Today, the world is battling with the Coronavirus pandemic. Developed and developing countries across the globe are in a lockdown state to be able to deal with Covid 19. As per IMF, the world is in a recession, and this recession is expected to be worse than that in 2008.
Businesses of companies across multiple businesses have come to a standstill. While the worst hit are the hospitality, travel and tourism, as well as the aviation sectors, a majority of businesses are struggling and looking at reinventing their business models and in turn cutting costs, wherever possible.
The impact on the economies is huge. However, there is no defined rules that one could follow as it is difficult to evaluate the extent of the impact. This is an unchartered territory, and brands will have to depend on short term strategies that will evolve as the situation unfolds. The customer mindset is expected to very conservative with customers likely to be in wait-and-watch mode and only indulge discretionary spending, as there is a high probability of future paycuts and layoffs, in the coming months.
In order to build a lasting customer connect during and in the post Covid world, brands need to reimagine their marketing and communications strategy. The post-Covid world will not be the same as the pre-Covid era. There will be a sea of difference – not only in the customer spending patterns, but also in consumer behavior including how they consume content or connect with brands. We are already noticing a shift and this is just the beginning,
The brand’s marketing and communications strategy will need to be devised while reimagining the customers’ motivations and paths to purchase. While it will be premature to predict the finite set of behavioral changes, some key signals that are emerging can be instrumental to devise the brand strategy for the future.
Brand purpose is for real!
Brand purpose will gain prominence during and post Covid 19. Brands will have to weave their messaging to build human connect. The demand for businesses making a tangible impact on doing good for the world at large will be important in the times to come. Customers will evaluate businesses from the standpoint of their contribution to the society at large.
However, it is important to note a few things when working on the brand purpose. First and foremost is brand precedence around championing a cause or positioning. Secondly, the partnerships with those who are passionate about the cause can go a long way in lending credibility; and thirdly, the commitments made by the brand in offering tangible solutions from the long term perspective. The brand’s purpose should connect to the core of the business.
Brands need to be cautious that the purpose does not seem like a one-time stint with the sole purpose of clicking pictures and posting on the company’s social media channels. It is important to not ‘flaunt it’. For example, it is not advisable for a brand that did not have its purpose clearly defined to jump on the bandwagon and go around helping the needy and making a big deal out of it on social media.
There are numerous brands across the world, who are already taking the lead when it comes to clear messaging around the brand’s purpose. Take the example of Boots in the United Kingdom. The company is posting daily videos on its social platforms (presented by its chief medics) answering commonly-asked Covid-19 questions.
A number of automobile brands in India are supporting the Indian government to fight coronavirus. Hyundai Motor India Foundation (HMIF), the CSR arm of Hyundai Motor India (HMIL) has announced immediate order of COVID-19 Advanced Diagnostic Testing Kits from South Korea. Also, Maruti Suzuki India Limited has entered into an agreement with AgVa Healthcare to rapidly scale up production of ventilators.
Companies have repurposed their manufacturing facilities to cater to the current scenario. Luxury brand, LVMH is using its perfume manufacturing units to produce hand sanitizers.
For brands who have always centered their marketing campaigns around purpose, the pandemic acts as an opportunity to prove their mettle. Unilever’s Dove has pivoted its long-running Real Beauty platform to put the spotlight on healthcare workers with faces marked due to long hours of wearing masks in an ad called “Courage is Beautiful.”
Digital will be the key
It has been close to a month that we have been under lockdown in India, and there is still some way to go. While initially we found it difficult to work from home, do meetings online and spend our entire day confined to our homes, people are now coming to terms with it. In the last one month, digital has emerged as the core medium for all our interactions to the external world- whether it is work meetings, conversations with friends and family, as well as classes for the kids. We are spending more time than ever before on the streaming platforms and relying on online commerce to order our groceries and essentials. This will be the norm, in the near future.
Business analysts believe that the Covid-19 outbreak and 2020 will mark a tipping point for the adoption of ecommerce and mobile commerce platforms. It is expected that ecommerce will see a huge surge in the times to come, driven by the customers’ reluctance to mingle in crowded public places and higher affinity towards digital adoption. In this new world order, retailers will be expected to have a model where they can be available online. Categories like grocery and personal care will see a major shift to online purchase, even in the post lockdown days.
Innovative ways to connect and engage
Organisational agility will be the key for businesses during and post Covid 19, irrespective of their industry. Companies will explore new ways to connect with the customers. The post Covid era will see digital as being an even more integral part of our lives. Offline marketing will take a dip in the coming 9-12 months as customers are expected to be spending limited time in crowded spaces, in the initial months. Brands will focus a lot more on OTT platforms to promote themselves.
With on-ground events looking like a distant possibility, brands like look at online engagements and partnerships. Press events and product launches will move online. A lot of brands will leverage live streaming platforms to connect and communicate with their customers. Influencers will have to be picked smartly as customers may not connect with the Page 3 socialites and instead find an achiever (who has sailed through odds) more relatable.
Brands can work on publishing relevant content that can be of interest to the consumers. For example, B2C brands can run video series aimed at driving health and wellness. A B2B brand that caters to multiple businesses can publish content around the impact of Covid 19 on various businesses and include the best practices as recommended by business experts. Irrespective of whether the brands are doing any business during lockdown or not, it is important to keep the customers engaged.
Brands will invest a lot more in digital advertising and digital connect with the customers. Google, Facebook and ecommerce websites will emerge as the primary mediums of connecting with the customers. Platforms like TikTok and social channels like Instagram will also emerge as key mediums for B2C brands to connect to a wide range of customers. Mobile first and ‘always’ on will be the key.
Customise and Personalise
The Marketing teams across brands will have to improvise and realign their brand communications and weave in customisation and personalisation in their customer communications. Brands in the essentials category (like groceries, medicines, wellness and personal care) will need to devise a well-planned communication strategy that helps to build customers’ trust on the quality of the products.
Since customers might have a lot of time at hand, it could be a good idea to send their personalised mailers on topics they would be interested in. If an OTT platform sees that the customer is spending more than usual time on it, it can push emails on the ‘next recommendation’ or the ‘upcoming launches’.
As safety and reliability will become extremely important, brands need to invest the same in their communications to their customers- across channels like website, emailers, social media, amongst others. The communication should clearly communicate the brand’s intent to ensure safety of its customers. The safety checks and processes should be clearly spelt out. For instance, restaurants can actively communicate about the hygiene steps they’ve taken to increase confidence amongst customers.
Customers will appreciate brands who are transparent about their tough times. During and post Covid, brands need to keep their customers informed about the challenges they have faced in the recent weeks and what they are doing to help the society at large. A short video by a senior stakeholder just talking about their business challenges and plans ahead or an update on the store operations across various parts of the country can be a good idea. Also, some words of empathy and care and the message of unity can go a long way.
The new normal is here to stay!
There will be no quick snap back from the consumer spending standpoint. Brands will have to do a lot more to be able to gain the trust and confidence of the customers, whether it is about drawing the customers to the malls or restaurants, or encouraging them to buy that new and upgraded smartphone. Consumer outlook will change and brands with a clear purpose, high emotional quotient and well planned strategy aimed at high customer connect are expected to emerge as shining stars in the times to come.
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