How insulated is your brand from Covid-19 | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

How insulated is your brand from Covid-19

5 September, 2021

It is a difficult time for brands across all industries except a few as they seek to effectively and sensitively communicate with their audiences and customers at a time of unprecedented stress such as this. With the pandemic impacting consumers and their spending habits, opportunities are emerging for businesses to rise and adapt to new market demands. What’s next in the changing consumer behaviour, and how should brands position themselves for success during the Covid-19 crisis and post crisis?

A key challenge faced by brands today is to tackle Coronavirus communications and advertising in a way that does not pretend that the pandemic has truly come to a halt. With rising tensions around restarting businesses proper, going into and coming out of lockdowns has become part and parcel of today’s operating environment.

Grappling with such uncertainty, the world of marketing has seen significant shifts in the digital strategies that have proven to drive brand management and consumerism in such times. In a normal recession, the smart move is to spend through it. Hold your nerve; see if your competitors fold; and hope your brand emerges stronger. That is still true, but it’s not the full picture of our current predicament. We are in a public health crisis with supply-side and demand-side effects – so it’s unusually complex demanding smarter and sharper strategies to stay competitive.

Brand preference

The Covid-19 outbreak has changed life as we know it. The aspect that has changed the most is purchasing and shopping. Large percentage of consumers even in the rural areas have changed the way they buy goods and services with consumers willing to compromise on their choices and pay a premium price in exchange for safety. You can certainly see this change in terms of brand preference. Most consumers are willing to purchase a new brand that they wouldn’t normally buy because their preferred brand is not available.

So your brand is at risk if you are not available at the right place at the right time. Customers who try new brands might eventually end up favouring their new purchases and will continue buying them post-crisis. So the concept of brand loyalty does not help much in the current environment – is that the fact?

It’s also not surprising that our need for essential goods will take precedence during a pandemic. A large percentage of consumers’ income would be allotted to buy basic needs such as rice, dhal, bread, milk-food, medicine, vegetables, and fresh food while foregoing personal care products.

Another change that’s taking place is the rise of the conscious consumer. Consumers are not only more mindful of what they are buying but also of the brands they are patronising, which can seriously affect the volatility of market shares even among the top brands in large product categories. This trend will prevail even after the pandemic for a few years considering that new products that are equally good in quality would be ‘acceptable brands’ going forward through experiential value.

Hence, it is during such trying times that brands have to pay special attention to their brand positioning strategy during Covid-19 and re-align to be meaningful in the changed environment.

However, consumer brands must not carelessly launch marketing campaigns under the guise of doing public good as these may backfire on their brand. Consumers are watching closely with the majority noticing examples of companies being a force of good during the coronavirus crisis and equal numbers noticing examples of companies who are taking advantage of the pandemic.

Businesses must also be prepared for more prudent customers as consumers will continue with reduced purchases and save money after the pandemic to rebuild their wealth as they would as individuals will have a need to reposition their personal brand too.

Pricing strategy might have to be questioned and aligned taking this factor into consideration - but not compromising on the margins which pushes you to cut fat further for optimum synergies. In a market there is lack of growth due to poor macro performance margin management is even more critical.

Weakened brand loyalty

When businesses and offices were forced to close every now and then with new waves of the pandemic, many knowledge workers found themselves working from home. This increased the demand for work equipment such as Smartphones, laptops, and tablets.

Online studies hugely expanded the markets for educational tools – people bought whatever was available and did not hunt the preferred brands fearing scarcity.

There is also a greater demand for household appliances and mobile devices as more people stayed at home and used PCs and smartphones to stay connected with loved ones during the pandemic. Recovery will also be different for each industry as numbers show that sales are picking up faster in some industries over others.

Disruptions will continue

All brands need to closely monitor disruptions to the supply chain to respond accordingly to changing consumer demand patterns and spending behaviour. ‘Accidental trials’ have weakened brand loyalty and will most likely continue to cause upheavals in previously impenetrable markets. The preference for convenience and quick delivery will also continue to pit pure online sellers and traditional retailers’ online shops against each other. Brands that can act quickly and achieve success in positioning or repositioning their brand during Covid-19, as well as innovate in the early stages of the crisis will have the upper hand in the post-lockdown market.

Successful communication strategies today involve speaking up, humanizing content, and taking a responsibility-first approach. While most marketing and advertising strategies in recent years have focused on driving product sales and increasing product placements in popular culture shows, as well as through the rising influencer culture, with the pandemic, strategies have shifted to pure brand image building.

The final shift seen on a day-to-day level has been from sales focused conversion to conversation. Social listening, sentiment analysis of audiences and truly comprehending the lives of customers has become imperative. This pandemic has disrupted all past data trends on customer journeys and prompted a renewed need for brands to listen. These large underlying trends are slowly shifting the core of industries and the way that communication takes place.

While such shifts are being fueled by unusual patterns of consumerism, some trends are here to stay much after the pandemic. Visionary brands are choosing the wise path to adapt functions to a digital-first pattern of consumerism where trust, brand virtues and conversations will stand at the forefront of establishing customer relationships.

Since the beginning of this pandemic, public health officials have been keen to stress the fact that we’re all in this together. This collective responsibility extends to business owners. Any messaging you put forth during this time should be empathetic to the fact many are struggling through challenging times.

How can your brand portray a sympathetic tone at this time without losing your brand values in the process? However, you choose to proceed, ensure all staff are aware of this subtle shift and understand their own role in delivery.