by Laura Starita
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The pandemic changed customer motivation. What’s happening now?

customer motivation

At Persado, we talk a lot about how messages motivate customers to take action. One of the ways they do that is by tapping into a feeling or emotion that fits the context of a campaign.

And quite frankly, during this pandemic, we’ve all had a lot of feelings. 

By “feelings”—or its more formal equivalent, emotion—we don’t mean some sentimental notion. Emotions are simply a way that Persado’s Motivation AI categorizes the intent, tone, or context of a message. When you say, “Guess what?” you’re tapping into Curiosity. When you say, “Excuse me,” it’s Attention-grabbing. Emotion is core to how we speak to each other as humans. And human, relatable language is a primary differentiator of the campaigns that outperform.

That has been true during the pandemic as it was in the before times. The difference is that the pandemic led to some major changes in the tone and emotions that motivate people. We detail these and other trends in our inaugural 2022 Customer Motivation Report. Some of those changes are still driving how businesses effectively motivate today. Let’s take a closer look – both at what happened during the early months of the pandemic (and the lingering effects) to now.

Pandemic emotions 2020: Radical disruption

Analysis in our Customer Motivation Report, detailing the past three years of campaign performance data, finds that Achievement, Attention, and Gratitude are often the top-three performing emotions on average. Drill down month-by-month, however, and you see a more nuanced picture.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, Attention dropped from the list of top-performers and was replaced for six months by messages conveying Safety and Intimacy. And though Achievement stayed strong, the intensity of the most successful messages got turned way down to reflect the more serious tone of the moment.

In retail, that sounded like, “We’ve got you covered with these great gifts.”

In financial services, “We’re committed to helping you achieve your goals.” 

In insurance, “We’re here for you.”

Beyond emotions, messages that offered clear information and directive language also thrived by helping audiences understand their next steps — necessary clarity at a time of information overwhelm.

Pandemic emotions, 2021 to present: Attention is back but different

By early 2021, Attention language was firmly back at the top of the performance ranks, where it has remained ever since. But it seems permanently changed. Gone are the ubiquitous superlatives, exclamations, or shouty caps.

More successful messages now use Attention language in a way that is more neutral and calming. Retailers send a “Friendly reminder about our sale,” or financial institutions highlight “An important message about your account.”

What’s Next: The road ahead looks emotional too

We’ve seen periods in the past eighteen months (often corresponding to low infection rates) when messaging trends seemed to return to the pre-pandemic norm — but not for long. Instead, it seems that the pandemic has had some long-term impacts on messaging. Among them:

While any number of factors may be driving these trends, we are inclined to interpret them in light of the fact that the past few years have been a lot.  From work burnout, the great resignation, political upheaval, and financial worry due to high inflation, high interest rates, and low stock market performance, people are dealing with a lot of stress. A light touch, a kind word, and clear calls to action will continue to help an overwhelmed customer base feel motivated to take action.

To learn more about the language trends of the past few years, explore the 2022 Customer Motivation Report and our corresponding eBook.