May 12, 2022

How Brands Can Deliver Bad News with Authenticity


How Brands Can Deliver Bad News with Authenticity

Mindful Messaging: How to Authentically Connect with Customers During a Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain issues, and inflation have pushed us all out of our comfort zones and given us plenty to brood over.

Brands are no exception. In the “regular” days before the pandemic, brands used language and messaging primarily to drive action. But during COVID-19’s surge in 2020, consumers experienced profound emotions. Many brands struggled with how to find the appropriate language for connecting with consumers in a meaningful way. On top of that, pandemic-related language was shifting rapidly as reactions evolved from shock to solidarity to a desire for normalcy.

Whether they’re addressing the pandemic blues, the yearning for post-pandemic life or inflation frustration (more recent), brands are being forced to communicate the “language of bad news.” But how do you craft the perfect combination of language and sentiment, especially when the message isn’t what the consumer wants to hear?

Making meaningful connections with weary consumers

From 2020 to the present, it’s become apparent that contextual, sensitive language is necessary to connect with frustrated consumers.

Persado mapped out the impact of language in messaging with a new language analysis during the early months of the pandemic, which evolved into the creation of the “Mindful Narrative”. Mindful Narratives are a feature of our platform that identify positive and negative language patterns that emerged as a result of the pandemic. We then built this pandemic-related language into our AI to support the evolving needs of customers during a crisis.

Persado’s AI platform helped clients test over 120,000 messages for 180 context sensitive campaigns. Some examples of sensitive and reassuring language from 2020 include:

  • You deserve a break
  • Rest assured, your safety is important to us
  • We’re in this together! 
  • Your WFH setup just got a major upgrade

In 2021, this trend of thinking about sensitive language and bad news shifted to emphasize transparency, solidarity, and customer connection as the shock of the pandemic gave way to a desire for normalcy. This was seen with our clients shift, as well; Persado clients only sent 2% of mindful narratives language in 2021, accumulating 2,000 messages for approximately 14 of the same types of campaigns.

A few examples of the language of transparency and solidarity that emerged in 2021 include:

  • Cheers to good company this summer
  • Hello (again)
  • You’re officially back
  • From picnics to dinner dates

This is not to say we no longer relied on our mindful narrative language. The reliance just evolved. As people adjusted to a “new normal,” we noticed brands became more comfortable incorporating context-sensitive language into their usual campaigns.

The shift from the language of reassurance (2020) to the language of transparency (2021) is a reminder to brands that consumers are emotional creatures and their needs are ever-changing, especially in dark times. To stay connected, brands need to adapt quickly to consumer ebbs and flows during a crisis.

Pay ‘Attention’: Key messaging emotions in challenging times

Let’s look at some real-world examples of delivering messages around topics that are disheartening and frustrating. We analyzed them in the context of motivator categories including:

  • Achievement: Praising or rewarding the customer for an accomplishment
  • Attention: Alerting the customer to the importance of the message
  • Safety: Language that eliminates worries or doubts
  • Excitement: Delivery of good news
  • Gratification: Incentivizing by highlighting the value the customer receives
  • Fascination: Language that stimulates excitement around the newness of an item

When it comes to delivering news of any kind, Attention is the primary motivator. It was ranked as our #1 overall performing emotion across industries in the last quarter of 2021.

COVID-19 Travel Restrictions

Take the following email copy from a hospitality brand relating to COVID-19 travel restrictions. The email uses Attention throughout.

Subject lines:

  • Important Information About Your Stay
  • Important information enclosed
  • We wanted to notify you of these changes

Email content:

  • In response to the current travel advisories, this hotel may have modified hours or limitations on certain services or amenities. Learn more >
  • Due to COVID-19, some hotel facilities or services may not be available to guests for a period of time. See our safety protocols >
  • Customers should review government travel guidance to confirm requirements for travel to their destination. View travel guide >

The tone of these messages is authoritative and transparent. They elicit trust and show that the company takes customer satisfaction seriously.

Supply Chain Challenges

More recently, both brands and consumers have felt the sting of supply chain slowdowns and inflation. This has also impacted how brands craft their messaging language.

Our data around the context of product stock-related challenges shows that Attention, Fascination and Safety have the potential to perform better in this context. This suggests customers respond well to directness and transparency when it comes to information about a brand.

Additionally, the concept of new and fresh items in stock (Fascination) as well as reassurance that items will be in stock (Safety) can effectively drive action when framed in this way.

Some customer examples include:


  • Supply chain update: How we’re preparing 
  • ????  Restock notification
  • FYI, we’re fully stocked and prepared in advance of the holidays


  • We’re officially ready for your shopping needs this season
  • Confirmed: The Supply Chain problem has nothing on us
  • No worries, we’re totally prepared this holiday season


  • Just arrived — all our styles are fully stocked 
  • Check out all this new XX we have in stock. Take that, supply chain! 
  • Your favorites are totally in stock this holiday

In all cases, Attention remains the most appropriate motivator for delivering important information. Having said that, we are all facing these issues together, so these messages are no longer “news.” They are check-ins about plans of action to illustrate the brand is always thinking of their customers and understands their pain points.

In today’s unpredictable world, the more a brand can connect with consumers through language that’s contextual and triggers positive emotions, the more successful the brand will be in the end.

AI-language generation can help your marketing teams stay ahead of the curve with a wealth of data-driven insights into creating positive, personalized, and relevant language at scale. Want to learn more? Start a conversation with us.

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