Market Update 4.11.20: How Are The People?

April 11, 2020

Good morning, and welcome to the weekend. It might as well be Tuesday. Even Fridays are like Mondays, and who knows which way is up? The other day, I imagined this is what retirement is like, except with high levels of anxiety. If that’s the case, then I really have no interest in retirement.

While there are potential positive signals happening in the “flattening of the curve” models across the US and the S&P 500 had its best week since 1974, the people — we the people — are being challenged to our mental and emotional cores. While I disagree vehemently with nearly every word uttered by our President, I will agree with him on this: “We Americans aren’t meant to do this.” Blue or red, we cherish our freedom, and we aim to utilize it.

Except now. We must stay-in-place. For you non-Minnesotans reading this, I wish you had our governor — Gov. Walz. He’s an empath and a teacher, so he delivers data with a heart. And the data says we gotta stay put and stay put we will. The data also says that our staying put is helping squelch the spread of COVID-19. There are those who say it’s working so well we should stop. But that’s not how data works. We won’t stop it until people who shouldn’t die don’t. Period.


For those of you who have been reading these updates for the past few weeks know, we have very much trusted the data and insights coming out of our partner Resonate. They regularly survey millions of Americans to get a view on how they’re feeling, thinking and behaving, usually on a wide variety of topics. Earlier this week, they surveyed people about whether they believe this recovery will be short or long and how those viewpoints adjust their behaviors.

People fell into two camps. Short-term return believers (STRB) are people who think life will return to normal in 1-3 months. Long-term return believers (LTRB) are those who think it will be 4+ months. Because of these mindsets, their preferences and behaviors differ. These are also interesting segments to consider for client activations.

My VP of Strategy Julie Verhulst, found these interesting insights: 

  • STRBs are focused on price and products that are familiar, family-friendly and easy to use, where…
  • LTRBs are focused on brand and convenience and products that are high-quality, best looking, practical, yet innovative
  • STRBs are 21% more likely to buy sport/fitness related products right now, where…
  • LTRBs are 34% more likely to buy office chairs/furniture products right now — showing the difference in their state of mind; LTRB believe they will be in this for some time so they want comfort
  • LTRBs value researching products (across multiple sources) before purchasing (114 index), where STRB do not value research they are focused on price (76 index)
  • LTRBs have a stronger preference than STRB for companies that treat their employees fairly – so creative that speaks to their support of employees may be of interest to the LTRB audience
  • Where STRB have a stronger preference toward brands that have truthful ads



I was fortunate enough to be interviewed by our friends at MediaPost earlier this week about the potential for a creative Renaissance as a result of us all being holed up at home. I’m already seeing an explosion in new music and art being created. The artists have been unleashed! 

In the world of advertising, however, you’ve all seen the opposite of that at times. The ad that is completely tone deaf to our current existence. Most likely, the ad was created prior to the pandemic, and the marketing folks simply decided to keep running it because there’s no budget or ability to reshoot spots. These ads are particularly unnerving though when presented in pre-roll on news sites. You’re there to receive probably critical information on the health concerns of yourself or your neighbors, and an ad appears bright and cheery as though the world is spinning in the same orbit as before.

I think of these ads as the same as when you look out your window and see a group of teens playing a full-on basketball game. Sure. Looks fun and all, but you might be killing someone when you go home. (This happened to me for weeks because my home office overlooks a city park. Police finally shut the park down.)

Our own data at Ciceron is showing some very interesting insights. For example, in our work with Be The Match, we are seeing in our reporting that older promo codes are showing up in conversion data more readily. What does that mean? It means that perhaps a couple of months ago, a person was compelled to begin the donor registration process, but then decided not to complete it for whatever reason. Now, after exposure to new marketing (that puts the challenges of blood diseases within the context of COVID-19), they have returned and completed their registration. This happens all the time, but it’s happening at a greater instance now. Why? We believe people’s compassionate qualities are heightened right now. They are at home, in a community mindset, and thinking about something they can do to help their fellow neighbor.


The number of delivery trucks zooming past my house is a true testament to the growth in ecommerce right now. Even my daughter joined Instacart this week to shop and deliver groceries, and I think her net worth may have surpassed mine in five short days. 

Simply put, people are just trying to get things done. And to reward ourselves. We know what shopping does to the frontal lobe of our brains in terms of reward signals. When you’re sitting at home all day, the impulse to reward yourself for doing a good job at being a good sitter-at-homer is strong. First, you want snacks. So you order using Instacart. You’re sitting in your office, you’ve always hated your desk, so you decide to get a new one at Blu Dot (Yes. We are running this sale.) You’re flipping through Instagram, you see that pair of shoes, you buy.

In all of these cases, the product or the service is the creative. The messaging is almost non-existent. It’s just the product and the price, and the frontal cortex takes over. You want that.

So the point is, don’t overthink it. Does your product or service simply fill a need? If so, present it. Don’t try and over do it. You don’t need to be cute. Don’t need to be funny. Don’t even need to be compassionate. Just be.

On the other hand — and this is certainly more difficult — you can reimagine your brand within the context of the zeitgeist of our current existence. Nike, as usual, is getting it right. Just take a look at this Instagram ad

Nike rarely gets it wrong, to be honest. In this spot, Nike hits all the poignant pieces: athleticism, hard work/hard play, compassion, empathy, hope, celebrity endorsement, and accomplishments. These have always been Nike’s brand attributes, but within the context of the pandemic, they are particularly appropriate and astute. 

Risky? Perhaps. But this is what strong brands do. They invest their brand equity at the right times.



To those of you who celebrated Passover or look forward to the hope of Easter tomorrow, we hope you find comfort in those convictions. We are all very, very human right now. I hope we stay that way forever.

Our best,