COVID-19 Crisis: How should brands react to it

COVID-19 Crisis: How should brands react to it

Life before COVID seems like a distant memory. Life had been something else then. Almost care-free and fear-free. Be it the work life, social life, or the world of digital marketing, it was quite seamless and did not come with restrictions. Restaurants and shopping malls were buzzing with life. Schools and offices were functioning regularly. The cash flow in the economy was positive. Marketing, both traditional and digital, took place in full swing. That was normal life.

Thanks to the pandemic, life as we know it has completely changed. The lockdown has not only restricted our physical and financial movements; we are forced to relook our entire way of living. It’s time we realize that this is going to be in preparation for the new normal. It has been clearly established that the CoronaVirus is here to stay for a while. How long is that while we are not able to forecast. So, until the day arrives when we can be declared free, and at liberty, we need to understand how things must function.

Before the CoronaVirus hit

Life went on as usual. We never really planned for what would happen if the market closed down indefinitely. There was no reason to. Even in hindsight, one could never have prepared for such a lockdown. It would be like preparing for a meteor attack. Annual budgets were prepared keeping in mind open markets and malls, demand for luxury as well as essential goods, and regular supply of ingredients to manufacture commodities.

During The CoronaVirus Lockdown

Social distancing has become the norm. Do not go out unless you have to. Closed malls and entertainment venues, work from home and study online; the whole world has become topsy turvy. With the extended lockdown and loss of sales that take place during festive periods and holidays, the number of companies that are on the verge of closing down has gone up by 50 percent, compared to the first week of the lockdown.

The world of digital marketing

With little to nill demand for most non-essential items, marketing (traditional and digital) has taken a big hit. Why market what you cannot sell? There is no urgent requirement for luxury items. Essential items do not really require marketing. When the call to action on shopping sites is ‘save for later,’ but you do not know when that later is, would you still pin your hopes on that save? Luxury commodities are now being considered as an unnecessary indulgence. Comfort has taken a back seat over essential items.

So keeping the consumer’s behaviour in mind, businesses have modified their business model as well.

Understanding consumer behaviour during the Covid-19 Lockdown

The current fight against the CoronaVirus has brought about unconscious yet very prominent changes in consumers’ perception of what they need to purchase. Their purchasing decisions have been altered such that there is a higher spend on health and hygiene commodities. They are also able to adapt to limited product availability, thus restricting the quantity to their needs, not wants. Home deliveries are preferred over store visits.

With life slowly adapting to the new normal, out-of-home consumption is slower. The role of these offline stores now have changed and are slowly focusing more on collection and experience. There is currently an increase in online purchases across various categories, including consumable products and essentials. As consumers now look to reduce store visits by stocking up, businesses will see larger pack size consumption in the urban areas. Rural areas
will steer towards smaller sachets to conserve cash.

For example, with fewer people visiting restaurants, India’s Swiggy now bets on cloud kitchens. They have also included the delivery of groceries in their business plan to adapt to the current lockdown’s consequences. It is thus very important to create the right buyer’s persona and analyse his journey on your website to make progress.

The road ahead

Brands are learning to understand where they stand in the bigger scheme of things. The CoronaVirus is quite unlike anything we have ever seen. Even with national emergencies and similar lockdowns, things did not change so radically. With the COVID-19 lockdown, a lot of realizations have taken place. Consumers have realized where their priorities are.

The new consumer is now more frugal and conscious. Planning and preservation of essentials take precedence over luxury commodities. The travel, hospitality, and commercial real estate sectors have been set back by a few years. They need to restart from a new base, keeping in mind the consumer’s possibilities of preferring to operate from home to stay economical.

Digital solutions for a new consumer

With health and safety taking the mainstage, brands are enhancing their products and services to be delivered to their customers either to their doorstep or their email addresses and social media platforms. These digital solutions have become the norm, thanks to social distancing. Keeping the audience’s perspective in mind, brands must modify not only the core message but also the messaging.

The homebody economy has taken over. The consumer’s behaviour has changed. They are not just aware of their expenses, they are now less mobile, and more productive. With the right digital marketing strategy, reach out to your target audience.

How should brands communicate with consumers during the lockdown

Brands need to effectively utilize the right digital platform to ensure effective messaging and communication. This is critical to enhance their roles in the consumers’ lives and establish a positive bond that goes beyond the short term.

What was once a platform to market and sell their products and services, brands are now decluttering their online presence to make way for conversations. This includes competitions, games, opinions, and opportunities to be part of the community. The result is an increase in media consumption and a decrease in advertising spend.

Pulling back on the advertising expenses will cut down costs in the short term but could negatively affect their durability. This lockdown is a crucial time for brands to step up and be part of the consumer’s lives, even without being able to make a sale. Once the restrictions are lifted, consumers are more likely to remember the brands that made an effort to stay in touch with them during uncertain times. Customers will be loyal to those brands they believe to be vital to them in the post-COVID scenario.

Keep watching this space to understand how different industries should utilize the digital platform to enhance their brand awareness. With the lockdown slowing down and the markets slowly opening up, it is all the more critical for brands to prepare for the new normal. The post-COVID scenario is genuinely unprecedented and unpredictable. It’s time for all hands on deck.

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