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Isentia: Face Forward, Mask On

To understand new consumer habits, PH retailers must listen to COVID-19 social media chatter

Photo by Victor He on Unsplash

To say that the COVID-19 pandemic pivoted our travel schedules, OOTDs, and next best buy, is an understatement. No one was exempted from new regulations and everyone had to change lifestyles, spending habits and purchase priorities. For over a year now, Filpinos have been required to use at least a mask to protect their nose and mouth when going out, to always bring hand sanitizer around, and in addition to all these, wear a face shield for extra protection. These “extras” now took a considerable share of wallets and created a new surge of demand as we are surviving and thriving through the pandemic. 

Isentia, the leading media intelligence organization in Asia Pacific, has uncovered the peaks and valleys of consumers’ behaviors and how social media conversations spark purchase interest and determine a buyer’s choice for COVID-19 essentials. 

The Face Mask Fanfare 

Face masks, undeniably the most essential piece of protection in this pandemic, naturally garnered high attention among the digital public. Our social media data in March 2021, showed that there are at least 75,715 buzz mentioning “face mask” alone, sans its derivatives. Out of all those conversations, there were three chatter momentums peaking up during the month. 

The first notable peak was on 13 March, as the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) released a statement saying that Filipinos should keep wearing masks even inside their homes. However, the majority of the people responded negatively towards this news, expressing that wearing face masks at home was unnecessary. Some had sarcastic reactions saying that they should then wear masks while bathing, that policemen should be assigned inside their homes to monitor, and that they might as well require wearing a face shield at home.” 

The second significant peak was on 23 March, when a video of a woman, who was confronted for taking off her face mask and face shield while on the Metro Rail Transit-3 train line (MRT-3) with other passengers, circulated online and went viral. Meanwhile, on 30 March, an online media outlet picked up news that the population of the British Overseas Territory, Gibraltar does not need to wear face masks anymore due to the island having no COVID-19 cases. The news triggered netizens’ reactions of awe and envy, while others expressed skepticism on how the Philippine Government has been handling the pandemic in the country.

“Since the pandemic, what the public deems as essential has very much shifted. Masks are now a must-have and retailers and producers have found ways to cater to different tastes,” Victoria Bernadette Lazo, Isentia Philippines Insights Manager, said. 

As for the type of the face mask, the disposable one, N95 and Coppermasks were among those most talked about – with netizens expressing exhaustion of wearing disposable masks, especially when they have makeup on. Some netizens reacted negatively towards the Philippines’ vaccine expert panel’s suggestion that wearing two face masks reduces the risk of getting COVID-19 by 90%. Others praised Doc Adam, an Australian doctor and YouTube personality, for his critique of the Coppermask – saying that wearing the mask is just a fashion statement for most people. 

‘So Extra’: The Fuss on Face Shields 

Conversations about face shields were driven by multiple events during the month of March, garnering a total of 43,599 total buzz during the month. 

The highest momentum was on the Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III who went out on the streets of Baclaran to hand out face shields. The majority of the comments were highly unfavorable in nature, with netizens dubbing that it was a “failed PR attempt” for the government arm and its top official. 

Spritz and Spray: Sanitizers as Safety Net 

One of the ultimate kits in this pandemic, “hand sanitizers”, garnered 1,605 total buzz in the social media. One news article that included the mention of sanitizers struck out on 13 March when Thailand Prime Minister Paruth Chan-ocha sprayed hand sanitizer on the reporters of his press conference to avoid answering questions. Filipino commenters still found a way to correlate the news to Philippine Government leaders such as President Rodrigo Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo. 

“With the threat of COVID-19 still lingering, you can never underestimate any measure when it comes to your safety. A lot of luxuries were taken away from us but what we still have is a choice, an option to choose your face masks, face shields and even the hand sanitizer that goes along with your bag,” Francis Angelo Calucin, Isentia Philippines Insights Analyst, said.

Raising The Bar: People Always Come First 

The pandemic is not going away anytime soon, and even if it does, masks will still be part of the post-pandemic norm. Even now, conversations about its long term environmental effects are circulating on all platforms. Again, it does not matter what type of mask you wear as long as it protects you and others around you, but it is highly recommended that brands push on the point that disposable masks have a more harmful environmental effect compared to reusable ones. 

“Social media, given its volatile nature, is a good avenue for retail brands to gain insights into customer preferences. Amid the clutter in online platforms, trendspotting reports unlock relevant organic conversations that may be leveraged by brands in devising strategies that will impact their consumers.” Kate Dudang, Isentia Philippines Insights Manager, explained. 

“A critical situation like the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed human behavior in different directions. Trendspotting studies such as this will help brands and businesses better understand and respond to the ever-changing consumer behaviour.” Gladys Mae Ruiz, Isentia Philippines Insights Analyst, concluded.


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