Gen Z: Still Actively Talking About Brands, Offline and Online, as They Weather These Challenging Times

Gen Z: Still Actively Talking About Brands, Offline and Online, as They Weather These Challenging Times It is August, which means back to school – whether that’s in person, virtually, or in hybrid mode. It is also a good time to see what brands resonate most with today’s young consumers – the so-called Gen Z. Two years ago we issued a white paper about Gen Z and noted that “Generation Z is widely recognized as the next consumer powerhouse,” according to AdWeek, because of their large numbers and because they are assumed to be different from the Millennial generation that proceeds them. We decided it’s time to check back in to see how brand buzz among them has changed.  

Still a TotalSocial Generation

In 2018 we dubbed them the TotalSocial generation, due to their wide-ranging interests, and their desire to share those passions with others, both online and offline. Social media remains a cornerstone of this young generation’s lives. On a weekly basis 65% use YouTube, 50% use Instagram, 41% use Snapchat, 20% use Twitter, and 15% use Facebook. But they are highly likely to talk offline too. In fact, today’s teen talk about brands 14 times each day – that’s 39% more offline conversations compared to adults 21+. And, despite quarantine, they talk offline more now than they did two years ago (+5%). Average Number of Daily Consumer Conversations - Gen Zs vs Adults Whether talking face to face (two thirds of offline conversation), or phone, text/IM, or video call, offline word of mouth remains an important – and growing part of their lives. For Gen Z there is no silo between social media and real-world chatter – but what gets talked about online is quite different from what gets talked about offline. Marketers should pay attention to both because analytics by Engagement Labs show the offline and online conversation each contribute about equally to business KPIs.  

Most Talked About Brands

Time have changed dramatically, but the most talked about brands remain relatively constant for these 13-20-year olds. Nine of the top 10 in 2020 were also in the top 10 in 2018, led by Apple, iPhone, Nike and McDonalds. Entering the top 5 is Netflix (up from #13, with an increase of 111% in daily offline conversation), consistent with the huge increases we see generally in buzz about streaming services as consumers of all ages were looking for new entertainment choices during the COVID-19 lock downs and quarantine.   Amazon and Amazon Prime each joined the youth top 20 list for similar reasons. With Netflix’s ascendancy, Adidas fell out of the top 10, creating further distance between it and rival Nike. Also falling out of the top tier in 2020 are Pepsi, which was #15 two years ago and is now #23, thereby creating a larger gap with its rival Coca-Cola. Android has fallen to #36 from #16, creating more space among these young consumers with its rival iPhone. And Facebook has fallen to #43 from #18 as Instagram (owned by Facebook) and Snapchat take conversational precedence. For all of its media attention, TikTok ranks a distant 49th in offline chatter among teens. Top 20 Most Talked About Brands by Gen Z's There are meaningful differences in the most talked about brands for 13-20’s versus adults 21+. The biggest disconnect is with Instagram – #105 among 21+ versus #9 for 13-20’s. iPhone, Nike and Cherry Coke fall from the top 10 among Gen Z to the teens among older adults. And in the top 20 for Gen Z but far outside it for the adults 21+ are Chick-fil-A (#62), Adidas (#70), Snapchat (#354), Sprite (#56), the NBA (#50) and Starbucks (#33). Some of the more highly talked about brands among adults 21+ that don’t make it into the teen conversation set include Pepsi (#10 among adults vs. #23 among teens, as mentioned above), Verizon (#11 vs. #25), Home Depot (#12 vs. #99), and AT&T (#14 vs. #46). In this COVID-era, Clorox hit the top 20 most talked about brands among adults but is a distant #96 among teens.

Gen Z: Engaged in Issues Related to Schools, the Environment, Immigration and Women

With an election year upon us there is talk about the heightened engagement of young people, and our data lend support to that. They are approximately 30% more talkative about a wide variety of issues compared to adults. Which issues in particular? Among a diverse set of about 20 issues we track regularly, the most popular daily topic of teens is “schools or education,” and they talk at a far higher daily rate than adults as a whole which makes sense, especially during this Coronavirus period. Other issues where they stand out ahead of adults are: looking for a job or concern about losing one, underscoring that the economic challenges the nation faces have a profound impact on young people; what’s happening in other countries, protecting the environment, racism or racial justice, issues important to women and immigration. Teens also talk somewhat more than adults about gun policy, but it is a decidedly lower tier issue for teens, somewhat surprisingly given how much gun violence has been focused on schools. Gen Z: Engaged in Issues Related to Schools, the Environment, Immigration and Women Methodology: Engagement Labs measures both online and offline conversation as part of our TotalSocial Platform. The offline data is derived using an online survey to measure brands and issues talked about “yesterday”.  For this report, analysts focused on the offline conversations of representative national sample of people 13-69 years old, with a focus on 13-20s vs. 21+. The study involves approximately 36,000 people surveyed per year (700 per week). SIGN ME UP TotalSocial Briefing

