Panic buying: one year on

The 16th of March 2020 was a revealing day for marketers. Day 1 of the UK national lockdown, shelves were left empty and the perceived value of toilet roll had never been higher. The Covid pandemic had highlighted the judgement and rationality of consumers.

This article aims to shed light over who, what and why people panic buy as well as the future impacts created.


Research by Ipsos found the least vulnerable age group to the virus (18-35 years old) were most likely to change their shopping habits and purchase things they normally wouldn’t do.


39% of respondents said they thought it was acceptable to buy at least one of the items listed below in bulk, during March 2020.

Paper products and home care products had the highest growth value over the non-edible consumer goods in the UK.

General merchandise and cosmetics had the biggest drop in value.

Marketers now have a clear indication over what items were, and were not left on shop shelves, therefore impacting their future potential value.


Is this a natural or irrational reaction? What is the psychology behind panic buying?

Scarcity creates value

In a previous blog post I explained how scarcity increases perceived value. With events like natural disasters, such as a hurricane or flood, people rationally stock up with emergency supplies. However, stocking up on hundreds on cans of beans before a 2-week isolation period doesn’t seem rational.

Individuals’ perception of a threat of a crisis and the scarcity of products impact the fear of the unknown, caused by emotions of uncertainty. Panic buying is a coping behaviour, caused by a lack of perceived control (1).

This suggests a psychological mechanism is in place to deal with consumer fear and uncertainty.

Media sensationalism

Excessive play in social media and news media, amplifies the sense of scarcity and increases the sense of urgency, which worsens panic buying.

Mentions of ‘out of stock’ alongside a store name:

Source: Brandwatch Consumer Research

Younger consumers have higher social media consumption, so could be more susceptible to media influence and panic buying- a form of individualistic behaviour.

Individualistic behaviour can be created from a loss of feeling as part of a community during a crisis. Dr Clifford Stott, a consumer psychology expert, suggested the media should try to create a ‘collective society’, not blame consumers and be divisive when it comes to publishing news about panic buying.

Future impact

The covid pandemic has caused the biggest disruption to the UK since World War II, high income families haven’t had to worry about food shortages in generations. People were accustomed to eating whatever they wanted, when they wanted.

These consumers will now have to get used to having less choice and freedom over what they can buy.

A lack of food availability and reduced income will continue to increase the vulnerability of the less well-of in the UK. There has already been a surge in the use of food banks and more will be need to be done in terms of donations and support.

What is it like to be a student during the Covid pandemic?

I am a final-year student at the University of Reading. In this blog post, I will explain how Covid has impacted: academic experience, social life, fees, mental health, graduate jobs and how university life is more than just the academic content.

As I write this post, I’m currently living in my childhood bedroom, only allowed to leave the house for essential services or daily exercise. If someone had told me last year that this is where I would be today due to a global pandemic, I would have laughed and not believed them. Who would have known we would be where we are now in January 2021?

What is the university experience like?

Previously lectures would have been in a busy lecture theatre with 30-100 other students in it. They now look like this:

All lectures have been moved online to Microsoft Teams in first term, originally a ‘blended learning approach’ for 2nd term was promised, however a new more transmissible strain of Covid meant 2nd term was the same. As it stands, I have had 1 face-to-face lecture all year and it looks like that will be all year.

When going to the library you have to book it through an online system because of social distancing rules, regularly this gets booked up in the busy hours and you cannot access the services.

Once you are inside, arrows and sanitiser pumps are placed everywhere, and people are ensured to wear a mask and keep a 2 meter distance from people.

All exams during first and second term have been moved online. It is yet to be decided if summer exams will be taken online. However, with a whole years worth of lectures done online it seems fair that the summer exams should be as well.

Last year, students were given the ‘no detriment’ policy. This acts as a safety net to ensure students obtain at least their average grade so far. Put simply, the grade students currently have is the lowest they can achieve (1). As it stands this has not been provided for students this year.

Social life

Social life has come to a halt, social distancing has meant that nights to the students union or other events can no longer happen. During periods where we are not in lockdown, you can only socialise with the table you are sat on (maximum of 6 people) and are encouraged to not mix with people not in your household.

