The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted lives all around the world. Every business, every household has been impacted, some directly while some indirectly. The world economy including ours has faced some serious crises in the past, for eg, the global meltdown of 2008. However, we have shown resilience in the past and overcome these calamities. This time, it is a little different. With no respite in sight, our focus needs to be on how we can unlearn and relearn to survive in the post-COVID times.
Someone wise said that every crisis is an opportunity in disguise. So why not show some determination to rethink and relearn. Be it any crisis, the most important aspect that we all look for during a crisis is safety and that’s going to be the key element in how we market the products or services during the post-COVID era.
In the last 100-odd days, we have seen that there is a paradigm shift in how a consumer consumes a product. Priorities have taken precedence over needs. This has resulted in the change of approach of all the marketers. Let us have a look at little learning that we will continue to use in the post-COVID times.
There is a remarkable difference in how consumers are using connectivity and digital mediums in the pre and post-COVID times. The pandemic times were not just about staying home safe but also about staying connected. The usage of internet connectivity has increased tremendously in the last three months. People are looking at doing more and new things using connectivity. This was an opportunity to reach out to potential consumers through the digital or virtual route.
Sectors like education have shown that virtual learning & blended learning may be the future of learning. Schools, colleges, universities have adapted to the virtual way of learning and have been providing uninterrupted learning to the students across the world. Many leading chains of schools have designed special curriculums for online learning so that students do not miss their traditional classroom learning. Going forward, the education sector, especially in India, has realized that adopting technology in learning is the key to future education.
We have seen how brands that have adapted to the digital way of business have survived and excelled so far. It is almost like we now know that a lot of businesses can operate through ‘work from home’ structure with limited workforce needed in office or Zoom/Google Meetings becoming the next normal for office meetings.
When the pandemic hit us, it was difficult to decide whether to advertise or not. In case we decided to advertise, the biggest question was what should be our message? Consumers are wary of the brands that have been hard selling. During this catastrophe, it became vital to empathize with the consumer through advertisements. Consumers are looking for brands that are providing additional value beyond the basic proposition. Instead of in-your-face, product push strategies, the consumer is more interested in knowing brand value and vision through advertisements.
The campaigns that talk about resilience, positivity, faith, and trust will have an impact on the consumer’s mind. Brands that have shown their human side through their campaigns have certainly earned some brownie points from their loyal customer base. It has also helped in forging a long-lasting relationship with the customers.
Safety & Hygiene ( S&H ) will be the key driver
In the post-COVID era, S &H will be the key driver for all marketing related activities. Whenever a consumer will be looking at new product/service, safety and security will be the top priority. Earlier, health, hygiene, safety were related to only healthcare or security sectors. The consumer perspective has witnessed a huge change in the last few months. Brands that fit into consumer’s ideas of safety and security will have a better chance of yielding good business.
John Adair, a British author, has summed up the importance of communication perfectly. He says “Communication is the sister of leadership”. During times of uncertainty, how leaders communicate with the stakeholders, bring clarity, and give assurance of the rescue plan is important. One would agree that there is no problem or a crisis that cannot be handled with a well-thought plan and effective communication.
Be in constant touch with your stakeholders. Use social media, PR, and other mediums to inform stakeholders about the new initiatives, programs introduced to handle the crisis. This creates a sense of security among the stakeholders. It does not have to be elaborate letters or messages; it could be a short video or a tweet that can calm the storm in the minds of stakeholders.
In the case of your customers, let your communication be specific about their needs and the support that you can offer. To implement this, one needs to have a detailed understanding of the pulse of the target audience.
Try to be honest and transparent about your products, services, and value proposition. Remember, nothing beats transparency and sensitivity shown during the challenging times and after. We all need to show resilience to changing scenarios. Adapt and adjust as you move ahead. There is certainly a lot to unlearn and relearn. It is also important for consumers to understand and appreciate the supply-side challenge at this time.
Authored by Peshwa Acharya, Founder, Think as Consumer.