Everyone is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, but not everyone faces the same challenges or feels the same way about it. To better understand peoples’ mindsets and the emotional impact of COVID, we surveyed people in the US and Canada and segmented them into groups based on their feelings and attitudes.
There are four distinct segments of the population that are thinking about and experiencing COVID-19 in very different ways. We call them the:
Worried and Vulnerable
These folks say “I feel overwhelmed. I don’t know how I’ll get by, and I can’t stop thinking about catching the virus.” This group skews slightly Female and are slightly younger than the general population.
Alarmed but Confident
These people disclosed that they “worry about what this means for society, but I am pretty sure my loved ones and I will get through this okay.” This group skews slightly Female, and quite a bit older than the general population.
Concerned Skeptics say “I am anxious about what this means for paying the bills today and in the future. But I wonder if this shutdown has gone too far, for too long.” This group skews Male, and substantially younger than the general population, and they are the most likely segment to be living with children under 18 in the household.
The unconcerned say “I think this whole ‘pandemic’ thing is a bit overblown. I don’t think it will turn out to be the big deal the media is claiming it is – EXCEPT for its impact on the economy, which is concerning.” Proportionally, this group is distributed similarly to the general population (though it skews Male in Canada).
Population Segment Distribution by Country
Overall, this breakdown shows the overall concern level is higher in the US than in Canada – one-quarter of Americans are worried and vulnerable, compared to just 15% in Canada. In Canada, more than four-in-ten are concerned about COVID-19, however feel confident in their personal (and family’s) ability to weather the storm – both economically and in reference to health.
These perceptions shape what people do, where they do it, and who they do it with. That has important implications for organizations and brands. Let’s look at each mindset in more detail.
About the Four Segments
Worried & Vulnerable
The Worried & Vulnerable are deeply concerned about catching the virus and are afraid the hospital system won’t be able to handle the situation. On top of that, they are not sure they’ll be able to keep up with the bills. They don’t have a lot of financial reserves to keep themselves afloat. They feel anxious, afraid, helpless, and sad.
The Worried & Vulnerable don’t really feel safe going outside, let alone shopping. They are buying more things online, and staying home, as much as they can. And while they are worried about today, they are not optimistic about tomorrow either. They think things will get worse before they get better, and that this pandemic is not a temporary situation.
One in four Americans and one in five Canadians are Worried & Vulnerable. The size of the segment remains largely unchanged since late March.
Alarmed but Confident
The Alarmed but Confident are concerned about catching the virus, and they worry about the capacity of hospitals. But they feel they have the finances to see themselves through this without too much trouble. They tend to be older, and about one-third are retired.
The Alarmed but Confident tend to be more approving of how federal and local governments are handling the crisis. They feel fine about going out to shop—if the store is not too crowded. But they do worry that life may never be the same again.
Just over a quarter of Americans and four in ten Canadians are Alarmed but Confident. Their numbers have grown slightly since March.
Concerned Skeptics are worried about getting the virus, and the effect it is having on the economy. They don’t feel safe going out or going shopping. They worry that things will get worse before they get better. But they are relatively optimistic about the long-term.
Concerned Skeptics are hopeful that there will be a vaccine before too long, and they feel the virus is a temporary problem. They are positive about how governments are handling things. But overall, they feel that society has overreacted. They believe the economic costs of a shutdown are outweighing the health benefits and that it is time to get the economy going again. Plus, they miss their sports and want them back soon.
One in five Americans and one in eight Canadians are Concerned Skeptics. Their numbers remain largely unchanged over time.
The Unconcerned are not worried about getting the virus and don’t feel concerned about going shopping or, to a lesser extent, being in large crowds. They think they know enough to protect themselves.
They are not too stressed about being able to pay their bills and tend to be hopeful that this is just a temporary problem. They are concerned about the economy and tend to think it is time to open it back up.
One in four Americans and Canadians are Unconcerned. As the pandemic wears on, the number of people sharing an Unconcerned mindset is declining slightly.
Not all of one mind
While we are all experiencing the same pandemic, not everyone sees it the same way. As government leaders make decisions about reopening, they must grapple with the fact that—no matter what they do—people will not be of one mind. This applies to brands and organizations too.
Each of these segments of the population are experiencing this pandemic in different ways and, as they interact with your brand or organization, their perspectives will influence how they feel about your offer. In this time of change, people’s brand memories and associations are being altered—which means your brand is transforming too. But it is changing differently for different people.
This segmentation can help you understand your customer’s mindsets about this pandemic. A simple first step is to start with a few questions on our COVID-19 tracker (US, Canada, UK), which has the segmentation incorporated into it on an ongoing basis. That can shed a whole new light on who your customer is right now, and how they are feeling. That will provide direction as to what to probe to develop a deeper understanding of how your market and brand are evolving.
Now is the time to understand a changing landscape. If you are top of changing circumstances, you have the potential to intervene. If you wait to see how things settle out, your fate is sealed. Act now.
Key Differences Between Canada and the US
While much is similar in the way these four segments look and behave between Canada and the United States, there are some key differences:
- Three-quarters of Canadians are either Unconcerned or Alarmed but Confident, meaning they are at least confident in their ability to weather the COVID-19 storm; in the US this proportion is just 55%, meaning many more Americans are not confident in their ability to handle the COVID-19 pandemic and crisis.
- In Canada, confidence in handling the COVID-19 pandemic is higher even among younger adults; 65% of 18-34 year olds in Canada are Unconcerned or Alarmed but Confident, vs. just 44% in the US.
- Regionally, segments are distributed more similarly across the US than they are across Canada.
- For example, Alarmed but Confident represents between 21-30% of people living in each of the four American regions (Northeast, Midwest, South, West), a difference of just 9% across regions; however in Canada this segment is as low as 31% (in Alberta) and as high as 53% (in Atlantic Canada), a difference of 22%.
- In Canada, the proportion who are Unconcerned is higher with higher income, however the opposite is true in the US – unconcerned is highest among households making less than $25k in household annual income, and lowest among those making $100k+.
- In the US there is a huge difference in the proportion of Cost Concerned between parents and non-parents; 30% of those with <18 kids in the household are Cost Concerned, vs. just 11% of those with no kids in the household. In Canada, no such difference exists (14% of parents are Cost Concerned, vs. 11% among non-parents).
- Business owners in Canada appear much more confident; 64% are either Unconcerned or Alarmed but Confident, vs. just 39% among business owners in the US.
- Students in Canada are distributed much more evenly across segments (31% are Unconcerned, 26% are Cost Concerned, 17% are Worried and Vulnerable, 25% are Alarmed but Confident), while in the US students lean heavily towards being Cost Concerned (57%).
To see how Maru/Matchbox is keeping a finger on the pulse of how businesses and consumers are managing in the pandemic, visit our COVID-19 research hub.