It has been more than 40 days since the country went into lockdown mode due to the pandemic. We are hoping against hope that the lockdown is lifted on the 17th of May. The recent outbreak of the COVID –19 is also seeing a tectonic shift in most people’s lives. There are so much stress and anxiety about job losses, loneliness, and other factors. But this lockdown has also changed the way organizations are thinking, the way they work, etc.
The outbreak of covid-19 is bound to make some significant and everlasting change in the way brands communicate with their consumers and its stakeholders.
Medianews4u spoke to Shamsuddin Jasani – Group MD, Isobar South Asia on what is Isobar’s plan to strategise on the communication for their brand.
The Lockdown is in the 3.0 phase Isobar handles some major clients, what is your way forward strategies for them?
In the first phase we were ready to go back to normal within one day of the client telling us that now let’s just go back and make sure that we are delivering. We were ready as an Agency with the clients and it was work as usual and that was still phase 2 of the lockdown.
Now in Phase three, we have already started understanding and what we are doing is that we have already charted a strategy for clients, which is short term and long term as a lot of opening of lockdown is happening. Maybe Mumbai is not opening soon, but a lot of other cities are opening, for example, in Bangalore we will be in office hopefully by next week, and even Gurugram. We have in the lockdown phase worked on a longer-term of how the client needs to now change themselves to understand the new world that we are stepping in, even if the lockdown is completely lifted, which is going to be two to three months away. Social distancing is still going to be a big thing, people are still going to be apprehensive of stepping out of their houses. Digital is going to play a much bigger role than just marketing. Marketing, of course, is one side of it, but how are we as an agency making sure that the client is answering both the immediate needs of the consumers as well as a longer term strategy of using digital. A lot of clients are now coming to us and saying we want to do first-party e-commerce. Till now people were selling through Amazon Flipkart, etc. but a lot of clients are saying now I want to do my own e- commerce.
That is a change that is happening because now increasingly you will not step out of your home or you will not go to a store and you will not do a test drive for cars. The customer will just compare online, will buy and then it will get delivered to their house. Then it gets completely cleaned and sanitized when it is at the house, how comfortable will a buyer be in a car driven by 10 people on the same day.
We are already prepared for a world which is now opening up but still going to have some ramifications from this Covid, which I believe that it is going to be till the end of this year, if not into next year and digital is going to play a key role. Like I said earlier, in the Auto sector people are going to research online, buy online, and everything will be finished online, the vehicle will be delivered to your house.
Liquor sales, opened for one day and it was a disaster, in Chhattisgarh the government decided to relax the norms. It just makes sense. Now every category has to make digital its core, now it is a forced transformation. Earlier we were talking about digital transformation, now it is a forced transformation. That is the way we are working with our clients right now.
Their communication and Marketing plans to stay ahead of the curve?
This is exactly what I was saying, I am just reiterating the point that our mobile clients for example, OPPO, One Plus they are ready with their new phones, Apple is ready with the new phones and they are going to get launched right now. The change in strategy is going to happen where a lot of these brands are now going to accelerate their own delivery rather than just depending upon Amazons and Flipkarts of the world. I think the biggest strategic changes is that now clients are going to say, that you can buy our products online and brands will take the responsibility that it is delivered in a completely hygienic way and that is for those set of clients who are already talking about it and I think in the next two months communication will be centered around the availability of products and how you will be able to access the products and second is that how sanitized and hygienically it will be delivered to you, the communication will be centered on that, of course the brand communication will be there, but more importantly what are the brands going to give you the products in a very safe and easy way. Once this lockdown is lifted and even now during this lockdown.
Are brands reviewing their ad spends as TV viewing in the Megacities has seen a huge spike?
The challenge is that they will look at the media skew, but that will only happen once they are actually able to sell products. While a lot of brands, the FMCG brands are spending as those categories are open. 80% of the other categories are not open. Essential services are open in big cities, non-essential goods are not delivered by e-commerce. The challenge really is that there is a supply problem because you cannot deliver and there is a demand problem because people are not stepping out and buying these products. I would say that it would have been a different scenario, if these concerns would have been taken care of, if e-commerce opens, for example, at least 50% of the headache is gone. If non -essentials like mobile phones, commuter products, etc. delivery starts in big cities there will be a demand. I have a big question in terms of why e-commerce delivery in big cities did not start for non – essentials?
Once e – commerce, small shops open up, forget the Malls opening up, the advertisers will come back and spend. The spike has happened in terms of viewership, both on TV as well as OTT, consumption of media has gone up but unfortunately the advertisers right now are holding back monies because there’s no business happening as people are not stepping out to buy. Car sales in April was zero, they have had to cut down as there is no sale.
The kind of advertisers who are now advertising has changed. The bulk of advertiser’s are the gaming platforms as they are able to attract users. Amazon Prime, but the challenge there is that they are also getting people automatically. They do not need to advertise as people are saying, what do I do? Okay, let me watch this, organically the traffic is coming in but it is a little bit of a struggle.
There are a lot of monies, a lot of brand monies will be going into
(a) What people are talking about and the new products that they will be soon be launching.
(b) It will also be about how they are taking care of, their deliveries and how their products are up to standard, a lot of the communication beyond that and it will come in the next two to three months as we go ahead.
What would be your Post COVID strategy in terms of communication and other measures to revive revenues for yourself and for your clients?
For us I think it is very clear, we have already planned for new business types and e – commerce is a big part of our strategy. We were at the thinking stage some six months back, now we are ready and we are saying, now is the time to create your own e- commerce and make sure that you are ready with your e- commerce product. So that’s number one.
The number two thing that is going to happen is that how we are working with brands to be able to transform their businesses using digital and I think that is the two key things beyond the regular business and hopefully in the next few month’s things will be on track.
I honestly believe in and you can quote me on this, this is going to be a bumper Diwali, the best Diwali in the last two years. I strongly believe in it because there is so much pent up demand, you could see people walking out and buying so much alcohol on the day the liquor shops opened. By the time Diwali comes there will be some sort of normalcy.
The good thing is that Diwali is late this year, it is towards the end of November rather than being in October. We have enough, hopefully enough time to recover. I think and I believe that this Diwali is going to be when the recovery completely starts and it is going to be a bigger Diwali as compared to the last year and the year before because people are not spending any money now and will spend during Diwali. We are preparing for both things and preparing for life after COVID how that will be our regular everyday basis as an agency, but also more importantly, new lines of businesses which we feel are going to be extremely relevant to clients as we step into the future, especially e- commerce and business transformation. I think both these things are important for the business to grow Post Covid.
Isobar to continue the WFH model?
We need to review that, I cannot do it for Isobar alone it has to be the group initiative. But I truly believe that the whole idea of work from home is that now people are accepting it. I think, yes, we can look at it. I don’t know if it’s going to be two days or not. But certainly looking at working from home and you know, saving time traveling, some people coming to office, some people working from home, it is going to be a mix. I think that is going to continue irrespective of us wanting to force it or not, at least for the next few months, 50% of people are going to be working for home.