Normally, the university campus would be full of energy, you would always bump into people you knew, make friends and something was always going on. For the time being, the campus has become a very quiet place that is difficult to meet new people. It just isn’t the same place anymore in my eyes.

Having spent the first 2 years as a student and another year on placement in Reading, I feel that i’m one of the lucky ones really. I have had more than my fair share of nights out and cracking memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. However, most students have really missed out on a lot of this through no fault of their own.


For this third national lockdown, students are legally not allowed back into their accommodation unless they were already there. For students in accommodation owned by the university, they will be refunded for this. However, those in private accommodation are in a position where they are still paying for a place to live that they cannot go to.

There is also a lot of controversy over how universities are still charging the full £9,250 fees per year, despite getting the accessibility of an online course that would cost £3,096 per year from The Open University. It appears that many university students have been dissatisfied by their university experience this year as it has not been value for money.

Reading students have set up an instagram page to raise their concerns faced from this virus, for information to be passed onto the students union to pass though their issues to the universities executive board.

Mental health

Lockdown periods can be particularly isolating for many people, especially for those who are living on their own. It has been important is to keep in contact and check-in with friends and people you may not have heard from in a while, this may be over phone call, or even just a text message. With a mental health crisis going on at the moment, it is more important than ever to be a good friend.

If you are struggling with your own mental health during this period, here is a link to services that could help.

Graduate jobs

Normally, the university holds multiple career events each year, where potential employers come in, explain what their company does and allow for students to ask questions and make valuable contacts. Universities have done what they can, by holding online services and access to their university experiences. Unfortunately, this will not be able to provide same experience that these events normally have to offer, in person.

University is more than just the academic material

A lot of the academic material taught at university doesn’t actually get used in the working world. University is more than the classes we take or the grades we get. It’s a huge opportunity for personal growth, experimentation and to learn the skills we need for the rest of our lives.

Before Covid, university has helped myself to:

  • Expand my social circle to outside of where I have grown up
  • Interact with people from other backgrounds, cultures and viewpoints
  • Manage my attendance and time spent on work
  • Conduct research without guidance
  • Learn self-reliance by:
    • Making my own food
    • Paying bills
    • Doing laundry
    • Getting a job
    • Budgeting money

I have had a great time at uni, an experience that I would fully recommend.

The bigger picture

I have tried my best to explain the situation for what it is, not rant. Many people, myself included, have lost loved ones from this pandemic. It is clear for all students why we are taking these sacrifices. With the vaccination process taking place in the UK, there is hope for normality to come back.

However, there is a strong feeling amongst students across the UK that they have been thrown under the bus. Without government intervention to change this, it will be hard to achieve. Click here to sign an online petition to reduce university student tuition fees.

Hopefully, in the summer term we are able to have some more normality and maybe even a graduation ceremony at some point in the future.

KFC’s pandemic marketing

As 2020 comes to an end, I’ve reflected on my favourite marketing campaigns. A stand out has to be KFC and how they handled the obstacles the Corona pandemic threw at them.  Many companies took the ‘we’re here for you’ approach, which in my opinion, can come across as a bit disingenuous. KFC on the other hand, were punchy and entertaining.

Before the pandemic hit the first peak in the UK, KFC released the standard Finger Lickin’ good campaign. This received a surprising 163 complaints reported the Advertising Standards Agency in March alone, saying that the ad was inappropriate given the current COVID crisis. 

I’m sure frustration was felt amongst some of the marketing team, who would have spent the past few months working hard to craft the perfect campaign, until…

After 64 years, KFC decided to drop one of the most famous slogans in the world ‘its finger lickin’ good’ to just ‘it’s good’. Where previously ‘finger lickin” would have been, was replaced with blurred words, to furthermore grab the attention of potential customers.

KFC had listened to their customers and acted upon it- marketing in its truest form.

It was a smart move as it made the brand more relevant in the minds of consumers at a low cost, and reinforced the existing slogan by announcing its temporary removal. As shown by the graph above, KFC’s brand awareness rose significantly.

Next up, was charming online contact with loyal customers. During the peak of the first peak of pandemic customers were not able to access any fast food. KFC’s response? #RateMyKFC, an interactive social media campaign which encouraged people to make their own version of KFC wings and post them on Twitter for people to review and criticise.

