Christmas in the Age of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Christmas in the Age of the COVID-19 Pandemic
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Christmas: the most wonderful time of the year, even during a pandemic. Keep reading for stats on timeless Christmas themes to lean into this year while pivoting to the realities of COVID.

Christmas is one of the most beloved and widely celebrated holidays in America. Over three-quarters of each racial/ethnic segment celebrate it, and 73% of people view Christmas as the biggest holiday of the year.

Every year, consumers of all backgrounds traditionally ring in the holiday by spending time with loved ones, putting up festive decorations, giving gifts, and enjoying seasonal foods. And as Americans adapt to the pandemic, our research suggests they will continue to incorporate these traditional sources of comfort and joy into their holiday.

Download an excerpt of our webinar presentation, “Multicultural Holiday Behaviors During COVID – Food, Beverage, and Alcohol.”

This year, brands are leaning into core Christmas themes in COVID-relevant ways.

For instance, McCormick reminds viewers that even if you can’t get together with your family this year, “their dishes can still make it to the table.” And Lowe’s emphasizes the importance of home as a central part of our lives. This year especially, with so much time spent at home, Lowe’s highlights home decorating as a gift that “brings joy to all.”

These core consumer Christmas values won’t be abandoned just because the circumstances have changed. You can, and should, still activate against these themes. But keep in mind that you also need to know how things are different to understand where and how to tweak messaging.

Our recent data gives us insight on the shifts you can expect to see in consumer attitudes and behaviors as they modify their plans to celebrate the holiday safely. Consider these high-level consumer trends as you prepare your final holiday push for maximum impact.

1. Consumers will celebrate in 2020, but celebrate differently.

2 in 5 consumers expect that the pandemic will prevent them from carrying out their usual Christmas plans. That may mean abstaining from large family gatherings, nixing travel plans, or forgoing festive outings.

Continue to activate on core Christmas themes like family – but do so in a way that’s relevant during the pandemic. For instance, recent holiday spots by Etsy and Chewy feature family members opening presents with one another over video chat.

Alternatively, shake things up by leaning into the probability that the pandemic will likely create new activities and traditions. Show how your product or service can inspire new ways to celebrate because of the pandemic. For instance a recent spot by Maker’s Mark features roommates getting together to decorate their fire escape with Christmas lights, then huddling outside on it to watch a virtual fireplace on their TV while sipping cups of holiday cheer. Or illustrate how new quarantine activities can inspire Christmas gift ideas this year, like Best Buy.

2. Consumers prioritize convenience and safety for holiday shopping this year.

With no end to the pandemic in sight, consumers are modifying holiday shopping habits as they seek convenience and safety. Many are looking for contactless options: 67% of people say they’ll probably shop online more for the holidays this year.

Telling people how they can shop online for your products needs to be central to your campaign. For example, Walmart recently debuted a heartwarming and relatable spot highlighting everything we now buy online these days to cope with the pandemic. And Sam’s Club customers can take a virtual tour of the Griswold “Christmas Vacation” house as they shop the festive décor and gifts Sam’s Club offers.

3. Many people are still struggling financially as a result of the pandemic and economic recession.

Half of all Americans worry that they can’t afford holiday shopping this year.

Show sensitivity towards your customers by offering extended discounts. For instance, Target and Home Depot are offering Black Friday deals all season long. Additionally, signal that you care by supporting vulnerable communities financially or through donated goods. Amazon, recently announced plans to donate to over 1,000 charities to support communities hit hardest by the events this year. And Visa encourages consumers to shop local this holiday season and give back to the small businesses at the heart of their communities.

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2020 Holiday Consumer Behavior: Thanksgiving in the Age of the COVID-19 Pandemic

2020 Holiday Consumer Behavior: Thanksgiving in the Age of the COVID-19 Pandemic
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The coronavirus pandemic is fundamentally changing how American consumers gather for Thanksgiving and shop on Black Friday this year. Read on for insight into the consumer mindset and advice on how to best position your brand for success in this untraditional holiday season.