Trump Narrows Word of Mouth Sentiment Gap With Biden

trumpbiden Public opinion polls show former Vice President Biden with a commanding and consistent lead over President Trump. Word of mouth sentiment, however, tells a different story. On the eve of the Democratic Convention (and just prior to the announcement of Kamala Harris as the Democratic VP nominee), a fascinating word of mouth story has emerged, one that suggests a tightening race. FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver noted recently, “It’s Way Too Soon To Count Trump Out” despite his commanding lead in the polls. Our sentiment trend lends credence to that statement. Word of mouth sentiment has proven to be a leading indicator of voter behavior, including in 2016. Both candidates are in negative net-sentiment territory, as is typical for word of mouth about presidential candidates. Biden’s net sentiment is at –19, 5 points ahead of Trump who is at – 24. What is notable is that Trump’s net sentiment has risen by 31 points versus two weeks ago, erasing what had been a very wide gap (50 points at its peak two weeks ago). THE WOM SENTIMENT GAP IS RAPIDLY CLOSING The gender gap is in clear display, with a net sentiment gap of 24 points in Biden’s favor among women, and 4 points in Trump’s favor among men. For much of May, June and July men were more favorable about Biden and just this week there was a large surge among men in Trump’s favor. WOM Sentiment Gap - Women vs Men

The toss up states* are very much a toss up

Looking by state that lean Democratic vs. lean Republican vs. toss up states, Democratic leaning states show a large net sentiment advantage for Biden, while Republican leaning states show an equally large net sentiment advantage for Trump. The toss up states show the two neck-and-neck, both with very low net sentiment. The trend for these states will be the numbers to watch over the coming weeks as the campaigns move into high gear. [Note: States are categorized into groups based on the 7/23/2020 Cook Political Report Electoral College Ratings ( For the purpose of this analysis toss up states are those who either only lean towards 1 party or are fully toss up. This represents 12 states and 193 electoral votes.] THE TOSS UP STATES ARE BECOMING TOSS UPS  

WOM Sentiment About Congress Also Swings Toward the Republicans

As the presidential campaign moves into a higher gear, so too is the showdown between the House and Senate over an additional COVID-19 stimulus bill. About 1 in 4 Americans talk daily about both the Democrats in Congress and the Republicans For much of June and the first half of July there was a WOM volume advantage for the Democrats, but conversation about each has grown over the past two weeks Net sentiment has swung in favor of the Republicans in Congress. Through much of July, net sentiment about the Republicans had dropped but that has now reversed itself and the net-sentiment for Republicans is now 23 points greater than the net-sentiment for Democrats. REPUBLICANS IN CONGRESS HAVE GAINED THE UPPER HAND IN WOM SENTIEMENT

Why WOM Sentiment Matters

Silver’s analysis notes that the odds for a Biden victory in his analysis are identical to Hillary Clinton’s odds at this same time four years ago. What is notable to us about that is that our word of mouth sentiment trends accurately foreshadowed Clinton’s shifting fortunes in the closing weeks of the campaign, something the polls failed to pick up. Even Clinton herself took note of that when she said in her book, What Happened: According to Engagement Labs, which applies well-established consumer research techniques to study elections, ‘The change in word-of-mouth favorability metric was stunning.’ With 78 days to go before election day, it is time to buckle our seatbelts. And pay careful attention to the national conversation.

4 Revealing Insights from PepsiCo on Impact of Conversations on Building Brands


How do consumer conversations affect your brand?

