NEW YORK – June 24, 2020 — Persado, the leading AI platform that unlocks the value of the right words at every customer interaction, announced a new language analysis in response to the coronavirus pandemic that demonstrates how brand communication has changed at an empirical level as a result of COVID-19. Persado evaluated the words, phrases and emotions that drove engagement pre-COVID and compared them to the language that emerged as most effective as the crisis evolved.
The Persado Content Intelligence team analyzed over 500 AI-powered client campaigns that encompassed over 32,000 message permutations, comparing the language used in December 2019 to April and then May 2020. The goal was to identify the specific ways that the language used in brand communications changed as a result of COVID-19. With emotional impact being the primary driver of how customers respond to a particular message, the analysis highlighted specific changes in the emotions inherent in the language that engaged customers during this time and pinpointed those words that mattered most to customers. People respond best to messaging that they can connect with and the emotions that engage us now are different than they were in late 2019.
For example, if we use December 2019 as a proxy for pre-pandemic communications — a time when it was very much business-as-usual, words that evoked Gratification and commanded Attention performed best with consumers. Notably, the Trust-based emotions of Gratitude and Intimacy performed in the middle of the pack back in December.
The picture looked markedly different by April 2020, when the trust-based emotions of Intimacy, Gratitude, and Safety dominated the brand communication landscape, and Attention quickly became the worst-performing sentiment.
“During the quarantine, as people across most of the country were social distancing and sheltering in place, they were also spending significantly more time in front of their screens. And in a charged, never-before-experienced circumstance like a global pandemic, people were paying extra-close attention to the content they were exposed to,” says Alex Protopapas, Chief Content Officer at Persado. “As we continue to see in a context like this, it’s safe to assume your customers are looking at every ‘move’ you make as a brand — i.e. every word you say — with a magnifying glass. Achieving the perfect balance between the right, context-sensitive tone, and still getting maximum value out of your communications — that’s not an easy task. You need to be able to speak the language of the times.”
As the pandemic proceeded, “business-as-usual” language continued to evolve. Early on in February and March, Persado observed that brands who acknowledged the current climate and approached sales events as opportunities for customer appreciation succeeded. Trust-based emotions like Gratitude (e.g. “thank you for your patience”) were resonating. By May, Persado saw another shift. Achievement — a historic high-performer that waned in March and April — was now performing better than Gratitude. Why? Based in the emotional category of Pride, Achievement has always been a strong performer, eliciting feelings of success and accomplishment (e.g. “you’ve scored a discount,” and “treat yourself, you’ve earned it”). Its reappearance among 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.
A New ‘Mindful Narrative” to Reflect the Times
In addition to this analysis, Persado’s Content Intelligence and Data Science teams began training its AI in February to understand the context of the evolving pandemic and its impact on language and how brands needed to evolve their messaging. Through an extensive language audit, Persado’s development team identified both positive and negative patterns emerging as a result of the pandemic that evolved into the creation of the ‘Mindful Narrative,’ a deep understanding of the current situation that helps ensure that brands strike the right tone.
“With Mindful Narratives, we are training our AI to help brands reassess their entire communications strategy — with human empathy at the center of that strategy. This thoughtful way of analyzing language is already helping our customers pivot toward messaging that strikes the appropriate tone, which not only increases engagement, but builds brand equity,” says Susan Li, Director, Content Intelligence at Persado. “We developed Mindful Narratives as a response to weathering crisis communications, but our framework can evolve as the crisis evolves. How we understand and respond to specific words and phrases changes rapidly as we enter new stages of the crisis. Our platform can provide brands with the data-backed content and insights they need to better connect with customers at this critical time.”