Creating the silver line – Engaging ways for brands to stay relevant during a crisis

While going through my e-papers one morning I noticed an announcement made by Marico for a new product called “Veggie Clean” – a chemical-free washing substance for vegetables and fruits. This ad caught my eye for two reasons. Firstly, I am fed up with the multi-step, complicated process involving washing every food item that we bring home and then sun-drying them. So, this product obviously seemed like a saviour! Secondly, this also made me think about how Marico had tactfully identified a pertinent consumer need at this hour and quickly acted on it. Here was a brand that had brought to life the textbook lesson – “look for opportunities in crises.”

The FMCG industry has been highly active right now and hence it is understandable why a company like Marico could be so swift in decision-making. However, we can also see such encouraging examples across industries like tourism, travel, hospitality, and restaurants, whose business operations have been reduced to negligible, if not zero due to the lockdown. But many companies are adopting innovative techniques to ensure that they remain the consumer’s recall and stay relevant to them.

Despite the obvious fall in airline business, SpiceJet recently launched air ambulance services through its new subsidiary SpiceCare. It flew Dingko Singh, an Asian Games gold medalist boxer, from Manipur to Delhi for cancer treatment in April and had been in news for its good services. This is another example of a company who identified the market need and moved swiftly.

Similarly, the hotel and restaurant industry is not far behind in such promising examples. Both Ramada and Taj have taken up engaging initiatives to reach out to people and stay relevant. On many of my WhatsApp groups, I have noticed multiple recipe videos prepared by Taj Chefs. Apart from lightening up people’s busy days, Taj has provided a good example of using WhatsApp communication to spread positive messaging. Meanwhile, Ramada has started a special customised menu for home-delivering food prepared by their chefs under hygienic conditions. At a time when these businesses are suffering, both these companies have found a good way to keep their customers engaged and craving for more. 

We would think that a business like Book My Show, which relies heavily on ticket sales from movies, theatre, and events would not have much to say during this period. However, the company has turned this notion around and is, in fact, doing quite a bit to stay in the customer’s recall. Their daily emailers carry movie recommendations across different platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hotstar, and make fun throw-back mentions to iconic movie dialogues. It has even become a library of online events, plays, and webinars, and thus found a way to keep up its business too. Investing in relationships in such times will certainly stand these companies in good stead in times to come. 

On the other hand, while the insurance industry has been highly active, companies here are still doing more than their usual share to stay engaged with their important stakeholders. One of my clients, Global Insurance Brokers, is conducting daily webinars on a wide range of topics from mental health, physical fitness, financial wellbeing, and parenting tips for the lockdown. The daily sessions are not only for their own employees but also for their clients’ employees, adding to the company’s share of goodwill. Moreover, by inviting experts from different fields their follower base has also increased. By staying relevant today, the company is positioning itself better for the future as well.

Such encouraging examples remind us that loss, slow down or uncertainty in business due to larger and often uncontrollable circumstances need not just be about gloom and doom. Brands can reinvent themselves through differentiated activities like new product launches, building new lines of businesses, or simply staying engaged with relevant activities. When the dust settles down and businesses slowly start functioning again, it will be easier for such brands to bounce back to normalcy. While not every crisis has an apparent silver lining, we can create ways to make the best of the situation.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Mitu Samar
Mitu Samar, runs a company called ‘Eminence’, that works with renowned brands in India to build, establish or protect their reputation. She serves as an Independent Director on the boards of Times group Companies. Before turning an entrepreneur, Mitu served as Director, Communication and Brand Management at CRISIL and also headed the marketing and communication role of S&P in South Asia. Her professional experience includes stints with companies like Aditya Birla Financial Services Group, ICICI Prudential MF & GE Shipping.

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