From Chaos to Connections: A Conversation About Women, Stress and The Holidays

October 21, 2020

As we think about the upcoming holiday season, brand marketers have their work cut out for them. Consumers are feeling depressed, frustrated, angry, and anxious at a time when people normally feel festive and in light-hearted spirits. As a result, brands must find the right message and tone, promote the right products, create the right online and in-store experiences, and connect in ways that truly demonstrate that they know how consumers, particularly women, are feeling. It will be interesting to see which brands deliver the gift of empathetic marketing.

I sat down with my FINN Partners colleague, Senior Partner Cindy Coppola, to discuss how women, especially, may be bearing the greatest burden during this holiday season. 

Kyle Farnham: We recently partnered with a third-party research company by the name of Civis Analytics to look at the emotional, behavioral and relationship impact on Americans since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. I don’t think it was a surprise to learn that people are feeling anxious and sad in overwhelming numbers, but it was interesting to see that women are bearing the brunt of this.

Listen to this. Compared to men, women reported experiencing higher levels of anxiety (56% to 43%), sadness (36% to 27%), and fear (29% to 24%).

Cindy Coppola: I get it! As a working mom with four young daughters, I am 100% here for this. I often find myself trying to shoulder the tough stuff like stress, fear, anxiety, uncertainty so my family doesn’t have to. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way.

KF: Well, this got me thinking about the upcoming holiday season. We know that people’s stress levels go up during the holidays, and studies have shown that women are more prone to experiencing holiday stress than men.  

CC: Women feeling all the stress again, huh? It’s hard to imagine a time that’s already intensely chaotic and filled with a ton of pressure being compounded by a pandemic. But that’s what we’re facing.

KF: Exactly. It feels like the increased anxiety that people are experiencing, particularly women, is going to be off the charts during the holidays.

CC: It’s funny we’re having this conversation. I was just talking to my good friend Dr. Jessica Kendorski about the same thing. She’s a licensed psychologist, and we were discussing our plans for the holidays. We started talking about the factors that have always contributed to holiday stress overload: loss, grief, expectation management and conflict.

KF: I would love to have a friend who’s a psychologist!

CC: I know, right?! Anyway, she was rattling off the typical feelings that women experience during the holidays that will be exacerbated by a virus and a general state of unrest. For example, managing children’s expectations surrounding gifting, in a financially insecure period, will be tough – especially when we are all yearning to make this a time of light in an otherwise bleak year.

KF: Not to mention the fact that thousands and thousands of women are dropping out of the workforce due to COVID-19. This could be the most stressful, stressful time of the year in decades.

CC: For me, the bottom line is this: Women are feeling depressed. Moms are overwhelmed. Families are disconnected. And quite honestly, there’s no end in sight. With that, brands have the unique opportunity this holiday season to speak to the needs of consumers, particularly women, on an emotional level like we’ve never seen before.

KF: It’s about moving from what can feel like a time filled with meaningless chaos to one focused on meaningful connections.

CC: That’s right. Despite the incredible pressure that brands will feel to make up for lost sales, the ones who will connect best with women are the ones that try to understand how they’re feeling and accept that this year is different.

KF: Yes. Brands need to shift their messaging and marketing efforts from selling to supporting, help women go from the expectation of doing more to embracing what’s truly manageable, and offer levity, not last-minute gift ideas.

CC: Agreed. It’s less about shopping for great values and more about celebrating who and what we truly value in our lives. Women don’t need another box to check on their Holiday “to do” list. They need the freedom to shred the list and wing it.

KF: This is a year for brands to help inspire new traditions, instead of contributing to the idea that people need to hold on to existing ones.

CC: Brands that recognize this will win the loyalty of consumers during the holidays and beyond.

 

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