39% of social media users said they were spending more time on social media during the pandemic and this particular campaign generated hundreds of tweets within the first day.

The subsequent tongue-in-cheek TV ad showed actual mobile phone footage of poorly recreate the wings, with a backdrop of All By Myself by Celine Dion.

Playful self-criticism can work very well for a brand, for instance the well-known Mouldy Burger by Burger King, turning a negative into a positive. A trick I believe Corona beer is missing out on at the moment. For instance, if they were to create a campaign edged with a bit of humour towards people thinking the beer could actually give someone the virus, coupled with donating 10% of their proceeds to a COVID-related charity.

All in all, KFC has shown that the use of levity can go a long way.

The top 5 free online marketing courses

One good thing about living in 2020 is having free online resources accessible on your fingertips. If you’re looking to enhance your current skill set, or even a career change, it’s easier than ever to gain access to information on just about anything.

Why take one of these courses?

Digital marketing is one of the most demanded skills employers are seeking today, meaning that enrolling in these courses could be the key to opening the doors to a host of opportunities.

1: HubSpot Academy

HubSpot offers 38 courses, such as HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing Certification. Its easy to learn and super hands-on, consisting of the 12 classes, taking about 4.5 hours. It will give you an understanding about blogging, SEO, lead generation, conversion analysis and landing pages within the context of a modern-day inbound marketing strategy.

2: Fundamentals of digital marketing

Another industry-recognised certification is Google’s fundamentals of digital marketing. It covers all aspects of digital marketing at beginner level as well as intermediate. The 40-hour course has 26 modules that can taken at your own pace and whenever you want.

3: Facebook Blueprint

Facebook Blueprint offers self-paced and live e-learning courses allowing people to grow their organisations using Facebook and Instagram. Taking this course would make you an ideal candidate for a small business looking for someone to be able to get the best ROI (return on investment) on using this marketing platform.

4: WordStream

WordStream is a search engine and social media marketing software site. It has free guides, ebooks and best practices for users with varying levels of experience running pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. Information is easy to digest, providing courses for beginners all the way to advanced.

5: edX

Finally, edX provides courses offered by top-tier universities, such as Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There are courses on CRM, marketing fundamentals and analytics. Considering the cost of regularly studying at one of these universities, it’s a no-brainer to take part in what they have to offer.

3 ways Covid-19 has accelerated the adoption of technology

The unprecedented effects of Covid-19 created a stop to ‘normality’ as we knew it. Every industry has had to re-evaluate their priorities, with developing a digital strategy high up on the list.

Despite how devastating these times have been for families and businesses, a silver lining is the innovation that has sparked from organisations having to improvise and experiment how they conduct their day-to-day operations.


Telehealth has been an essential tool against Covid-19. It has allowed for patients to see a doctor for when it is absolutely necessary, therefore limiting exposure and risk of spreading of the virus.

Future robotic healthcare will address a scarcity of healthcare professionals able to treat patients without endangering themselves.

However there are still limitations, as telehealth is only useful if patients are able to receive the same level of care. A recent study by Fingercare, found 58% of healthcare professionals were concerned about maintaining patients care in the long term.


Retailers without an online presence have been hardest hit, Primark for an example, lost a staggering £650M in sales.

According to the ONS, the amount of goods sold in March fell by 18.1% in the UK. However, online shopping as a proportion of all retail reached a record high of 30.7%. The retailers who have managed to make the shift online have been able to manage customers needs better.

Developing a digital identity is sometimes neglected by many organisations. Coivd has forced organisations to see the value of investing and developing an online presence.


In the past 50 years there has been the rise and fall of office culture. Previously, it was common to see remote working no more than once a week in most companies. However, the virus has increased this shift- meaning office life will quite literally never be the same again.

Twitter, Facebook and Upace has released that they are allowing all their staff to work from home forever. Flexible working seems like it it is here to stay for good, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Cyber security has been more important than ever as global attacks have been on the increase. Hackers are already shifting their targets from relatively well-defended corporate environments to home offices and other offsite locations that lack similarly strong protections.


Technology is helping to fight the battle against Covid-19.