Thanksgiving. The word immediately calls to mind iconic images of Americana: roast turkey, family gatherings, football, the Macy’s Day parade. But Thanksgiving isn’t just a truly American holiday—it’s also one of the most celebrated! Our research from 2019 revealed that 84% of Americans regularly celebrate Thanksgiving, making it the second most celebrated holiday for Americans after Christmas. White and Black consumers are most likely to celebrate, while Hispanic and Asian celebration rates are lower, perhaps due to members of these segments that have recently immigrated and not yet adopted the holiday.

Thanksgiving is normally a popular occasion for Americans to travel and reunite with family and friends. Last year more than 26 million airline passengers were screened by the TSA during the week of Thanksgiving. And a survey we ran in 2019 revealed that 59% of Americans reported typically celebrating Thanksgiving with extended family, while 40% reported celebrating with friends.

But this year, nothing is normal. When we surveyed consumers in August 2020, 44% already expected the COVID-19 pandemic would interfere with their normal Thanksgiving plans. Since then, coronavirus cases and fatalities in the United States have risen dramatically.

Another survey we fielded in September 2020 found that only 19% of American adults reported feeling safe travelling on commercial airplanes. And the CDC recently issued official guidelines recommending that people stay close to home and only gather with immediate family members on Thanksgiving to lower the chances of spreading the virus. These fears are not unfounded. In October, Canadian officials linked rising case numbers all over the country to Canadian Thanksgiving celebrations

The coronavirus pandemic will likely result in a larger number of small Thanksgiving gatherings across the United States. And this means that many Americans—perhaps 18%—will be cooking their own Thanksgiving meals for the first time. Despite these changes, many other aspects of Thanksgiving 2020 will look the same as any other year. 

For example, the top things that people associate with Thanksgiving (spending time with family, eating delicious foods, cooking, baking, and watching football) are still possible, in some form, during the pandemic. And maintaining these traditions will likely be a welcome reminder of more normal times.

Brands can use these challenges to connect with consumers. McCormick’s new ad does this by showing how their products help create a sense of togetherness and ensure success despite separation. They encourage people to cook their relatives’ signature dishes as a way to be together. And they use the image of a young woman fumbling with a turkey—an inexperienced Thanksgiving cook—to remind viewers that “it’s gonna be great” despite the challenges

Thanksgiving is also a crucial time of year for brands because of Black Friday and the beginning of the holiday shopping season. This is yet another aspect of American life that will look different in 2020. According to recent research, two thirds of consumers plan to shop online more for the holidays this year, while 60% plan to put off shopping until it’s absolutely necessary.

Brands and stores have already begun to adjust their Black Friday campaigns in expectation of untraditional shopping patterns.

A common move is to expand your online strategy well beyond Cyber Monday as consumers fear shopping in crowded stores. For example, Target and other retailers are advertising that all deals are available both in-store and online. Retailers are also fighting against consumers’ instinct to hold off on shopping by offering Black Friday deals throughout November.

Unfortunately, about half of consumers are worried they won’t be able to afford holiday shopping this year. Brands can activate on this moment by showing how their products can figure in homemade or low-cost gifts. For example, Ashley Home Store released a commercial showing two children who make their parents a simple dinner and decorate the table with homemade decorations. The parents love it! And with the slogan, “celebrate the magic of home,” Ashley Home Store is also subtly reminding people of the importance of staying home and safe during the pandemic. Similarly, Ross advertises their Christmas bargains by saying, “you don’t have to spend a lot to give a lot to the ones who mean the most.” By offering extended sales, brands can also show they recognize the economic challenges many are now facing.

This Thanksgiving and Black Friday will look different than those past. But that doesn’t mean marketing is out. Brands can still connect with consumers by activating on tried and true themes and reminding people they understand the challenges they face.

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The Multicultural Growth Opportunity: 2020 Update

The Multicultural Growth Opportunity: 2020 Update
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Fill out the form to download an excerpt from Essentials of Multicultural Marketing: Demographics and Economic Opportunity.

The multicultural population in the United States is transforming American culture. For the first time, the white population registered negative growth across the last five years of available data, meaning Multiculturals are now driving OVER 100% of growth and a major share of expenditure growth.

The multicultural population in America has become a major source of growth, influence and change.  The impact of this group of consumers, once an afterthought in marketing, has now become central to the success of every consumer brand in the United States.

