Is it about taking advantage of the grim societal crisis to benefit from; to show empathy, caring and support towards people; or making amends to marketing strategies to be ready for the bounce back?Is it more internal to a company about its workforce, values, and brand purpose; or external about the consumers?
I am no expert. But here are my two cents. Suumcuique.
Marketing brand value (Internal and External)
At the outset, companies should make sure they send consistent, transparent and timely messages to, not just their consumers, but their teams around the world to ensure all their stakeholders, employees, families and customers have the information they need to feel safe and supported. Try to suppress panic by giving them confidence that the crisis is being managed effectively and that business will continue as usual to the best possible extent. Empathize with them all and seek support to tide this crisis together. Show caution with optimism and reflect trust in the future.
Most of the companies are doing a commendable job of this already while being sensitive to community needs. What come to play is a strong company culture and a defined sense of brand purpose that align well with business priorities. One cannot put forth profit or publicity at the wrong time, lest it’s seen as being opportunistic or callous.
Marketing with a purpose
As the crisis has to lead to a near lockdown situation with people working from home and staying home, there are many services of many brands that people would use even more. These brands should act responsibly and make sure they make the lives of consumers more comfortable. Many online food delivery services like Domino’s, have made sure their preparation, handling and delivery are following strict government guidelines. Online pharmacies should come to the fore to make sure life-critical medicines are delivered promptly, maybe offer special concessions. The likes of Pharmeasy and Medlife are already providing every information possible about the disease, its prognosis, prevention, cure, and screening centers.
OTT platforms will also see a surge in usage. They should act responsibly and perhaps offer subsidies or offer free content. With the aim to not burden the people in isolation, Eros Now has decided to keep the subscription of their OTT app for free, for the next two months. Other popular platforms like Netflix and Prime are releasing much new content well in advance in order to entertain the subscribers more. Since the viewership is only going to increase, take advantage of the eyeballs to roll out content that helps in education about the pandemic. At an individual level, the likes of Gary Hustwit, an acclaimed documentary-maker has offered all his films for free during this crisis.
Online learning services and ed-tech companies such as Byju’s, Unacademy and Vedantu are already offering free access to live classes, content and their platforms to students and educational institutions across the country.
Marketing with a big heart
To overcome the short supply of hand sanitizers and masks, a wide variety of brands that are not directly related to medicine or healthcare are coming forward to manufacture these essentials for free by using their existing raw material and manufacturing lines. Case in point is The Shine Distillery Portland, Old Fourth Distillery, Moonrise Distillery and the makers of Absolut Vodka and Jameson Irish Whiskey. Closer home, Karnataka Brewers and Distilleries Association has offered to manufacture sanitizers for hospitals and healthcare units. IIT Delhi’s chemistry department is already producing hand sanitizer using the WHO prescribed formula. Also, the following suit are educational institutes in Kerala and Assam, as well as Cotton College in Guwahati.
LVMH Moët Hennessy (Louis Vuitton SE) which manufactures perfumes and cosmetics has begun production of hydroalcoholic sanitizing gels and giving it to French healthcare authorities. So much so, even fashion designers in New York at an individual level have offered to make protective masks, even as Gaming PC maker Razer is making 1 million surgical masks.
Big brands like Coca Cola, Philippines, have diverted nearly 150 million PhP of ad spends towards supporting COVID-19 relief and response efforts for the most affected communities. Not to forget Elon Musk’s Tesla and SpaceX are working on producing ventilators, should there be a need.
Regular Marketing to reinforce the purpose
One need not always create a new product to drive purpose and stay top of mind. Reinforcing continued support during such demanding times is also worthwhile. Reliance Industries Limited has given the assurance that all 83 stores across 5 of its groceries and fresh supply brands will stay stocked up to help people enjoy uninterrupted daily lives. Handwash manufacturers like Dettol, Lifebuoy, Protekt, etc., and personal care and hygiene brands like Dabur, HUL, Himalaya, have ramped up their manufacturing and doubled down their marketing efforts in addition to increasing awareness campaigns to educate people about healthy hygiene habits.
Again, there are other non-related brands that are taking a step to drive the public safety agenda. NPCI, for example, is promoting digital payments to avoid social contact. MX player is encouraging people to watch films on their platform to avoid a visit to the cinemas.
There’s more to marketing than this during a dire state we all are in. Look out for more.
In the end, a health crisis like this does not discriminate between geographies, nations, gender, economic strata, culture, etc. Let us all “join hands” to fight the spread and stay safe.
This article is authored by Shekhar Mhaskar, Chief Growth Officer, Isobar India.