What a dramatic change this Covid19 has brought to our lives, whether it is the business or for us human beings. India went for a complete lockdown beginning March to fight the pandemic. Undoubtedly, all business establishments irrespective of their strength and type of industry have been affected by the recent outbreak of COVID-19 to a great extent.
Businesses, jobs, saw great upheavals, the world also saw a tectonic shift in the way we communicated. The Indian Advertising all through this crisis/ lockdown has been on their feet by innovating new methods of communication for their brands to reach out to their consumers. Brand communication was more empathetic, keeping in mind the sentiments and moods of the consumer in general.
Medianews4u in their series ‘Back to Business’ have spoken to 70+ brands on how they are effectively changing their communication strategies. We are now talking to the Advertising Agencies who are the brand custodians on what will be their strategy for their clients in the new normal.
Rohit Ohri, Group Chairman & CEO, FCB India tells us how the Agency is gearing up for the New Normal and the various researches on Brand Categories and Consumer behavior.
The lockdown is in the 5.0 phase, what as an Agency would be your priorities toward your brands? Brands in the new normal are now seeing new buying habits, as a brand custodian what will be the new strategies and advertising message?
One of the things we are going to be working very closely with all our clients is, the behavioral change which has come in because of the Covid situation. ‘Safety, health and wellness’ has become the number one priority for all consumers. And this has changed the dynamics of many categories. What we are doing right now is that we are in the midst of an extensive research that closely maps consumer behaviour. In this research, we are actually going to look at the specific changes that are going to happen in the consumer’s behavior, what is the change that will last and the change that will go away once the situation returns to normal. I do believe that certain trends will come in and some big behavioral change is bound to happen. We want to go back to our clients with the detailed research that lends insights into what they could do to handle the challenges ahead of them.
The second is Project Cope, which is something we are doing as a network. Through Project Cope we are looking at how brands across categories are coping with the current pandemic and what are they doing globally? This is a fantastic piece we are putting together for clients, which looks at what is happening to different categories for different segments of consumers, globally. This is not a regular recession or depression, this is a black swan event, and many of us have never seen this kind of a thing before in our lifetime. It is as much of a learning we can collate and share with our clients and that is a very important input.
Thirdly, we recently partnered with XP&D which is an experiential and digital platform that enables shaping experience to the consumers around brands, in the New Normal. As we say, brand experience is extremely important connection point for different brands and obviously in the covid situation with social distancing, with health and wellness being a great concern, what are the new experiences and new ways to create new experiences for the consumers, is what we are doing. What previously was an offline experience, we have converted into an online experience that creates almost the same level of excitement and engagement for the consumers.
Finally, through our collaboration with Networkbay at the retail front, we are saying that retail is going to be one of the most impacted categories in the covid situation. We have been talking since long as to what is the store of the future and what will it look like, well, the future is here. So its really about how will consumers look at retail experiences, for example- if you look at fashion, you will find consumers less willing to go to large retail outlets because (a) the fear of social distancing (b) they will not be willing to try out clothes. One of the big reasons why people went to retail outlets than shopping online was because they could try out the clothes for fit etc. Now that is not going to happen and it will be a huge impact on the fashion, beauty, footwear categories and they are going to see a lot of shrinkage in terms of the retail environment. We are looking at how technology can provide a bridge and give consumers the reassurance and bring them back to the brands. These are big challenges and we are looking at partnering with the right resources in India and around the world to help our clients navigate through these tough times.
New normal is seeing new buying habits, as brand custodians your strategies?
One of the most important thing in this time of crisis as are walking through this long dark tunnel is that brands often think, it is not the right time to advertise or communicate with the consumers that stem due to various pressures of cost, sales and depressed demand. Going silent at this time is perhaps the most detrimental thing for a brand. I feel that brands should not wait for the light at the end of the tunnel but in fact light up the tunnel as the consumers are walking in the dark tunnel. They should partner them and walk together with them in the time of crisis. Brands should light up the tunnel with ideas, helping consumers navigate through the crisis.