It appears that many companies that have been able to pivot and embrace digital transformation. However, the recent changes has come as a wakeup call for those who aren’t able to keep up, as Covid has just highlighted the fragility of modern times.

What are some of the ways you think digital transformation will affect the marketing industry? Feel free to leave a comment below.

How 5G will transform the Marketing industry


2010 saw the introduction of 4G, providing video and audio streaming as well as the explosion of social media. 2019 is here and we are on the horizon of 5G being rolled out. While the impact it will have on mobile devices is exciting, it is but the tip of an iceberg of possible outcomes.

It is safe to say that the future of marketing is about to undergo some big changes.

IoT (internet of things)

To put it in simple terms, IoT means taking all the ‘things’ in the world and connecting them to the internet. It can range from lightbulbs being controlled by a phone app to driverless lorries and smart cities, meaning there will be more understanding in the way consumers live and marketers must prepare to serve content and engage customers over various devices.

The healthcare industry can see remote monitoring, smart sensors and medical device integration coming in. Meaning it is now time for health care marketers to develop targeted funnels for data and investigate where silos are within their organization so communication is more open and fluid.

Mass data

Data will be enhanced in real time, meaning getting the right message to the right person at the right time will be easier than ever. Also a higher understanding over consumers living and purchasing behaviour will be available. With increasing concerns over big data arise, regulations like GDPR will play a key role in keeping consumes safe.

Augmented and Virtual Reality  

They have been long hyped with claims of classrooms without a teacher or being able to try on thousands of clothes from the comfort of your home. Ultimately, it has been held back by the bandwidth capabilities of 4G, meaning 5G will the catalyst needed for its potential.

Replacing video with immersive experience will a play a key role engaging customers.


Customer experience

As brand experience is at the forefront of marketers, companies spend a lot of time looking for the biggest friction points within a customer journey. 5G can help exponentially by improving connection speeds, getting a message at the most critical moments with an ability to personalise in an entirely new way.

Ad blockers are growing issue for digital marketing. It has been reported that 36% of people use them because their advert speeds are too slow. No lag time could see consumers decrease their use of ad blockers. Meaning, marketers will be able to show ads to more people and faster.

Finally, interactive adverts will be more common. With higher data processing rates, advertisers will have more opportunities to make creative and high quality ads to engage consumers.

Products and ideas we are yet to imagine

No one could have predicted the likes of Facebook and Uber from 4G, so we are yet to see what new innovation 5G will help bring.

5G has been launched in the UK by EE in six cities and Vodafone currently has launched in 15 towns and cities (1), however it will still take time over the next year for it to be available for all. Marketers need to prepare for the competitive asset 5G provides as consumers will be able to get what they want, when they want.

The significance of the Tesco Clubcard

In 1994 Tesco had an idea that would revolutionise customer loyalty all together. This being, the introduction of the now well known, Tesco Clubcard.

Loyalty cards were nothing new at this point of time, but what made Tesco a pioneer in this game was not about trying to get customers to change their brands, but but rewarding loyal customers at the till. Not only did this this give the customer a sense of appreciation for committing more to the Tesco brand, but more people put items in their shop and returned to the store over other rivals to get more points on their card.

Screen Shot 2019-03-13 at 16.22.17.png
‘A tap is all it takes’


There wasn’t speculation about the promotion working before the launch; but rather what will happen if all customers do it and the industry be less profitable. Despite this setback, they went ahead with the issues of:

  1. The amount of data to handle with the basic technology at the time
  2. Staff training
  3. Printing the plastic for 20 million cards


This changed the strategy of Tesco and demonstrated the importance of frequency of shoppers. By allowing a direct marketing channel to consumers, Tesco was able to have access to more data and in turn run the business better.

So why did this make such a big impact? 

Terry Hunt, formerly in charge of Tesco’s direct marketing agency at the time, said “It was the first time a mass retailer could talk to individual customers on a personal level”. Since the release, every major food retailer in the UK gives their own equivalent of the Clubcard,  thus showing how it reformed consumer loyalty.

What is disruptive innovation?

