Charting a course through the COVID-19 Pandemic
March 26, 2020
Two interesting pieces of research out this morning about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on research results.
The first comes from Zappi and an online test of 26 concepts and advertisements across six consumer categories (personal care, food and beverage, home hygiene, Telco, QSR, OTC) in five markets (US, UK, China, Italy and Mexico). All 26 were previously tested prior to March 1 and then retested March 17-18. Zappi’s analysis found few meaningful differences across 78 comparisons. My gut reaction: “How can this be?”
There also is a report just released from the Pew Research Center here in the US. It was conducted for a week stretching from March 10 to March 16 and asked about the perceived threat of COVID-19 to the US economy, the overall health of the US population, daily life in their communities, their personal financial situation, and their personal health. While 70% reported seeing the pandemic as a major threat to the US economy, only about a third saw it as a major threat to their personal financial situation and 27% as a major threat to their health. Another 23% saw COVID-19 as presenting no threat at all to their personal health. The obvious message would seem to be that only a small minority of the US population saw COVID-19 as a major threat to them personally. How can this be?
It might be partially explained by the changes in response over the survey period where four of the five measures rose significantly. For example, 29% of respondents who completed the Pew survey in the first two days (March 10-11) felt that the virus posed a major threat to their personal finances. By the last two days (March 16-17) that measure rose 11 points to 40%. On the other hand, respondent concerns about their personal health remained fairly consistent, although the alarm bells didn’t start ringing loudly here in the US until the week of March 16.
These are two different studies with different samples covering different time periods and there may be multiple ways to reconcile them. I’m not going to try to do that. However, I would note that it's of critical importance to have multiple measures and perspectives if we are to really know what is happening. I also want to reinforce the message that it's more important than ever to continue to do research even as the pandemic continues to unfold and hopefully subsides. The more multiple points of measurement you can bring to bear the better. Business, governments, non-profits—any organization that relies on data to make informed decisions--needs to understand how the attitudes and behaviors of the people they serve are evolving as we work our way through this crisis. If ever knowledge were power, this is that time.
For details on the Zappi work look here. For the Pew study look here.