Offer hope to consumers through brands | Sunday Observer

Offer hope to consumers through brands

The Covid-19 pandemic has made it arguably more important than ever for marketeers to measure the value of every bit of advertising they do. The economic outlook is gloomy, finance departments are worried and limited marketing budgets are under scrutiny.

Yet, direct marketing in Sri Lanka has its own problems. Many companies are struggling to fulfil orders on time or running out of stock, while others simply have nothing to sell. That would make brand marketing a more sensible option than direct response right now. I had a personal experience where a pioneer online marketeer took 11 days to deliver a product whereas the promise was ‘delivery within 48 hours’.

As every walk of economic as well as social life has been severely impacted globally by this unexpected catastrophe, it would be unthinkable to imagine that the marketing domain in general and branding and consumer behaviour in particular would remain unscathed.

The dynamics of demand is poised to alter at least in the short run. The reduced income would force the majority of consumers to practice self-imposed austerity. Producers may need to re-customise their products to survive. As an obvious and major psychological toll of the pandemic of this scale and scope, consumers more than ever before are likely to remain risk averse.

Consumers would expect more mindfulness from brands in these testing times by addressing the larger issue than being opportunistic. They expect brands to communicate around the company’s purpose, values and commitment to consumer wellbeing.

This trend is expected to prevail after the pandemic too. One would expect that instead of resorting to product push strategies, large established brands will gravitate to empathetic communication to connect with consumers on a deeper level.

On the contrary, smaller brands and new age startups will focus on bottom of the funnel content to push for direct results.

Irrespective of the vintage of brands, the age of ‘service with a smile’ has truly arrived and that alone will define the success of brands. In parallel, one would guess that brands will adopt a ‘cautiously optimistic approach’ that will shape their growth.

The new consumer demands emanating from the changed scenario are not catered to nor are they being satisfied fully through the offerings by marketeers.

In a crisis situation such as this, two kinds of consumer needs viz., need for affiliation and need for change are inevitable.

These needs arise due to social distancing. Customers during the lockdown were looking for experiences that were newer and varied to escape the monotony of limited social interaction and movement.

This is where the creativity and ingenuity of marketeers was put to the test. Now, they have to discern and uncover ways and means to reach consumers.

As an immediate fallout of the pandemic, a sudden spurt in the buying and consumption of at least daily essentials such as groceries, medical supplies and supplements in the short-run was spurned by panic buying.

However, consumers may exhibit a ‘wait and watch’ attitude to buy consumer durables and luxuries.

When consumers are allowed to pivot from the status quo, they will try out new consumption patterns and test out new things in the altered conditions.

For instance, there would be a steep spike in demand for newer and emergent teaching-learning processes as teachers and the taught are left with no other choice.

Other examples are soliciting the advice of medical professionals and legal consultants online which consumers were earlier hesitant to do.

In the post-Covid consumer psychology, brand perceptions are bound to change when marketeers strategically attempt to bring about positive impressions in consumers towards the brands they promote and make such impressions sustainable for competitive advantage in the long-run.

Digital marketing

In the emerging context, digital marketing apparently has increased potential to track and unearth the psyche of the consumers by leveraging the power of data analytics. Most consumers today are glued to the TV, active on social media, and view long videos online.

Any data, statistics, and analytics related to consumer’s home-bound activities would provide insights into their changed consumption habits for effective targeting. For instance, millennials today do not wish to watch whatever is aired in general but prefer to be selective in the choice of ads that are put up on the medium they use.

Hence, brands should search for and focus on alternate means on digital platforms. Small businesses can make use of more affordable yet very powerful Twitter, WhatsApp and FB for commercial purposes all the more now than ever before. Brands that craft messages that are value oriented and compassionate may achieve better mileage. Social listening can help track the changes in consumer perceptions and preferences. Companies which invest their time and money to keenly observe and follow signals on social media through comments, favourable and critical, stand to gain.

Opportunities

This crisis has created an opportunity for brands to instantly go virtual which in a normal scenario would have taken years. Brands need to think like a customer and try to assess the emotional upside they may be experiencing in these turbulent times. Societal Marketing Perspective maintains that companies are better off in a stronger, healthier society that incorporates ethical behaviour and social responsibility. Hence, brands should not focus on short term gains but see how they emerge as socially responsible.

Brands can explore opportunities even in times of adversity by strengthening their social media presence. Intelligent use of data and analytics would help marketeers take evidence-based decisions in the realm of consumer behaviour. It is important for brands to assess, with the help of analytics, whether the use of the term Covid and its context is actually helpful in market communication.

At present, what the marketeers should be focusing on is not merely surviving but maintaining consumers’ perceptions through successful positioning strategies to build and sustain a credible brand image far beyond the crisis. The post pandemic era will test the true resilience of brands and their ability to scale.

Those which anchor communication around fundamental messaging and align strategies quickly, will pierce through and witness monumental growth.

Human beings, for all the million years of evolution, believe in one thing – something to hold on to, perhaps faith or love or the hope for a better tomorrow and that’s what’s shaped us. It’s time for brands to look up and deliver that message.

 

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