Chennai: The infamous Lehman-crisis during 2008 brought the entire Financial Industry to its knees. Apart from Banking, real estate, aviation, manufacturing, tourism and even gambling from Vegas to Macau took a hit, thanks to an unprecedented meltdown that shook the world. If you’d like to know more about what happened and how, catch up “The Big Short” on Netflix – an interesting film (a tad documentary) on what tumbled on that unfortunate day at New York. The world has seen several crises and shall see more. But the Covid-19 has been a leveler to say the least. I was shocked when global personalities like the Prince of Wales to Amitabh Bachchan tested positive along with so many State heads worldwide and back in my own country, state and town, several top people not only tested positive, a few succumbed too.
It’s been over 4 months since this crisis started with a full-blown nationwide lockdown for 21 days starting 25 March. The Industry has progressed thereafter albeit slower than what many of us expected; from FMCG to Banking, Real Estate to Restaurants, the business impact has been unprecedented, rather unexpected beyond disbelief. Most brands have taken a cautious approach of tightening their purses and have been saving for yet another day, yet another payroll in the hope of tiding over this crisis. Many global brands and retail chains have filed for bankruptcy or have shut down for good. Hopes abound. Only hope, for now.
The first “expense” to “stop” during a business slowdown (forget a crisis like this!)is Advertising. Many businesses believe that “advertising” is firstly an expenditure and secondly, something that can be turned off or on as and when a need arises. IMHO, this is an approach that is not only detrimental to the health of the business but also for the longevity of the brand and the parent company. There is a famous saying in Hindi – “Jo dikthahai, vobikthahai” or closer so in English, “What is out of sight is out of mind”. Cannot be more relevant than during the current Corona crisis period.
On an average, each of us get to interact / remember / reminisce around 70 brand names daily. From toothpaste to condoms, from our preferred brand of tea / coffee / breakfast cereals and the generic grocery such as Dals, Pulses, Rice and Salt + Sugar which have a deep association with the name of the retail store where they are procured – Kirana or Organised all the way to the soaps, creams, floor cleaners and so on, consumers have to remember so many names, the companies who manufacture them, the core ideals of the Brand and that one single strong reason to buy them! Phew, what an effort this is. Not just FMCG, it also includes other services and product categories such as Computers, Mobiles, Furniture, Food delivery platforms, hyperlocal and national E-Commerce players – the list goes on!
In my first job at RPG Retail 2 decades back, I was introduced to the term “Moments of Truth” where the customer picks up a brand from the shelf, tosses it twice or thrice to read the credentials and then – decides to drop it back on the shelf or on their shopping basket. It’s every Brand Manager’s delight or dreaded dream when the Customer decides either way. And how does the Brand reiterate the Brand essence to the Customer? Through constant engagement. And one of the primary ways of doing this is repetitive Brand reinforcement aka “Advertising”. Many small &mid-sized Brands take up Advertising as a hobby activity, typically overspending during launch or when the business is in the verge of collapse as a life saver.
What I have seen and learned all along is that Brands need to “advertise” as well as present themselves in front of the customer 365 days a year – in some form or the other. For many brands, especially FMCG such as Levista Coffee that I represent, Ad-spends are quite low, given that start-ups like us are literally fighting for mindshare of consumers who have not only been fed with numerous Advertisements from the Industry giants all along but also a strong presence on shop shelves – which is also a form of, rather a stronger Brand reinstatement. In fact, Brands that advertise a lot and are still not present at the shelves – are akin to flesh-eating amoebas who are damaging themselves than from competitive brands or companies. It is as important for brands to be seen and heard at the Point of Sale as much as to be present across screens – Tv, Digital, OOH or mediums such as Radio and Music apps such as Saavn.
Keith Weed, former CMO of Unilever in his recent article for the Campaign Magazine recalls how the company, which owns iconic brands such as Dove, Knorr, Lipton, etc. continued to “invest” on Marketing & Advertising right after the Lehman crisis instead of retracting their spends. The keyword to note here is “Investing in Advertising” rather than calling them as Ad-spends. For, investment is for the future while an expenditure is to overcome a present challenge. It’s time Marketers understood the relevance of 360* 365-day Marketing rule book rather than admonishing it stating that it is only for the high & mighty brands. Every brand worth its salt must pursue Marketing & Advertising everyday to their respective consumer segments. While it is perfectly appropriate to fine tune the marketing activities based on a Brand’s needs, it is utmost important to ensure that there is a constant and long-standing association with the Brand’s various cohorts of customer segments.
We at Levista Coffee launched a new TVC in June in tune with the current times to our core customers across the two states of TN & KA. Not only was the Advertisement appreciated for the timely stance that the company has taken, it also had a very positive impact among the vast diaspora that the Brands reaches out to. Key stakeholders here also include, apart from Consumers, the vast sales force, the Retailers and the connecting Distributors. Morale levels have shot up so much that we were able to scale greater heights with more rigor and vigor during June 2020 to achieve top business metrics.
A new start a new beginning @iabhishekdshah @vp_offl @khushsundar @realradikaa @Siva_Kartikeyan @sooriofficial @pandiraj_dir @rajeshmdirector @aishu_dil @brindagopal @anustylist @madhoo69 @Suriya_offl @LakshmiManchu @thisisysr @vasukibhaskar @Dr_hariharan @realsarathkumar pic.twitter.com/NOt2vh7CXG
— Subbu6panchu (@subbu6panchu) June 22, 2020
Our digital communication was focused on keeping in tune with the current scenario and not being over-zealous in our efforts to “sell more coffee” rather to stay relevant and remain among the most recalled brands across our category of Instant Coffee. Also, a strong presence across Retail touchpoints in the General Trade (read: Kirana Shops), as well as Modern Trade (Organized Retailers), made our case stronger since Customers could easily recall the brand. Our Television Ad placements in news channels garnered higher views resulting in more brand recall since this genre seem to have gained significant traction among the TV audience, thanks to constant updates about the crisis as well as a huge vacuum due to lack of non-fiction programs as most shootings have remain cancelled during the lockdown period.
Lastly, our campaign with Hello FM, Tamil Nadu’s leading radio station and Radio City, Bangalore’s most loved station gave us a new mindspace among customers. Rather than being seen as a local brand, our “Local for Vocal” campaign positioned us a brand from our own soil, literally & figuratively. These anecdotes have only given me the confidence to keep our ad-inventory going on across Media. What I see as an Investor on the medium is the value addition we get. After all, isn’t that a typical Indian mindset – Gimme more!