The following is an excerpt of a conversation with PepsiCo’s Kevin Moeller and Engagement Labs’ CEO Ed Keller, who spoke with Kantar’s Walker Smith as part of Kanter’s Future Proof podcast. Future Proof is the marketing podcast from Saïd Business School, University of Oxford and Kantar, the Marketing Insights and consulting company. (Note: This was recorded prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The transcript excerpt was edited for readability.) Kevin Moeller is the head of Media Insights and Analytics for PepsiCo North America. Before that, he was the chief research and analytics officer for UM Worldwide, serving on the executive leadership team. His background includes leadership roles at the Media Behavior Institute, MediaComm and Nielsen. In 2018, the Interactive Advertising Bureau named Kevin a data rock star. — Question: Tell us a little bit about the state of the industry when it comes to accounting for the impact of conversations on building brands. Kevin Moeller: There’s a lot going on between understanding how consumers are leveraging different channels and channels that are available. Frankly, how marketers can break through the noise and connect with their key consumers at relevant times for that type of messaging and in some privacy legislation and new media channels popping up every day. And it makes a dynamic industry right now. We have more data than we’ve ever had before, which allows a lot more possibility in how we can not only unearth insights about target consumers, but how we can connect with them in really meaningful and specific ways.   Q: When you think about this and the kind of measurement of online and offline conversations? How do you think about this broad area of social marketing or what Engagement Labs calls TotalSocial? KM: When I was on the agency side, CPG is definitely one of the harder ones. It may not be intuitive, but it is because there is lack of data availability in real time. From a sales perspective, we have to use other metrics that will help guide us or be leading indicators that will be indicative of a sale. Word of mouth generally is a really good one. The work that we’ve done with Ed and his Engagement Labs team has really helped us quantify and understand how our communications, and our creative in the marketplace is being received by consumers. Not just from a sentiment perspective, but whether it is actually getting people to talk about our brands and therefore purchase our brands. The work that we are doing with Engagement Labs has actually expanded our idea of what our ROI is, because it’s not just a linear path. I put media in the marketplace and someone eyes it. I put media in the marketplace. It generates equity, it generates brand consideration, it generates advocacy. It generates people talking about our brand. There is a quantifiable dollar value for each of those brand health metrics, including the active people talking about our brand. We have been able to work with Ed and Engagement Labs to put a solid number against what that value of a conversation is, which therefore uncovers more information about how our marketing dollars are doing in the marketplace. It has truly been invaluable for us to be able to parse out even more information from our sales using this methodology.   Q: What kind of marketing strategies and tactics are enabled by a deeper look at conversations. How do you activate and track the impact of conversations in the ways in which you support your brands? KM: A great example is the launch of bubly last year. bubly is a super fun, super irreverent brand of sparkling water that went pretty big in the 2019 Super Bowl. We did a fantastic creative and integration with Michael Bublé, had a really fun spot that played off of the name of bubly and Bublé, and we debuted a 30 second spot at the 2019 Super Bowl. But that wasn’t the totality of the campaign. There were seedings of that campaign several weeks leading into the Super Bowl with things like integration on Ellen that lasted for several episodes. We brought the creative and strategy all the way through into stores where we had actual merchandise that was altered in the spot itself. Understanding how that results in sales is one thing. Having an understanding of how consumers react to a spot like that or a campaign program like that is something else. Without understanding how people are talking about our brand, we would have to wait several weeks for the results of sales data coming in from our sales partners using online social listening and word of mouth, and face to face word of mouth. The TotalSocial that Engagement Labs offers really allowed us to better understand which aspect of the program are resonating and in which ways. On the back end, we can actually parse out the value of those individual attributes of the program, which will help further our understanding of what worked, what didn’t work. How do we optimize it for the future and how do we leverage those types of ideas to gain or and more traction with consumers?   Q: What one key takeaway or one thing to put on their radar when it comes to conversations, what would that be? KM: Brands need to understand the value that connecting with consumers have. It’s not just a one-off conversation. When building a relationship with people and consumers, you want to hear what they have to say, because what they have to say will impact how they feel about your brand, which will impact whether they’re engaging and sing your brand.     Listen on Apple Podcasts Listen on Spotify

Armchair Nation: Consumer Conversation Trends Give New Meaning to “Must See TV,” as Home Entertainment Becomes a Necessity of Life

Biggest Winners are Netflix, Amazon, CNN; MLB Stumbles Amid Rising Demand for Live Sports

IMG_3641 Conversations are not just buzz. They are predictive of consumer purchases; they also reveal changes in consumer lifestyles and interests. As consumers have settled into their new pandemic era routines, between mid-April and mid-July, no category has grown more than media and entertainment. The biggest rising brands are Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, CNN, and Hulu. We have become an armchair nation. The increases are dramatic. The number of times people have been in a real-world conversation about the Netflix streaming platform has grown by 59 million per week, a 75% rise compared to a year earlier. Amazon eCommerce conversations are up 38 million and discussions about the Amazon Prime streaming and shopping membership have grown by 22 million, for a grand total of 60 million additional conversation impressions per week for Amazon. Disney+, only launched last November, is the third-fastest rising media brand in conversation (+31 million), followed by CNN (+28 million) and Hulu (+27 million). Entertainment Brands Rising in Conversations During Pandemic Despite the rise for entertainment brands generally—and streaming in particular—category is not destiny and not all brands have benefited. Talk levels for Sling and Roku remain very low, and newcomers Peacock and HBO Max have barely registered at all.

Netflix & Hulu Become Major Fixtures of America’s Conversation 

Weekly Conversation Impressions Trend Since January Netflix & Hulu Become Major Fixtures of America's Conversation

CNN & Fox News Dominate TV Network Talk

The armchair nation era is also driving up conversations about television networks. In terms of volume, CNN and Fox News are up the most, as millions of Americans tune into and talk about coverage of the pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests, and economic hardship. Indeed, both CNN and Fox News hit 50 million weekly conversation impressions in April, the highest levels we’ve measured for them in five years. Since then, something interesting has happened: CNN has continued to grow in conversation volume, to 55 million impressions per week, while Fox News has declined, to 37 million, which corresponds fairly well with the ratings picture. CNN just reported its highest ratings for any three months in 40 years, with faster audience growth than either Fox News or MSNBC, which remains a distant third-place among the news channels, with little increase in talk.  