That is one part, the other part is that brands need to be authentic. During this time, it is very important from them to be authentic, as genuine and truthful they can be about what they are communicating to their consumers. At this time, the consumers are seeing a lot of information being bombarded at them, a lot of it is also fake. The consumer is left wondering, what to believe and what not to. This is the time when consumers fall back on brands they trust, brands that have a rich heritage and have been there for a long time by proving themselves to the consumers. It is therefore important for brands to maintain and build that trust along with strengthening their bond with their consumers.
As brands now are going digital, will you advise them to also start their own e commerce platforms?
Third party E Commerce platforms are already well established. Brands prefer being on big aggregators platform. Now as most of the shopping is Mobile first, and for Mobile first shopping you need to download an APP and the consumers are reticent to download App’s of every brand they use. They want to download an aggregator’s app which will give them access to a whole host of brands. That seems to be the broad sense, unless there is a specific service that you really like and you need it over and over again, that is when you will download that brand’s app. For example, it can be fresh produce for fish, meat or chicken you like. Brands are gravitating towards large platforms.
Will brands now be more open to more spend on digital as compared to traditional platforms?
This trend has been happening for a very long time now, it is not due to Covid. Digital has been growing for a decade and half. Apparently in the Covid period the strength of the platform has grown exponentially, and online shopping has become really big. Consumers are now buying categories online which they never bought earlier! Clients will obviously go fishing where the fish are, so if they see that consumers are going online, they will then create experiences online and will find newer ways to connect and draw consumers.
How will you rebuild brand loyalty for certain brands which fell off the radar during this lockdown?
The brands that were really hurt during Covid were the brands which were directly impacted, like the Airlines. We work with Vistara and obviously the Covid situation has deeply impacted them as there has been no travel.
But what we have seen is that these brands are still powerhouses. If hypothetically, the vaccine was available and everyone took it, people will go back with the same kind of affection they had for Vistara, before Covid. The consumers see the brand as a sufferer like them and not as somebody who has done something or created a situation for themselves. They do see the brand suffering as much as everybody else. People will be happy to go back to these brands.
Brands which were strong and brands which really delivered value to the consumers will come back stronger than ever before. Brands which were very much cost conscious, cutting back on service and the experience of flying will see a huge amount of cutback. As the air travel comes back, people will first gravitate toward the more trusted airlines, like the airline partnership between Singapore Airlines and Tata’s, a brand they can trust. A lot of traction will be seen there first.
How do you see Print recovering in the New Normal?
Having said it earlier, this was an opportunity for Print to reinvent itself totally as a medium.
For nearly two to three months people stopped buying newspapers because of this whole thing of the virus being transmitted through the newspapers. What I found to my utter dismay was that the newspapers were actually forwarding their digital versions to their consumers in the same offline broadsheet format. And it’s impossible to read the news in the broadsheet newspaper format on a phone. I found it ridiculous and wondered on what basis this was done and why the industry did not use this opportunity to recast itself and actually launch a new mobile first or digital first avatar which could have reconnected and made itself relevant to the consumers at this time. That did not happen, unfortunately Print would be losing out big time in this crisis as lot of consumers have actually got used to living without Print. They are finding their news elsewhere and that is the reality.
Will Ad Spends on TV see a spike?
Yes, the amazing thing is we are seeing online entertainment gain ground. As more people are at home; movie theatres shut, entertainment avenues are few and far between, and obviously home entertainment is seeing a huge spike. If you see the number of Bollywood films that are being released on Disney Hotstar, it is truly amazing to see that the first look is on an OTT platform. We have never seen this happening before. This is a whole new paradigm and brands are going to back to advertising on GEC channels. It was recently announced that IPL is going to be back in its full glory which is another opportunity the brands will grab. And these are necessary now, because Brands need these big properties which will actually reignite a lot of confidence and demand amongst the consumers.