The year 2020 could not have made this point more clearly.  From the dramatic impact of the COVID crisis, to the racial justice protests prompted by the detailed video of George Floyd’s killing, and to the extraordinary and often unexpected impact of Multiculturals on the 2020 election, brands have been thrown abruptly into a future thought to be some decades off.

Multicultural population and expenditure growth are only the tip of the iceberg.  Multiculturals, especially Hispanic and Black consumers, are also more influential on a per-person basis than other segments, with that impact is clearly revealed in the attitudes and behaviors of younger Americans across every racial and ethnic segment.

In the excerpt above, you’ll find a sampling of our most recent findings on multicultural growth opportunity, including must-have information on:

  • Population Size and Growth
  • Geography
  • Family Characteristics
  • Language
  • Economic Opportunity

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Who’s on My Side? Multicultural Perceptions of Polarization and Major U.S. Political Parties

Who’s on My Side? Multicultural Perceptions of Polarization and Major U.S. Political Parties
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Regardless of the outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election, many Americans will not feel as if America’s political parties truly represent people like them. Here’s what we know about whether multicultural segments think either Democrats or Republicans have their best interests at heart.

With America’s cultural transformation, all brands must pivot to reach and meet the needs of multicultural consumers. Political brands are no exception – so how well are these brands, more commonly known as parties, doing with America’s fastest-growing segments?

This October, we at Collage Group surveyed 2,372 Americans on a series of questions about the current state of U.S. politics. We sought to learn how multicultural segments approach the issue of political polarization, and, importantly, which groups of people they think the Democratic and Republican parties represent. From this, we learned to what extent each multicultural segment perceives the major parties as on “their” side, as well as serving the interests of a selection of other groups, including women, the LGBTQ+ community, and retirees.

At the topline level, the answers are largely to be expected: Americans see the Democrats as most likely to support the interests of multicultural segments. Indeed, Americans overall see the Republican Party as best serving the interests of “White People,” and Democrats the interests of the Hispanic, Black, and Asian communities.

But there are important nuances, including:

1. While a plurality of consumers sees the Democrats as better for certain constituencies, these numbers never reach a majority, even when considering segments traditionally thought of as being supported by Democratic platforms.

We find the greatest consensus when considering the LGBTQ+ community, for whom 43 percent of Americans see the Democrats as being the favored political party, with only 14 percent choosing the Republicans. For other segments, such as “parents,” the gap is far narrower, with 27 percent of consumers thinking Democrats are better for America’s parents, and 23 percent choosing Republicans.

2. Black Americans are the most likely segment to see Democrats as best serving not only Black communities, but also the interests of parents and retirees.

The affinity Black consumers have towards the Democratic party is more complex and nuanced than one might think. Over half (55 percent) of the Black segment sees Democrats as doing the most for Black communities, which is the strongest level of agreement for any racial/ethnic segment regarding any of the constituencies addressed. But Black consumers independently over-index on seeing Democrats as doing more for retirees (41 percent) and parents (38 percent).

3. Hispanic Americans, especially the Unacculturated segment, are least convinced that either major party does the most to serve the interests of immigrants.

While 43 percent of consumers see the Democrats as best serving the interests of the immigrant community, the Hispanic segment under-indexes here, at 35 percent. But it is not that they think Republicans are good for immigrants, as they under-indexing on that sentiment as well. Rather, Hispanic consumers are most likely to say that neither party serves the interests of the immigrant community. This is especially true for the Unacculturated Hispanic segment, of whom 30 percent see neither Republicans nor Democrats as supporting immigrants.

4. While three quarters of Americans are concerned about increasing political polarization, less than half of the Bicultural and Unacculturated Hispanic segments are concerned.

Only 46 percent of Bicultural Hispanic consumers, and 16 percent of the Unacculturated Hispanic segment, are concerned about the state of political polarization in the United States. We think there are three interrelated reasons for this. First, across a variety of subject areas we see Hispanic consumers expressing higher optimism than other segments. Second, Bicultural and Unacculturated Hispanic consumers are more likely to compare their experiences in the U.S. with those of their countries of origin, which, especially from their perspectives, are often worse when it comes to governance and the political process. Finally, many of these consumers are not citizens, and therefore may feel a lower personal stake in the in the American electoral system.

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