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Brand Tone and Messaging in Turbulent Times

Brand Tone and Messaging in Turbulent Times

Emily Trentacosta

person playing piano key

How to strike the right note when communicating with your consumers right now

Keeping in touch with your consumers right now is critical. A global pandemic and arguably the largest civil rights movement in U.S. history are a recipe for uncertainty, and you need to be sure what you are saying is relevant to your audience’s primary concerns in today’s world—and that your message sets the right tone.

Even as we begin to emerge from the pandemic, COVID-19 is still top of mind and we are all navigating its ongoing impact on our lives. Our research found that there are some very specific things that your customers may want to hear from you.

What is Critically Important to Communicate Right Now?

Since early April, we have been conducting an ongoing study with OpinionRoute on consumer perceptions during the time of COVID-19, updated weekly with new data. We uncovered several interesting findings about what consumers want to hear about from brands and businesses.

Care for employees: Nearly nine out of 10 consumers want to know that businesses are protecting their employees’ health and jobs. Specifically, the study found that consumers want to see companies doing their best to protect jobs, and they want to be sure that companies are providing sick leave and comprehensive benefits to their employees. In fact, one of our respondents said that a major e-commerce company had “a commercial showing how committed they are to employee safety and well-being, but after one or two months [into COVID-19], they removed hazard pay for their employees…this made me like them less…”


Care for customers: Further, 90% of consumers want to know that businesses are protecting their customers from becoming sick. This can include everything from increased cleaning protocols to requiring employees to wear masks. The bottom line is that consumers want to know exactly what businesses are doing to keep them safe. For example, one earlier wave of our study showed that consumers were skeptical about returning to restaurants or bars for fear of a second wave of COVID-19. Consumers cited worry that “individual businesses don’t follow proper sanitation guidelines or set up their seating areas to provide better space to the customers.”

Care for the community: Seventy-three percent of consumers want to know what brands are doing to support their communities, and the same amount of people also want to understand what businesses are doing to support the medical community at this time. Our study showed that people are looking to brands to take a role in community support, and this in turn makes them feel good about doing business with those brands. One respondent said that a utility company in their area was “willing to help if you’re experiencing hardship, and [a major laundry product brand] is willing to wash clothes for the first responders. I appreciate the help in the community.”

Take Action, and Then Talk About It

Whether you are a storefront, manufacturer or service-oriented business, clear communication around the above issues can truly help build a positive perception of your brand. Consumers told us that they want practical, thoughtful communication backed by action. Messages you share during this time can give your customers a window into how you are supporting your employees, how you are supporting your community as a whole, and how you are working to meet (or exceed) their expectations when they are interacting with your brand.

Taking a stand and supporting your company’s values is also well-received by your customers, as more than half of those surveyed in the recent AMC Global study noted that it is important to them to hear how companies are reacting to the recent spotlight on race/civil rights protests. Consumers are looking for specific actions companies are taking to demonstrate their support. One consumer said, “Any company that has put out an advertisement regarding social injustice and COVID-19 is impressive to me because they are acknowledging that everyone deserves to be treated fairly.”

Be Clear, Concise and Consistent in Your Outreach

We also asked our respondents a few questions surrounding “preferred tone of messages” that they want from brands right now. As you are taking action surrounding the safety of consumers and employees, the health of your community and your stance on civil rights values and justice—and communicating about it—you should also consider how your communications are framed.

Our study showed that consumers want brands and businesses to maintain a serious, informative and heartfelt tone. Focus on keeping messages relevant, making personal connections, and showing empathy for what matters to consumers right now. We found that most people don’t want a “business as usual” message and have a low tolerance for humor right now, so it may be best to avoid those kinds of approaches.

The tone and message of your communications, when done right, can forge connections with your customers that they can count on and build lasting loyalty once we enter the next phase of our current world—and the one after that.

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash.

Emily Trentacosta brings more than 15 years of both client and supplier side market research experience to her role as research director at AMC Global. She greatly enjoys working closely with her clients and developing customized research solutions to address their business needs.