Weekly Conversation Impressions Trend Since 2015 CNN TAKES BIG LEAD IN CONVERSATION VOLUME, FOLLOWED CLOSELY BY FOX NEWS Put into a broader context, the rise of CNN and Fox News stands out relative to every other cable and broadcast networks measured. HGTV enjoyed a rise in conversations in April, as the early days of sheltering at home generated an explosion of interest in home and garden projects. As HGTV has returned to normal levels, its sister networks Discovery and Food Network were seeing slow-but-steady gains into the month of July.  


Weekly Conversation Impressions Trend Since January CNN & FOX NEWS DOMINATE TELEVISION NETWORK CONVERSATIONS The traditional broadcast networks—ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox—enjoyed rises in April and May, but have since lost ground to the news channels as new network programming transitioned to summer re-runs, and the news channels responded to breaking news related to the health crisis and protests against racial injustice. Despite the lack of live sports, ESPN remains the third most talked about network, after CNN and Fox Network, with only a moderate loss of conversation during the pandemic period, reflecting persistent demand for sports content by frustrated fans willing to watch sports news and playoff reruns.  

NFL Dominates Sports Talk in the Offseason

Speaking of sports, the classic armchair topic, sports talk is down 7% overall due to a collapse of conversation about inactive MLB and NBA teams, which normally would have earned lots of conversation in spring and early summer. With those sports suspended, there has been little reason for fans to spend hours speculating about the Yankees versus Red Sox or whether the Golden State Warriors will return to the championship series in 2020. But talk about the major league brands rose dramatically, by 33 million weekly conversation impressions, amid months of “will-they-or-won’t-they” discussion related to management and player negotiations on pandemic-abbreviated seasons.  


Weekly Conversation Impressions Trend Since January SPORTS LEAGUE CONVERSATIONS HAVE HELD UP DURING PANDEMIC Although not due to start until September, offseason talk about the NFL is way above normal, fueled both by questions about whether and how games will be played this fall, and by the NFL’s dramatic reversal in June regarding the Black Lives Matter movement. As we have seen with other politically charged topics, the online and offline conversation reaction to the NFL’s new position have been very different. The NFL has maintained a moderately positive offline conversation even as the social media conversation has turned sharply toward the negative at the time commissioner Roger Goodell admitted the league’s error in previously opposing player protests over police violence against African Americans.


Offline Net Sentiment barely Responds to League’s Support of Black Lives Matter NFL CONVERSATION TURNS NEGATIVE ONLY IN SOCIAL MEDIA The sentiment picture is particularly good for PGA Golf and WWE wrestling, two sports that got back to play ahead of the others. The net sentiment of PGA talk in June, the month it returned, hit a peak of more than 60 points more positive than negative, perhaps reflecting the joy of fans at the return of live sport. Anticipation of an NHL Stanley Cup playoff tournament also appears to be driving up sentiment for the NHL recently.


Net Sentiment Online and Offline Trend for Major Sports League Brands, Since January RETURN TO PLAY DROVE UP SENTIMENT FOR NASCAR, GOLF, WWE NASCAR also enjoyed a bump in sentiment in May and June, thanks to an early return to competition, although that dropped sharply following the league’s decision to ban the confederate flag and the reaction to a suspected hate crime against the league’s one black driver, Bubba Wallace. Among the leagues, only Major League Baseball managed to suffer a sustained, negative sentiment trend during the pandemic, as the league and players’ union publicly quarreled about the circumstances of a return. The downward trend in MLB conversation sentiment was particularly steep in offline conversations, moreso than in social media.


Net Sentiment Online and Offline Trend for MLB, since January MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL’S OFFLINE SENTIMENT HURT BY DELAYED SEASON Conversation trends indicate clear pandemic era rules for media companies and brands. Consumers continue to be anxious about the current health, economic, and social situation, driving demand for news higher than ever. They need to be informed and supported. At the same time, they are desperate for home entertainment. As Americans feel stuck in their living rooms, they are demanding quality entertainment. They expect networks, streaming services, and sports leagues to behave as the necessities of life they have become.

