Presence, trust, affinity: Google’s masterclass in relevance during the pandemic


If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that the future feels impossible to predict. Seemingly overnight, consumer behaviors changed. Along with it, came a period of turbulence for brands.

Resonating with consumers during these unpredictable times is more important than ever. How can you reach your customers, understand how their needs are evolving and their values shifting, to be there for them when they need you? 

At Infegy, we use our social listening and intelligence platforms to find data that can answer these tough questions. We partnered with Interbrand to apply social insights research to pinpoint and analyze the brands listed in the Best Global Brands report.

Millions upon millions of online conversations have occurred throughout this crazy year. We dived into those conversations to zero in on what the short-and-long-term implications for brands might be.

We looked at how consumers discuss some of the Best Global Brands and the brand strength factors that drive relevance: staying present and impactful, establishing and nurturing trust, and creating powerful affinity with core customers. 

In truth, all of the top performing Best Global Brands are masters at the three critical elements of brand strength: leadership, engagement and relevance, and our deep dive could have addressed any of the top five brands to have found similar superlative results. 

We’ve chosen to zero in on Google, however, because it successfully navigated a pandemic-ridden year by embodying those core attributes.

In this article, we’ll examine how  Google achieved relevance with consumers – exemplifying how a brand can stand out, establish and build trust, and develop deep affinity with consumers like they did. 

Let’s take a look.

Google Makes an Impact as the Reliable Connector

How can a company that is so ever present in our lives somehow become more present? 

Google completely transformed its role as a result of the pandemic, allowing it to drive positive sentiment. Watch it skyrocket in March of 2020:

Overall sentiment towards Google increased from 82% positive before the pandemic to 89% during the pandemic:

Conversation distribution during Covid - 11% negative, 89% positive

Why did this happen? 

Google’s efforts to provide workers, businesses, teachers, schools, and families with the tools and resources to succeed in their unique situations proved to be a powerful move in humanizing a previously un-human tech brand.

Take, for example, their quick updates to retail and restaurant listings.

This provides searchers with updated information about establishments’ operating hours, in-store access, and availability of curbside takeout and delivery services. Google adapted fast to create an easy user experience and help people and businesses get and transmit valuable information. 

This shows Google’s active presence moving beyond their typical service offerings and engaging the community with information that it needs. By bridging the gap between customer and business, Google is showing up where they are needed during a time of crisis and proving they understand the realities of the world as it exists during that time.

The lesson for you to take away is that you must be there when customers need you. Adapt and be ready. Ask yourself: what do our customers need and how can we be present at each place they need us?  

That’s just one way Google enhanced their brand experience. Let’s look at some other key moves they made.

Google Built Trust with Workers, Families, Teachers, and Students

Your goal during a pandemic is to be trusted – for your services, your reliability, your safety and your ability to improve people’s lives. We could all use a little boost these days, right?

The pandemic saw a huge uptick in online conversations about Google that expressed key emotions like Trust, Joy, and Love as it became a connector to loved ones, co-workers, and essential services.

You see the spike in all emotional posts during the beginning of the pandemic, and notice, the leaders are those three positive emotions: Joy, Trust and Love:

Specifically, Joy is expressed far more towards Google during the pandemic than the top negative emotions, fear and hate:

Graph showing distribution of emotive posts (Joy, Fear & Hate)

For example, Google’s technology (like Google Hangouts) became essential for families and teachers trusting the platforms to offer a safe way for their children to reconnect to school or work.  

The pandemic transformed Google’s image from a giant tech company with questionable privacy practices and impressive cutting edge technology that could possibly take a turn for the worse (think self driving cars and a.i.) into being a part of many consumers’ everyday essentials for safely connecting to work and school.

Here’s the conversation around using Google for fun virtual learning:

Of course, we can’t all be Google. Not every brand will have their name be turned into a verb. But the company clearly did something that changed its own trajectory. 

How can you be like Google? Be trusted. It’s that simple. Be there. Be helpful. Let consumers associate you with trustworthiness, consciously and subconsciously. From there, you have much more control over your brand’s success.

Google Creates A Powerful and Personal Affinity with Its Services

Every brand has within it the power to connect with consumers and turn them into loyalists. That means you! 

Now, virtually everyone uses Google for online searches. But Google found a way to turn everyday folks into impassioned advocates for their brand. Now, people trust and rely on their other products… and they sound off about it on social media. 

Online conversations offer clues as to how consumers feel a sense of real connection with brands and businesses during the pandemic.

Thousands of consumer posts prove this trend for Google: 

Teachers and educators are a clear focus for Google’s brand this year, as showcased by their World Teacher’s Day ad campaign:

The story here is fascinating as it is informative: during 2020, Google effectively transformed the narrative around their brand from being a privacy concern to a helpful tool that connects people, workers and families.  

No only did Google evolve its image, but it established connections with new and different types of people. For example, women typically discussed the brand less than men. That changed with onset of the pandemic and new needs among households:

Google also improved on the number of people expressing the theme of brand loyalty.

Take a look at the change here. Perhaps related to many schools beginning the new year virtually, you had a ton of people expressing loyalty towards Google, representing an enthusiasm to continue using their resources:

All of these elements go hand-in-hand. Presence (being there when they need you) establishes trust. Trusting consumers turn to you again and again, and now you’ve developed strong connections with them. That’s a masterclass taught by Google. Learn from them. 

Be Loved, Trusted and Valued, Even During a Pandemic

During a time of crisis, like a global pandemic, there’s no more important thing brands can do than listen. 

Navigating the pandemic and everything else this moment is throwing at us requires a nuanced understanding of what consumers think and feel and how current events impact their lives.

Right now, consumers have less disposable income and less patience and time for consideration and research. They’re overloaded with challenges in their personal lives, and they are overloaded with choice, a trend that was already in motion before the pandemic.

But there is a path to success for brands if they’re able to stay present, establish trust, and build deep connections with consumers. 

Everyone on this planet is sharing a similar struggle, but their experiences are different. It will be up to you to find out what the top concerns are for your customers, show that you can be trusted to help them, and develop long term relationships based on an authentic goal of being there for them.

To learn more about how you can find the right insights on consumer needs, pain points, and evolving customer experiences, reach out to our team here.