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How Language Has Evolved Since 2020—According to AI

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In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, people were in a state of constant vigilance given the uncertain impact of the virus on their lives. Brands, in turn, had to reconsider the tone of their messaging given the new level of sensitivity in their audience.

Persado set out to map the shifts in language performance using AI, and leverage the insights to develop a context-sensitive communications approach to ever-evolving circumstances. The Persado “Mindful Narratives” capability was the result of this mapping. 

Persado contextualized Mindful Narratives for campaigns to promote services that prioritized customer safety. Examples include contactless delivery, gifts that could be enjoyed while social distancing, home office supplies, store reopening precautions, and a gradual return to normal operations. Brand communications became noticeably more community-minded, even shifting toward empathy. Persado also designed a monitoring system to flag potentially insensitive or alarming language in client communications.

As the world has continued to manage the disruptive changes wrought by the ongoing pandemic, Persado has seen brands continue to adapt how they speak to customers to be aligned with the needs of the moment. Based on more than 500 AI-powered client campaigns based on mindful messages and encompassing thousands of message permutations, we see the following pandemic-related language trends between March 2020 and March 2022:

Positive language took hold and hasn’t let go

Positive language that evokes a sense of community, security, and forward progress has resonated with audiences over the past two years. We see that as reflective of the uncertainty about COVID-19 coupled with increased stress many have experienced during the pandemic. Brands are trying to offer a touch of support and levity.

Language Performance Across All Industries

March 2020 - March 2022

Language Performance Across All Industries - March 2020 - March 2022

Examples include: 

  • “We’re here for to give you some helpful information about your policy”
  • “Your at-home workouts deserve an upgrade”
  • “Your daily dose of joy”

Positivity works across industries

It is rare for different industries to apply the same techniques and have them work the same way—and that didn’t occur with pandemic-language either. Yet the general approach of leveraging positive language in a gentle tone contributed top performance whether a brand operated in financial services, retail, or travel. The differences lay in the exact context and emotions that performed for distinct industries.

Positive language in travel

Travel companies went practically silent in 2020 due to local and global travel restrictions. When they began marketing again in earnest in 2021, they emphasized the positive emotions of Achievement and Exclusivity and Gratification to motivate customers. 

Travel & Hotels 

Emotional Performance (March 2021 - March 2022)

Travel & Hotels  - Emotional Performance (March 2021 - March 2022)

Travel language examples include:

  • “You’ve earned a vacation”
  • “The adventure you’ve been waiting for”
  • “We’re offering you a free upgrade”

Positive language in retail

Fashion and retail has also seen success using achievement language in its messaging in the twelve months from March 2021 to March 2022. 

Fashion & Retail

Emotional Performance (March 2021 - March 2022)

Retail language examples include:

  • “Special announcement: you’ve got access to special prices”
  • “A discount for you, compliments of us”
  • “It’s official: you’ve landed additional savings”

Positive language in financial services

Financial services has also embraced positive language, but with differences given the nature of the product and the varied impact COVID-19 has had on people’s financial lives.

People working in hard-hit industries may have been furloughed or let go, adding financial stress to their health concerns. Others in high-demand industries may have found themselves sitting on more savings than usual or refinancing their mortgage during a time of record-low interest rates. Financial institutions saw messages top the performance ranks when they captured Attention, with the positive emotions of Gratification and Exclusivity just slightly behind.

Financial Services & Insurance

Emotional Performance (March 2021 - March 2022)

Financial Services & Insurance - Emotional Performance (March 2021 - March 2022)

Financial services language examples include:

  • “We’re following up about your recent call”
  • “You’re getting a head start on your claim”
  • “Here’s some information about your upcoming bill”

What’s next in language?

In more recent months, the success of positivity has persisted even within forward-focused campaign narratives. Brands are increasingly alluding to the gradual lifting of travel restrictions and the return to in-person events. Mentions of COVID-19 have declined, and with it, we are seeing less impact from Safety, Intimacy, and Gratitude language.

Message tone is also distinctly milder now compared to the bolder, more aggressive promotional language that performed well leading up to 2020. We expect to see that trend continue through the spring and summer as brands continue to engage customers.

Learn more about language insights and how Persado’s AI helps brands communicate with more empathy on persado.com

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