Pandemic Era Makes “Spring Cleaning” and Household Brands Worthy of Conversation

Beauty and Personal Care Brands Nivea & Colgate Thrive, As Do Household Cleaning Brands Tide and Gain, and Beverage Brands Keurig and Jack Daniel’s

shutterstock_1225539034 It’s been a very long time since everyday household products were deemed worthy of conversation over the dinner table, and probably never before (or rarely at best) were they fodder for posts and shares on Twitter and YouTube. Yet that is one of the outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic that has maximized time spent at home and generated consumer enthusiasm for “spring cleaning.” Consumer conversations changed dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, as categories such as health care, at-home entertainment, household products and beauty and personal care are becoming much more frequently talked about. At the same time, categories such as sports, travel, and automobiles are losing conversation engagement quite dramatically. Offline conversations about health and health care during March through May this year are up almost 30% versus a year earlier, while household and beauty products are up over 15%, and media/entertainment brands are up more than 10%, with the surge we reported for Disney+ conversations emblematic of that shift. That post highlighted the top 10 offline and online brands across all categories listed below. Here we dig deeper into individual categories. Changes in Offline Conversation Volumes - Engagement Labs Engagement Labs’ TotalSocial platform combines four types of metrics to calculate brand success in both online and offline conversations. Those metrics are the volume of conversation, the net sentiment (positive versus negative direction), the extent to which the brand is being talked about by the most socially connected people, and whether the brand’s advertising, marketing and social content is being shared and discussed. Perhaps the most unexpected shifts come in the decidedly unglamorous everyday categories such as beauty and personal care, beverages, and household cleaning products, categories that took on new importance as time spent at home surged and in certain cases favorite brands were not always available. As a result, consumers began searching for new solutions to everyday needs and word of mouth helped fuel the process.

Household Products Benefit as Spring Cleaning Becomes Sexy?

Everyday necessity brands like Tide and Gain are gaining in the TotalSocial rankings, likely due to increased consumer appreciation, as well as a determine decision by their owner, Procter & Gamble, to “push forward not back” when it comes to advertising and marketing. Indeed, P&G brands own the first four spots in the household product offline ranking, including Febreze and Downy, each improving on last year’s score for the same March-through-May period. 020-07 EL02 BRAND LEADERS OFF-ON_Household Products P&G’s success is not universal however, as its Dawn detergent has dropped while arch-rival Palmolive has risen. In terms of online conversation, P&G’s Downy brand enjoyed the largest rise in the rankings, to number two, likely due to a humorous ad campaign about “frisky grandparents” that launched before the pandemic but may have taken on added significance as families found themselves cooped up together. Lots of cleaning brands, including Colgate-Palmolive’s Fabuloso at number one, have jumped up high on the social media list, perhaps benefiting from the most enthusiastic “spring cleaning” season in decades, as homebound consumers have been keeping themselves busy and feathering their nests. Another factor may be that at this late stage of the “soap wars,” it possible that the pandemic’s impact on reviving television audiences, particularly among the young and during the daytime, has helped to drive up conversation about brands traditionally advertised on daytime television.

Coffee and Alcohol Brands Attract Attention Online & Offline

The beverage category also shows signs of the pandemic’s impact on conversations. The biggest gainer both offline and online is Keurig, rising to the second position behind Coca Cola for offline conversation and to ninth place in social media. With the end of commuting for most of the country, consumers are making their own coffee at home rather than stopping by a deli or convenience store on the way to work, which has led to higher volumes of conversation for the brand. 020-07 EL02 BRAND LEADERS OFF-ON_Beverages Even while working hard to keep up with demand for machines and coffee pods, Keurig generated significant brand love by donating thousands of brewers and K-cup pods to hospital workers. In a stroke of good timing, Keurig also had just launched a cocktail mixing machine at a time when Americans are rediscovering cocktails during “Pandemic happy hours.” Keurig’s sister brand Dr. Pepper is also doing well, ranked fourth in both online and offline conversation. Other top-ranked brands in social media are Red Bull, which held on to its top spot, followed by Bud Lite and Jack Daniel’s, which has risen more online than any brand other than Keurig.  Indeed, half the top-ten online conversation brands are in the beer and liquor categories—including Miller Lite, Coors Lite, and Budweiser-hinting at another way changing lifestyle during the pandemic are impacting consumer talk.

Beauty & Personal Care Brands Gain, Despite Stay-at-Home Orders

Nivea and Colgate have risen over the last year to become the top two ranked brands for offline conversation in personal care and beauty, while Revlon and Dove have held on to top rankings for online conversation. 020-07 EL02 BRAND LEADERS OFF-ON_Beauty and personal care Beauty and personal brands continue to attract conversation, even though the shift from offices to working from home has reduced demand. Nivea has lowered its revenue expectations due to the pandemic, but the brand is enjoying more positive conversations, possibly due to its empathetic pandemic-related marketing. The Colgate personal care brand also has seen its position improve year-over-year with steadily rising offline conversation sentiment in 2020, as well as a peak in volume in March when many consumers were focused on buying everyday staples amid the lockdowns. In social media, Revlon held its strong position as 2019 leaders Bath & Body Works and Burt’s Bees dropped down the list, thus earning first place in the TotalSocial rankings.  In May, Revlon had a hugely successful Twitter post from Gal Gadot, showing the actress and Revlon model trying new makeup with one of her daughters at home, perhaps a subtle nod to how even the rich and famous were surviving the COVID-19 lockdown. Bath & Body Works, meanwhile, dropped from first to tenth on the list, mainly due to steadily eroding sentiment about the brand, particularly in late March when it’s parent company, L Brands, announced widespread layoffs due to COVID-19. Burt’s Bees dropped from second to sixth on the list due to steadily eroding volume and sentiment. Click on the categories below for their respective list of the top ten online and offline brands:

