Data Discoveries

Date: 3 April, 2020

Measuring the mood of the nation

Jennifer Langan

By Jennifer Langan

Head of Data Insights & Intelligence

These are strange and scary times – for us as brands, as consumers, and indeed, as human beings.

At Rothco, we are always looking for ways to deeper understand how people are feeling, behaving and ‘understanding’ so that we can help our clients make more informed decisions about how they best communicate with them.

In addition to the ongoing mining of consumer insights, we quite often turn to “digital breadcrumbs” such as social listening and search analysis to help us uncover hidden insights that might otherwise be overlooked.

Over the past couple of weeks our Data Insights team have been monitoring public online conversations to help understand the impact the Covid-19 pandemic may be having on the national psyche. It has enabled us to understand what themes are emerging, how the public are receiving messages, the effect large scale communication events are having on the nation and most fascinatingly, how the mood of the Irish population has been changing over time.

This period of monitoring the mood of the nation, has revealed the huge importance that communal experiences and events have at times such as these, buoying spirits and bringing people together, even in the face of crisis.


Tracking Emotions not Sentiment.

Generally, social listening allows us to track positive vs negative sentiment. But this is neither appropriate or useful at this time. Therefore, we have trained our listening platform via its machine learning capabilities to determine emotional nuance within online conversations. This has ultimately allowed us to monitor the mood of the nation in real-time.


An Emoji Speaks a Thousand Words…

This is what the Covid-19 conversations looked like through the lens of emojis in Ireland this month. They represent feelings of pride, sadness, love and home. In order to make more sense of these emotions, we built bespoke classifications of words and phrases used in posts and tweets so that we could gain more meaningful insight.

Here is what we found…



As you would imagine, there has been a relatively consistent level of fearful sentiment perpetuating throughout March. Some of this sentiment has centred around job losses, the fear of what is going to happen next, and fear of catching the virus (or a family member catching it). However, we are beginning to see that dissipate somewhat as we move towards the end of the month.



Thankfully Anger does not appear to be replacing Fear.

Anger sentiment has been seen in very small volumes these past few weeks, but it has flashed up periodically. The most prominent example being the weekend of 14th / 15th of March when many images were circulated online of people out in pubs socialising. While feelings were strong at the time, these negative moods have been fleeting.



Encouragingly, over the past few weeks we have seen more positive emotions taking hold. Optimism in particular started to gain momentum since the second week of March; aligned with the various measures being put into place by the state to control the virus.

We can see two peaks of optimistic comments around two key addresses by An Taoiseach. And while his speeches on safety measures could have sparked anger, fear or frustration, we’ve seen that measures such as ‘lockdown’ and ‘cocooning’ were generally seen as positive steps – almost a relief – and acceptance of its effects were seen quite quickly.


The Emergence of Pride

However, the most encouraging aspect of what we’ve seen in our analysis has been the emergence of pride. We’ve seen the primarily fearful Covid-19 related sentiment at the start of the month being overtaken by more hopeful and positive sentiment in the week running up to St. Patrick’s Day.

While this sentiment peaked on St. Patrick’s Day, it was events such as Mother’s Day and ‘clap for the frontline workers’ that maintained our collective feeling of pride. This positive outlook is still living and co-existing within the context of the pandemic.

What this shows is the importance of movements that bond us – events that we can collectively get behind and share. It shows that if we are vigilant, we can look to fight off the fear and anger that could easily take hold.

And perhaps this is the space that brands could look to support – helping maintain the nation’s morale by facilitating and enabling movements that unite.