COVID-19 Response Center: How ‘Social Contagion’ Impacts Brands During A Crisis

Walter Flaat

Chief Data Officer

We are living in unprecedented times.

On one hand, COVID-19 has sparked overwhelming fears that swept cleaning products off the shelves. On the other, humans are participating in the largest virtual agreement of mutual support we have ever seen.

As cities shut down, indoor fitness classes become a thing and stocks for Netflix, Zoom and Amazon rise in an otherwise falling market, it’s clear that emotions, opinions and factual information are being passed along at breakneck speeds.

This ‘Social Contagion’ is hard to track, but absolutely vital to understand because it drives consumer behavioural changes more than the virus itself.


To generate that understanding, we launched a COVID-19 Response Center.

Going all the way back from Dec 31st, 2019 until now, we’re using AI to track the behavioural impact of the virus on Canadians over the span of the crisis. Our study contains a controlled sample of approximately 270,000 randomized Canadian respondents sourced from public data.

Each day, we rerun the model and report changes. We then blend these AI insights with our benchmark consumer data, media trackers and social analyses. As of now, this ongoing study is scheduled to run for six weeks from March 17th, 2020.


What do we know so far?

Plenty. From watching the news to posting on apps like TikTok, Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram, we’ve found that everyone has something to say or share — good or bad. In fact, our study shows that over 1 in 3 Canadians engaged with COVID-19 topic within a week of pandemic status.

That’s a big number for brands to navigate.

But the good news is that Canadians are shifting from a state of anxiety to solidarity. We see clear signs of Canadians pulling together and settling into a ‘new normal’.

For brands, this crisis is not a time to keep heads down. Instead, our data shows it's the perfect time to use ‘social contagion’ to spread helpful messages. Here are some things your brand can do right now:

  • Produce content that recognizes people and organizations that do good
  • Share ideas on how people can stay happy and healthy during social distancing
  • Appeal to your consumer’s inner Stoic weathering the storm
  • Help people virtually escape the moment and make isolation a bit more fun

If you’re wondering how to justify these ideas, we’ve got all the data laid out in our full report.


If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

There’s a deep-rooted fear of uncertain times ahead. While Canadians are just starting to shift their thinking into providing for their communities, it’s important that brands follow suit.

An overwhelming future where our healthcare system becomes more overloaded than usual, where mom and pop shops go dark and where the EI claims never seem to end is not one Canadians want to see.

But if that’s what we’re all afraid of, ask yourself.

What can your brand do to help?

If you’re interested in the full scope of our ongoing study, subscribe to the COVID-19 Response Center.

We want to make sure you have the data you need to support your decisions.

With your subscription, you’ll receive vertical insights, a brand dashboard, a social mitigation playbook, plus 24/7 social monitoring of the Canadian engagement with COVID-19.

While this is a paid service, this is not a project designed to profit off a health emergency and we are offering it at the lowest cost possible.

To sign up, reach out to Damien.Hilgendorf@dentsuaegis.com