2020 was a unique year for all of us. Not only did we face a pandemic – an epidemic of global proportions – for the first time, but we also encountered what is called an infodemic – or spread of information at a very fast rate, most of which was based on the grapevine and hence, untrue! This led to posing a new challenge for brands, particularly marketing departments where they had to ensure that their brand doesn’t fall prey to incorrect and adverse information being passed on, about them. Hence, there was an increased focus and additional efforts from their end to ensure that information about them shutting business, slowing operations, employee attrition, to name a few, were controlled and eliminated. The pandemic reinforced the relationship between marketing and communication like no other!
The role of communication in the pandemic
Communication assumed an even more critical role in the pandemic. On one hand, it was the most powerful tool to ensure that brand image was not compromised with negative information about it being circulated. On the other hand, communication was also the key to reassure its existing and potential customers, investors and employees of the companies about its wellbeing and ensuring trust is enforced on it, by all its stakeholders. Further, organizations also leveraged communication to drive their success stories and capability to rise up to the occasion, even in such dire situations. Since offline interactions were limited due to the lockdown imposed during the pandemic, brands had to continuously engage with their stakeholders on digital and social media to stay relevant and on top of the mind.
The evolving role of marketing
Like communications, marketing also assumed an even more important position for brands during the pandemic. There were a plethora of organizations that took a hit during the pandemic in operations, HR, and finance departments. This caused turbulence and uncertainty across all functions and eventually, the brand positioning and image. Companies were forced to reimagine branding and marketing. Some age-old legacy brands had to explore newer digital avenues to stay connected with their stakeholders, whereas some new brands had to start creating a legacy in order to invoke trust among their stakeholders. Marketing helped brands convey the positives, tone down and balance the negatives with the positives, and eventually helped brands grow and come back to ‘normal’ slowly, albeit steadily. Brands unanimously acknowledged the importance of establishing and enhancing its presence on digital and social platforms. Marketing was the function leading in assuring stakeholders of the brand’s capacity to stay afloat and emerge as a winner during and post the pandemic
The sacred union of communication and marketing
The symbiotic relationship between marketing and communication was highlighted the most during Covid-19. The need of the hour was to drive stakeholder engagement and this was much more challenging than in the pre-covid era. The pandemic witnessed brands even launching products and services, be it consumer, automobiles, technology, financial or manufacturing, exclusively online. The entire touch and feel aspect of the product, the physical visibility of the brand among competitors, the tests and trials, and the human connection of discussing concerns before investing in the product or services, was absent, posing unique situations for brands to overcome. Not only was there a degree of worry about customers not feeling “connected enough” to the brand, but also the brand not having a USP in the customer’s mind, was posing a threat. Hence, marketing departments relied heavily on ensuring there was a timely, relevant, engaging line of communication established with its stakeholders. Brands drove campaigns digitally to drive key messaging, establish themselves and communicate their uniqueness to ensure decluttering themselves from competitors. Data was another tool leveraged by marketing to understand consumer needs and provide solutions through effective and efficient communications about the brand’s offerings that would counter the customer’s challenges and meet their needs.
Brands felt the prerequisite to standing out and be perceived as a strong preference among its stakeholders, more than ever, during Covid. The synergy effect of marketing and communication turned out to be the twin pillars of the brand’s foundation of reassurance – the silent, yet strong knights in shining armor. The vital role of both marketing and communication is only expected to go north from hereon, post the pandemic. The pandemic taught us that in order to survive, one must always evolve. After all, are there any other aspects of a business that is as dynamic as marketing and communication? The pandemic has clearly established the dominance of this duo and its role in leading the future of the brands.