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Review of 2020

PDF report available.

Finian Murphy, Marketing Director

by Finian Murphy, Marketing Director


Welcome to our review of 2020.

After interviewing 15,000 people about COVID-19 and news throughout 2020, we can now confidently report the trends that have occurred in our collective behavioural response to this unforgettable year.

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As we look into 2021, with a predicted third wave of COVID-19 due in the early months, but also vaccines on the horizon, it is useful to understand the relationship between engagement with the pandemic news, case numbers and public confidence.


Hover over the bubbles to see various news story scores.

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Our analysis has shown that COVID-19 stories not only distract, but also dominate other news stories when daily case numbers exceed 200. The suppression of cases during the summer months allowed for other areas of life to be discussed.

Public concern and willingness to adopt public health restrictions consistently occurred earlier than political decisions. People saw the behaviours of others, and began to anticipate an increase in case numbers and became more pragmatic in their behaviour.

As we reported early on during the outbreak of COVID-19, public concern does not translate into consumer paralysis. Instead consumers adapt and have supported businesses in new ways, as best they can.

While retail was extremely hit in April and May (-44.8% and -29.1% year on year value), when restrictions were lifted during the summer months, people took holidays at home to support the tourism sector. During the Autumn, despite parts of the country having tighten restrictions, retail sales continued to hold strong in October, (+4.2% year-on-year value).

As we finish for the year, online transactions are taking over offline transactions. With household savings at an all time high, consumers are finding new and safe ways to spend, despite the challenges. COVID-19 news will focus on hope about vaccine roll-out, vaccine hesitation, anti-vax) and the various economic and societal measures for recovery.

What will not change in 2021 is the ability for people to adapt. Reporting on behaviour during COVID-19 has highlighted to me how brands and organisations can not sit idle and ignore the changes that have occurred in society and in markets. 2021 will be full of stories of hope but a return to normal will not exist.

Instead, we will go back to the future. The Cultural Index will track the stories which matter the most and these stories will shape an adapted culture for tomorrow.

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