April saw a marked shift from the way brands communicated before COVID-19. Gone were the attention-grabbing all caps and clever plays on words (e.g. “Let the MADNESS BEGIN” for the NCAA basketball tournament). Language that evoked the Trust-based emotions of Safety, Intimacy, and Gratitude drove the highest engagement in April, when people seemed to be resonating more with brands showing empathy and expressing care. Yet, as parts of the world emerge from shelter-in-place orders and tiptoe toward re-opening their doors, the words and language people are responding to continue to evolve and change in front of our eyes.
In May, the Pride-based emotion of Achievement returned as a top performer. Achievement has always been a strong emotion and its reappearance in the top three seems to indicate an emergence from the crisis phase of communication and a slow progression toward some kind of a new normal.
Achievement embodies a sense of reward and gain—and while it may feel like there’s not much to celebrate these days, that’s exactly why this emotion is working. Right now, as we’re stuck at home and adjusting to a new digital life, we’re craving this feeling of Achievement because we have less access to it now. Brands positioning special, rare promotions framed as “wins” and “scores” are capturing our attention and giving us a reason to engage—after all, being told “you’ve earned 25% off” is more satisfying than being told “25% off is happening now.”