Disruptive brands are innovators who have identified gaps in the market, allowing customers to have what they really want. Companies such as Airbnb and Deliveroo are well-known examples of the success that can follow. An important aspect is that they don’t start by improving existing products, rather offering an entirely different value proposition appealing towards customers who the dominate companies in the industry didn’t value or have ignored. These are brands with such potential that it fulfils unmet market needs.


New technology enables disruption, allowing companies to take risk in ever growing and developing industries. Disruptors have the ability to move fast, with companies who have been prepared to take a risk. It often solves an issue with sometimes unconventional perspectives.

What is important to remember is that disruption is generally for the benefit of the greater public. It changes integration between companies and the customer and should be embraced.


A key disruptive factor of Netflix was initially it didn’t go for the core customers of their competitors, like Blockbuster who offered services Netflix didn’t provide. They targeted consumers who were overlooked by competitors and gave an alternative service at a generally lower price.

With the rise of streaming videos, Netflix was able to appeal to Blockbuster’s core customers by proving a larger amount of content, that was more convenient for a lower price. Blockbuster collapsed- allowing Netflix to rise quickly. Another reason for this growth was Blockbuster overlooking them and even refusing to acquire them for just $50 million (2) back in 2000.



In a decade Spotify transitioned from a small Scandinavian start up into a global music streaming service with over a 100 million users and an estimated valuation of $8.5 billion. What set the company apart from its main competitor, Pandora, when it first launched was the fact that it allowed listeners to choose the songs they want to play and create their own playlists. It also gave users the option to use the service for free with ads, and paid subscription being an option. In the final quarter of 2018 Spotify had 96 million premium subscribers (3).

Click here for Marketing Week’s top 100 disruptive brands for 2016 and 2017.

Using scarcity to create value


A study asked 200 people to rate chocolate chip cookies. In one jar there were 10 and in the other there were 2. The cookies from the jar with 2 in received higher ratings- despite the fact they were exactly the same. Demonstrating how scarcity plays a role without people even being aware of it. Other research from the University of Nebraska confirmed that individuals with personality traits such as competitiveness and a need for uniqueness are more susceptible to scarcity marketing.

In social psychology Scarcity Principle is the urge to obtain something that a person feels that they will not be able to get in the future. Part of this is our survival instincts, but we also tend to value things that we cannot have and allows people to feel in control, as it shows an ability to control the environment around us.

Airlines, Amazon and Groupon use this principle well. even have red font notifying how many times a hotel has been booked in the past 24 hours, if it’s in high demand and even when they run out of rooms:

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Scarcity does not work in all contexts as it simply does not appeal to all customers. To understand what impact scarcity marketing can have, it is vital to understand the psychological traits of their intended audience and what motivates them. Measuring the target audience is needed to understand the techniques to use in a marketing strategy, as by just understanding the psychological traits of customers you are in a better position to resonate with the target audience and predict the effect of a campaign before its launch.

British Army targets millennials in new adverts


The British army has a problem. The National Audit Office report found the number of full-time military personnel was 5.7% short of the required level, and that it would take a minimum of five years to close even part of the gap. As a result, the army has put more funding into their recruitment.

An adapted version of the well known ‘your country needs you’ remodelled for the current generation of potential recruits has been released.

Millennials often get a bad reputation for being self-centred and overly sensitive. The British army however, want to take a different perspective to these negative stereotypes to see the potential strength and qualities that a younger generation can add to them. Take for an example the “SELFIE ADDICTS your army needs you and you confidence”.

A key trend in millennials is the want of a job with purpose. In a recently released statement, Major Gen. Paul Nanson made it clear that their recruitment strategy is to address the potential for greatness that sits below the surface in an interview he said that “The Army sees people differently and we are proud to look beyond the stereotypes and spot the potential in young people, from compassion to self-belief,”.  He also included that “We understand the drive they have to succeed and recognize their need for a bigger sense of purpose in a job where they can do something meaningful.”

So have the army clocked onto something big here and managed to crack their marking strategy?

One important factor to keep in mind is that, who actually identifies themselves as a ‘snowflake’ or ‘phone zombie’? This could cause offence towards the target audience and have a negative impact. It has been rumoured that many members of the army have taken a disliking towards this new style of campaign and the boy used for the “snow flakes” ad has actually resigned since it was released. I am interested to see what other people feel about this so feel free to leave a comment in the section below.