The coronavirus pandemic that has hit us like a tidal wave, will bring a seismic shift in our lives. Across countries, governments, healthcare ecosystems, corporations and regulators are leading from the front to preserve stability. During such a time, the role of marketing has become more pronounced than ever. Marketers have been encumbered with the task of keeping their brands relevant and visible without being tone deaf and unsympathetic.
With brands walking this tightrope, corporate social responsibility has come to the fore. Brands are making sizable donations and even building necessary equipment for people and healthcare workers. Marketers are winning hearts of their stakeholders — be it the customers, employees or distributors — by providing comfort through action and communication.
So, what are the takeaways for managing such brand disruptions?
Think new age: A brand must know how to use new-age platforms when the situation demands it. Take Mumbai-based Marico, for instance, which has stayed ahead of the curve in fulfilling customer needs. Considering its reliance on traditional means of distribution, the FMCG sector has been affected by India’s nationwide lockdown. But Marico partnered with Swiggy and Zomato to facilitate easy access for its customers. This reflects its emphasis on customer centricity along with business continuity.
Agility is crucial: Agility is the cornerstone of any brand that hopes to stay relevant in the longer term. Your communication must evolve as the situation changes. In early March, as the Covid-19 crisis escalated across the US, automotive major Ford pulled back its vehicle ads and quickly replaced them with its coronavirus relief initiatives. The company promoted the Ford Credit programme which provides financial relief to buyers during extraordinary disasters.
Voice of and to the customer: Marketers have a unique opportunity of being the customer’s confidante by assuring them that their interests are safeguarded. During such crises, financial concerns can seem daunting and add to the burden. American banking major Chase is offering payment assistance to its auto and home loan borrowers who are unable to keep up with their payments.
Interact with stakeholders: Transparency and constant communication can help restore the confidence of your stakeholders. With fear over health running high, brands can help manage the wellbeing of their employees. Be a credible source of information and a friend that constantly assures them. Axis Bank is among various brands offering virtual meditation sessions and online learning modules to safeguard employees’ mental health.
Put PR into overdrive: PR is crucial in preserving the brand’s tonality. Any corporate action or communication must undergo scrutiny, as what you do and say today will stay with your stakeholders for a long time. You don’t want to be a ‘publicity-hungry’ brand, but one that walks the talk. Mahindra Group, for instance, has struck the right balance by backing up its PR drive with meaningful action of building ventilators.
Equip your salesforce: Some sectors like insurance have always relied on personal interaction. With social distancing norms in place, marketers must equip the salesforce with new methods to interact with customers. Many insurance players have created virtual training to guide its salesforce in reaching out to their customers digitally, by leveraging platforms like webinars.
Prepare now for normalcy: Believe that the world will return to normalcy. You don’t want to be caught off-guard, while the rest of the world recuperates. Armed with new learnings, you can have a deeper impact on your stakeholders. For instance, as China limps back to normalcy, e-commerce giant Alibaba and Taobao Live partnered to livestream Shanghai Fashion Week, which featured over 150 brands.