As Racial Justice Dominates in Social Media, Racial Justice and COVID are Equally Important Conversation Topics Offline

Cited and published on July 1, 2020 in MediaPost “Americans Talking About Racial Justice, COVID-19 Also Talk About Brands’ Engagement With Issues”  Credit: Erin Schaff/The New York Times At a time of enormous societal change, many marketers are turning their attention towards responding to the Racial Justice and Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Many do so out of a recognition that they are long overdue in helping use their power and platform to bring social justice to America. Some assume that the Racial Justice issue has now overtaken COVID-19 in the national conversation. If they listen only to social media for their signal, there is reason why they might think that; but real-world conversation tells a different story. In social media, Racial Justice has greatly surpassed COVID-19 during the past 4 weeks by a factor of 10x. As is often the case in social media, the issue quickly rose between May 27th and June 2nd and has been declining since, but remains a prominent topic in social media with 16.2 million mentions on social media this past week, compared to 2.8 million mentions of Coronavirus. 020-06 EL07 BLM GRAPHS-01 (1) Does this same pattern hold in offline conversation? The answer is yes . . .and no. Racism or Racial Justice has emerged as a top discussion topic in offline conversations, with 46% of Americans talking about it daily. At the same time, there remains as many who also talk daily about Coronavirus/Major Health Issues (45%). % of Consumers Talking Daily About Leading Issues Delving further to look at people’s single most impactful conversation of the day, discussions related to Racial Justice/Unrest and COVID-19 also take equal footing. An equal number of Americans say each of the two issues are the most impactful topic they talked about that day. Topic of Consumers’ Most Impactful Conversation (Weekly) In short: offline conversation is “both/and,” not “either/or” when it comes to racism/racial justice and COVID-19, while social media (for now) is heavily focused on Racial Justice and BLM.  

Who’s talking?

The issue of Racism and Racial Justice is garnering talk among pretty much everyone as very few segments are below average. In particular, teenagers and African-Americans are talking the most about this topic. Racial Justice talkers are also one-third more likely to be word of mouth influencers. They are what we at Engagement Labs call “Conversation Catalysts®” and are sought out for their advice and recommendations and lead others through offline as well as online conversation. When we look at the demographic profile of people for whom Racial Justice is the most impactful conversation of the past day, parents — who are likely engaging in conversations with their children about the continuing protests and news coverage — and Democrats stand out, along with Westerners. Demographic Profile of Racism/Racial Justice Talkers In comparison, discussions about COVID-19 are most impactful among older and middle-income consumers, and Democrats too. COVID-19 is also having a big impact on people residing in the South, as  the growing number of Coronavirus cases in that region is driving more conversation. Talk about COVID-19 is lowest in the Northeast and West. Demographic Profile of Coronavirus Talkers

Issues talkers are also brand talkers

Knowing how many brands have become engaged with both COVID-19 and now Racial Justice, it is important to note that people who are talking about these issues are also more likely than average to be talking about brands. More specifically, people who discussed either Racial Justice or Major Health Issues have 21 more brand-related conversations a week than the average American. And, they’re talking more about most categories than the total public as well. % of Issues Talkers Talking about Categories, Indexed to Total Public Nike was an early and prominent brand taking a stand on BLM. Their historic support for issues of racial justice has served them well and their current ads and commitment to BLM is driving positive conversation. In fact, their offline volume remains at historic highs, rather than peaking and then declining as can sometimes happen in circumstances like this. Meanwhile, Nike’s sentiment remains strong — even stronger than a year ago. Average Weekly WOM Impressions – Nike (Rolling 2 Weeks) 020-06 EL07 BLM GRAPHS-05 Marketers should keep this all in mind as they respond to the rapidly changing nature of consumer behaviors and conversations. While social media may send one signal, what people talk about and what impacts them the most is often much more complex and a major reason why offline and online are often uncorrelated to each other. We applaud brands for taking a stand in support of BLM; our data suggest that they remain vigilant as well to the role that COVID-19 continues to play in households today and be an active part of that consumer conversation as well. This past weekend’s Global Citizen “Global Goal:  Unite for Our Future – the Concert” which is sponsored by Citi, Procter & Gamble, SAP, Verizon and Vodafone, struck that dual chord and might serve as a model for brands to do the same.

