the coming months, and the food and drinks industry one of the most immediately impacted, is proving one of the first to adapt. Influencers may not be able to share their experiences of restaurants or bars anymore or run experiential events but there are still huge opportunities for brands in this sector.We are seeing a shift as food delivery platforms receive record traffic, at the same time as an increasing number of people will be cooking at home. For many, deliveries and takeaways will not be an option, and saving money will be a priority. Batch cooking at home is one of the best ways to cut back on spending, and many of us will be turning to influencers and brands for inspiration in the kitchen. After all, there will be a lot of people looking for new and interesting ways to serve up all the pasta and tinned tomatoes they have been panic buying.
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