Top Brands Display Dramatic
Rise In Empathy As Pandemic
Peaks In The UK

Did your favourite brands become more empathetic about you during the first month of lockdown?

Analysis of the UK’s most popular brands showed that overall they became 250% more empathetic during the first month of lockdown compared to the same period in 2019.



What We Measured

We analysed the Instagram posts made by 100 brands across 10 sectors during the first month of lockdown and during the same period in 2019. We calculated an Empathy Rating by measuring the number of posts where the main sentiment of the message related to empathy, compared to the number of posts with a different sentiment.


We assigned a rating of 1 for posts where the main sentiment was empathetic, for example where the posts showed more empathy for its followers rather than product placements and brand information.

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Thank you to our amazing NHS. With you... ☕️♥️

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We assigned a rating of 0 for all other neutral posts. For example, posts that didn’t show empathy but were still informative, brand centric and promotional.

What We Discovered

Which Sector Had The Largest Change In Tone During Lockdown?

The Travel & Leisure sector made the largest change in the proportion of its posts that were classified as empathetic.

The Biggest Change: Travel & Leisure

During the first month of lockdown in the UK, many hotels had to close their doors and cancel bookings, and airlines also had to suspend flights. However, many stayed active during this time on Instagram to share uplifting content for their customers.

In our research, we found that in the first month of lockdown the travel & leisure brands we analysed had an Empathy Rating of 50% compared to an Empathy Rating of 2% in the previous year. In 2019, brands in this industry tended to focus more on product focused marketing campaigns. 

Overall, the brands we analysed in the travel & leisure industry had a 2366% increase in Empathy Rating.

The Smallest Change: TV & Streaming

As the UK settled into new lockdown measures in March 2020, many people around the country were looking for ways to keep busy and stay entertained in their homes. Some may have had more time to binge-watch their favourite TV shows. 

While this sector has had the smallest increase in Empathy Rating (27%), in reality this is because they post a lot!  This sector posted the most in both 2019 and 2020, and actually published more empathetic posts in 2020 than any other sector we analysed.  

So while they changed the least between 2019 and 2020, this is due to the fact that TV and streaming brands were already very empathic in 2019, and continued to be highly active with all types of posts in 2020.

For example, some of the hashtags that ITV used in 2019 were: #SoccerAid #TuesdayMood #DogsOfInstagram #CoupleGoals #FridayFeeling 

Some of the hashtags used by ITV during the first month of lockdown included: #TogetherAtHome #StayHome #BritainGetTalking #ClapForOurCarers

Which Sector Had The Largest Proportion Of Empathetic Posts In Month 1 of Lockdown?

284% More Empathetic
Finance & Insurance
65% More Empathetic
Food & Dining
1979% More Empathetic
Health & Beauty
226% More Empathetic
1085% More Empathetic
391% More Empathetic
591% More Empathetic
276% More Empathetic
Travel & Leisure
1027% More Empathetic
TV & Media Streaming
27% More Empathetic

The sector with the largest proportion of its total posts that were empathetic in 2020 was Travel & Leisure.

How Did Individual Brands React During Lockdown?

Colgate Made The Biggest Change

While the Travel & Leisure sector as a whole made the largest change in the proportion of its posts that were classified as empathetic, it was Colgate that changed the tone of their posts the most, with their empathy rating increasing from 0% in 2019 to 100% in 2020.

Their Smile campaign adapted perfectly to the devastating pandemic that was happening around us to bring about a feeling of hope, positivity and comfort.



Virgin Money Made The Smallest Change

Virgin Money’s Empathy Rating decreased from 47% in 2019 to 16% in 2020. While this appears to be quite a large drop, their number of posts is actually very small.  

A drop from 7 empathetic posts in 2019 to 3 empathetic posts in 2020 means they made the smallest change from a mathematical standpoint, but in reality it seems there simply wasn’t an intentional marketing effort on Instagram.

Some of the hashtags used by Virgin Money during the first month of lockdown included: #MondayMotivation #StayAtHome #TogetherAtHome #StayConnected.



Superdrug Made The Most Empathetic Posts During Lockdown

Superdrug made a whopping 66 posts that contributed to their impressive 2020 empathy rating of 65%.

As a very active brand on Instagram, Superdrug’s marketing efforts became focused on community spirit, self-care and support for vulnerable groups during the first month of lockdown.



Gucci Gave the Luxury Sector a Boost

The Luxury sector increased its proportion of empathetic posts by an impressive 1085% coming in as the 2nd highest sector to change during the first month of lockdown in the UK.

Gucci made an impressive 45 posts during the peak of lockdown and achieved an empathy rating of 100%. Their marketing effort on Instagram changed from a very brand-centric campaign that celebrated luxury fashion, to a campaign that focused wholeheartedly on the care and wellbeing of its audience and loved ones.

Without Gucci the 2020 empathy rating for the luxury sector would have dropped from 25% to 12%. 



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We Are All in This Together. Gucci stands with its global community to fight the #Covid19 pandemic by making two separate donations to crowdfunding campaigns. Locally, in Italy where the company is based, a 1 million euros donation to the Italian Civil Protection Department #DipartimentoProtezioneCivile in partnership with @intesasanpaolo’s #ForFunding platform to reinforce Italy’s health services and to source new ICU beds. Globally, Gucci donated 1 million euros to the United Nations Foundation’s Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund in support of the World Health Organization @who through Facebook’s US$10 million Matching Fundraiser to monitor and collect data on the spread of the virus to strengthen ICUs across the world, supply protection equipment to health personnel and fast-track the creation of vaccines and therapies. The initiatives are captured in an original illustration gifted by Rome-based artist @mp5art, a person who holds their hand on their heart a message of human solidarity. “Gucci has created a world, open and free: a Gucci global community. We ask all of you to be the changemakers in this crisis, to stand together with us in the fight against the Coronavirus. We are all in this together,” say @alessandro_michele, Creative Director of Gucci, and #MarcoBizzarri, President and CEO of Gucci. Calling on our #GucciCommunity to join with us, give through our Donate Sticker on Stories to the United Nations Foundation’s Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund in support of the World Health Organization @who, and on to donate to the Italian Civil Protection Department #DipartimentoProtezioneCivile. Discover more about the crowdfunding campaigns through link in bio. Starting from tomorrow, Gucci’s social channels will feature the official messages of @who to help spread useful information and prevention for the virus. #StaySafe #FlattenTheCurve

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The Most Followed Brand: Instagram

Did the most followed brand post more empathetic posts in the first month of lockdown? 

Instagram is the most followed brand on our list, with 349m followers! Instagram’s Empathy Rating rose a very impressive 39%, going from 11% in 2019 up to 50% in 2020.

Among its efforts to be supportive to its followers, Instagram teamed up with the National Alliance on Mental Illness to share resources and tips around how to support mental health at such testing times.