NFL and NASCAR Earning Offline Applause by Reversing Racial Justice Policies, Even as Social Media Goes Negative

Changed Environment Fuels Volatility in Consumer Conversations for Many Brands

Nike_BLM When Nike launched an advertising campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick’s appeal to racial justice two years ago, the online reaction practically broke the Internet. The number of weekly Nike mentions on social media rose from 200,000 per week to 5 million, and many of those were negative about the brand, as were many consumer conversations happening offline. The campaign was successful because it appealed to its core consumers—young and racially diverse Americans—despite turning off non-target consumers. Yet few other major brands in 2018 were willing to engage with polarizing cultural issues. Responding this month to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the widespread racial justice protests that followed, the NFL has apologized for being on the wrong side of the Black Lives Matter movement, and NASCAR has announced the confederate flag would be unwelcome at NASCAR events. Acting on the belief that the consumer climate has changed profoundly in the wake of COVID, economic devastation, and an uprising against racial injustice, the brands have decided to take a stance—and they have been rewarded with generally positive reactions in real-world, offline consumer conversations. But once again, social media reaction has been negative toward the brands speaking out. Following a pattern we’ve seen previously, online and offline reaction are headed in opposite directions, proving that marketers can’t rely on social media to provide a complete picture of consumer perceptions. Among other reasons, this is true because a broader range of people engage in offline conversation versus online, and because online conversations tend to attract more extreme opinions. The NFL’s online conversations have turned very negative. When you subtract negative conversations from positive ones, the result is zero, meaning NFL discussion is as much negative as positive. But the conversation offline has remained as positive as before, over 20 points more positive than negative.  


NFL SENTIMENT STAYS POSITIVE OFFLINE The announcement that displaying the confederate flag would no longer be permitted at NASCAR events also has turned online sentiment in a negative direction toward the sports league, but offline conversations remain over 40 points more positive than negative.  


NASCAR SENTIMENT STAYS POSITIVE OFFLINE Beyond sports leagues, many other brands are also seeing big changes in the volume or sentiment of consumer conversations, often due to involvement in the COVID pandemic or the racial justice protests, topics that have been recently vying with each other for the “most meaningful” daily conversation of consumers. Nike is seeing a large rise in conversation again, but only offline talk and without a hint of a negative sentiment trend—either online or offline—as the brand’s leadership on racial justice bring rewards.


NIKE’S OFFLINE CONVERSATION RISES TO 2018 LEVEL, BUT SOCIAL MEDIA IS FLAT Many other brands rising amid the BLM protests, with online and offline often headed in different directions. Rising and increasingly negative online but either positive or flat offline are Dairy Queen, Lush, Target, and L’Oréal. Also rising is Chase Bank which is increasingly positive offline but unchanged online. Home Depot is getting increased positive online discussion while offline sentiment is unchanged. We live in turbulent times now, and brands must navigate complicated cultural and political cross-currents. That’s why it’s more important than ever to make sure you have a complete picture of consumer sentiment. SIGN ME UP TotalSocial Briefing

Biden Enjoys a Strong Word of Mouth Advantage in Swing States, Even as It Fades Back Nationally

Word of Mouth Among Women Strongly Favors Biden, Among Men it Favors Trump

Photos: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images; Alex Wong/Getty Images Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden was winning the national conversation in late May and early June as the triple crises of racial justice protests, economic calamity, and global health pandemic raised serious questions about President Trump’s leadership, and Biden had several high profile public appearances that helped drive sharply higher sentiment. But that national conversation advantage disappeared during the second week of June as enthusiasm for Trump returned among Republicans, as did ambivalence about Biden among Democrats. When one calculates the net sentiment of conversations by subtracting negative from positive, both candidates are in the negative, as we’ve typically seen for political candidates. When looking at data in the week leading up to Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Biden barely leads Trump by 4 points in mid-June, -34 to -38, after enjoying a big advantage of nearly 40 points a week earlier. Biden Bump in National Conversation Ebbs

Swing States Swing to Biden

In the states rated “toss-ups” in the Cook Political Report, Biden remains in a remarkably strong position with a positive net sentiment of 4 versus Trump’s deeply negative net sentiment of -47. The toss-up states include Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Biden’s advantage is similar even when you add in the “leaning” states of Maine, Minnesota, and New Hampshire.

Biden Retains Edge in "Toss-up" States

The Gender Gap Persists

Among women, net sentiment of conversation for Biden is more than 30 points higher than for Trump, while men are more than 20 points more positive for Trump over Biden. WOM Sentiment Among Women Remains With Biden, As Trump Wins Back Men's Conversations The gender gap is not all that surprising in light of the consistent advantage Biden in 2020 and Hillary Clinton in 2016 have held over Trump among women voters in pre-election polls. The toss-up and other “in-play” states are another thing altogether. These are the states that will almost certainly determine the Electoral College winner, and they are showing a stronger bias in conversation polling versus traditional preference polls. In 2016, conversation trends turned out to be prescient in recognizing the impact of the Comey letter in late October in throwing the election to Donald Trump. This is not October, of course, but right now it appears to be Biden who is benefiting from the national conversation in key states at a time of multiple national crises.

