Mobility data can fine tune marketing plans


A new year, a new lockdown. So far, so simple – but when you dig a little deeper it’s clear that for much of the last 9 months the UK has been in varying degrees of lockdown in all but name.

Do you really know the difference between Lockdowns, Tiers, Levels, and Circuit Breakers? I think we can agree that these terms are often used interchangeably and are not clear-cut definitions.

If we can’t easily differentiate between them, it becomes difficult to assess what impact each is having on our customers and to predict their future behaviour. For instance, does an impending ‘Lockdown’ change behaviour more than a ‘Circuit Breaker‘? Clearly, not all Lockdowns are created equal!

The point is we can’t rely on the terminology to inform our analysis so we need to broaden our evidence base.

When is a Lockdown not a Lockdown?

There have been some obvious lockdowns in everything but name – Wales entered an 18-day “Circuit Breaker” on 23 October, and what about Scotland’s Level 4 on 20 November? Surely this was also a lockdown, with hospitality and non-essential retail closing, and all businesses asked to work from home.

Meanwhile, England has seen a dizzying number of Tier changes, often with the same Tier having an array of meanings depending on where you are in the country and what particular month you are in. Is takeaway allowed? Are schools open? Do I need to order a Scotch Egg with my pint?

If managed properly there is no denying that a richly varied and rapidly responsive set of restrictions has the potential to create the most beneficial impact with the least harm, and in this case it is impossible to usefully devise rigid terms. Has the current communications strategy attempted to keep things simple, but as a result has made things more confusing? Perhaps our fundamental problem in that is that we have not used a rich enough language to describe these restrictions.

Does language constrain thought?

Imagine trying to give a meaningful weather forecast using only the terms ‘hot’ and ‘cold’. How would the viewer know whether it was going to rain or not, would it be windy or calm, sunny or overcast? You get the drift, language constrains how we perceive things and if we are not careful restricts our ability to understand.

This brings us full circle to Lockdowns, Tiers, Levels and Circuit Breakers. They are simply too generic and loosely defined. We are battling against ambiguity and that is clearly very tiring indeed!

A new language for talking about lockdowns

Covid has brought to the surface many new sources of data, which have been bubbling under (and under-used) for some time. Perhaps the earliest of these is Google Trends, which is now regularly used to monitor what people are thinking and how it is changing over time.

Social media sentiment is another – letting us see what is occupying our attention, how much we are enraged or pleased, and whether this lasts for days or months.

Perhaps one of the most interesting and comprehensive sets of new data is Google Mobility. This is tracked across a number of categories, from public transport usage, workplace visits, time spent at home, supermarket footfall, and so on.

If we look at workplace mobility across the 3 major cities of London, Cardiff and Edinburgh it is immediately clear when new restrictions come in and how much they change our behaviour. For the first time we are able to compare a Lockdown in England to a Circuit Breaker in Wales and Level 4 in Scotland.  It gives us a single and highly nuanced language to compare how restrictions are changing everyday life.





Ultimately this data shows us where people are spending their time, and without us having to wait weeks or months to find out. Are supermarkets as busy as they were in last year’s lockdowns or is there a continued shift to online? How does this influence shopper marketing?

What about public transport – is advertising ultimately wasting time and effort in this space or is there an opportunity to stand out?

How much are we walking the streets, even if shops are closed? Does this mean Out of Home is more important than ever, and gets our attention in a less cluttered environment?

At Kanso we’ll keep a close eye on what is happening over the weeks and months and use this blog to keep on top of all the changes that are taking place. Do let me know if there are any particular areas you are keen to understand, or leave a comment on our LinkedIn/ Twitter posts.

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