Biden Expands New Lead in Conversation Sentiment

Cited and published on June 12, 2020 in MediaPost “Word-of-Mouth Sentiment Of Biden Soars, President Remains Mired In Negative Territory”  020-06 EL04 TRUMP BIDEN GRAPHS-04 For the second straight week, presumptive nominee Joe Biden held a lead of more than 30 points over President Donald Trump in terms of the “net sentiment” of conversations about the two candidates, reflecting a change in political climate associated with the public outcry after the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. Conversations about politicians generally are more negative than positive, the opposite of the pattern we see for consumer brands.  Yet net sentiment for Biden among all Americans is just barely negative now, at -6, compared to -44 for Donald Trump.  Differences of this kind around word of mouth sentiment have been shown to be predictive.  In the last days of the 2016 election a sharp trend in Donald Trump’s favor preceded his narrow victory over Hillary Clinton. The shift in word of mouth sentiment for the presidential candidates is mirrored in the way Americans are talking about the two parties in Congress. Between early May and early June, the net sentiment of “Republicans in Congress” have worsened while improving for “Democrats in Congress.” Both sides are in negative territory, but conversations about Democrats in Congress are less negative (-22) than those about Republicans (-53), suggesting increasing risk for the reelection prospects of Republican Senators, in particular. 020-06 EL04 TRUMP BIDEN GRAPHS-03-1

Biden’s Net Sentiment Among Democrats Leads Trump’s Among Republicans

In the presidential match-up, the trends among partisans point to a weakening of Donald Trump’s position among his Republican base, as we reported last week in MediaPost. Some of Biden’s recent improvement comes from Republicans, whose conversations were positive about the former Vice President 19% of the time compared to just 3% two weeks ago, although most GOP conversations are negative about Biden (81%). More troubling for the President, Republicans’ conversations about Trump are less positive now (+29) versus two weeks ago (+49) and far worse than in late March (+72). Even though polls suggest his base remains with him, deterioration in conversations have proved to be a leading indicator of things to come. 020-06 EL04 TRUMP BIDEN GRAPHS-02 (1) The main source of Biden’s improvement was among Democrats, whose net sentiment rose to +50 from only +3 two weeks ago, creating a 21-point advantage to Joe Biden over Trump when comparing the conversations of each candidate’s own partisans.  Indeed, the last two weeks are the only period when Biden held such an advantage over Trump since he became the last candidate running for the Democratic nomination. While Biden’s conversations are much more positive than Trump’s, the president leads in terms of the total amount of conversation attention.  More than half of all Americans (54%) were talking about Trump the first week of June, compared to 30% who were talking about Biden, a fairly consistent gap over recent months, but also to be expected in light of Trump being the incumbent at a time of multiple national crises. Meanwhile, the former vice president is generally staying out of sight, “in his basement,” as many have remarked, and thus the subject of fewer conversations. 020-06 EL04 TRUMP BIDEN GRAPHS-01 Yet if the latest net sentiment trends are a guide, as they often are, Biden’s basement strategy is producing positive conversations and positive results.

VIDEO: Thinking Beyond the Playbook – How to Approach Brand Strategy When You’re Breaking New Ground

Credit and Source: Shareablee’s INTERACT Summit EP. 2: Thinking Beyond the Playbook As we approach the end of our third month of social distancing and the world begins to attempt its path back to ‘normalcy’, many brands are still struggling with how to do ‘normal’ in this time. Anything other than community messaging will be viewed as repulsively self-serving and subject to blow-back… or will it? While many brands are still paused in troubled categories and sponsored Influencer activity – once a linchpin of consumer engagement – is down 85% year over year, many other companies are doubling down on their content marketing strategy. What will define companies who emerge stronger from those who all but disappear amid the chaos of the news cycle? This panel discussed content best practices and brand building strategies, and how to stay agile when every conceivable playbook no longer applies.

Key Takeaways and Insights

To communicate or not to communicate? This panel discussion took on one of the most asked questions by advertiser/marketers: Should I mind the industry consensus and stay as active as possible during this time or do I adopt a wait & see approach? The emergence of two very distinct audience segments: Those who remain “fearful” of COVID and who probably won’t return to normal media & buying habits any time soon, and those who are “ready and willing” to get back to the business of shopping, eating, and buying outside – right now. These are two very different consumer targets and require two very different marketing/advertising strategies. An additional complication was the importance of the ‘local’ aspect given the uneven rules for communities across the country in their varying phases of COVID re-opening plans.   Moderated by Brad Tribucher from Shareablee. Joined with Ed Keller from Engagement Labs, Renata Policicio from ESPN, and Noah Keil from Group Nine Media.