Lockdown blues prompt brands, agencies to rethink strategies

The challenge is to balance economic losses while staying present among consumers.

MUMBAI: Even in a lockdown, the show must go on, even if it means cutting down your exenses. With cash crunch being a problem across the world, brands and agencies are figuring out how to optimise communication at the lowest cost. reached out to a cross section of brands and agencies to get their perspectives on this.

According to FCB Ulka ECD Anindya Banerjee, this is the period of hand-holding both the client and the consumer. “While the sentiments and the bottom-line have taken a hit, we can’t disappear from the lives of our consumers. Also, some businesses like financial services and banks haven’t stopped. The idea is to tailor-make messages for the consumer.”

Giving a helping hand to clients, Marcom Avenue director Divanshi Gupta says that it is curating more personal content and strategies such as industry opinions, post-pandemic come-back strategy presentations, blogs, articles, that can help its clientele to establish themselves once Covid2019 is under control.

Brands have been figuring out how to get through this difficult phase as well. For Liberty Shoes, the months from March to June are key for business. Says its retail executive director Anupam Bansal: “New season’s merchandise was placed in the shops, sales teams were geared up, marketing campaigns for ‘back to school’ or ‘marriage season’ was all set, but unfortunately the pandemic hit at the same time. It was difficult to quickly act on the situation and with social distancing and lockdown, mindsets are cash-conservative.”

Without demand and revenue, Liberty’s marketing expenses also took a hit. It had to safeguard finances for rainy days, deducting the ad expenses, which, according to Bansal, was an articulated decision. The company is looking at consumer behaviour staying constant for another two quarters.

The challenge before brands and agencies is to balance their economic losses while staying present among consumers. DigitalKites senior VP Amit Lall says that brands are reluctant to allow their focus to dilute and wish to stay relevant to the consumers. This is where digital comes into the picture with its ability to provide faster reports on investment.

Barco India head of marketing Vijayant Khattry feels that it is only natural that most of its current campaigns revolve around remote meeting as well as virtual learning products like ClickShare Conference and weConnect as it expects their demand to increase substantially even after people go back to the office post-pandemic.

The lockdown has seen digital spends shoot up. Banerjee says: “The pandemic has forced all companies to go digital. Fortunately, at FCB, we’ve been aligning ourselves to not work as a traditional agency for quite some time and that has helped us during these times.”

In order to maintain the balance, Marcom Avenue has shifted its focus to branding and community building rather than sales/lead generation activities. Gupta adds, “Some of our clients have introduced new product lines during the pandemic like masks/hazmat suits/infra-thermometer, etc., looking to make available medical products to the health industry and further requiring us to create end-to-end marketing for these essential products in demand. Further, we took an initiative to analyse and tap into different industries that are booming like e-learning and pharma, so that we can help them increase their revenue and RoI.” 

Apart from shifting focus from OOH and print to TV and digital, brands are looking at other options as well. Liberty Shoes is improving the UI/UX of its website to give a better customer experience. The company is also improving the website SEO to future-proof itself. It is also looking at strengthening its social media/influencer marketing tools to stay relevant. “Personalised communication with consumers is also taking place using the CRM database,” says Bansal.

MediaTek marketing and communication deputy director Anuj Sidharth says, “We are also trying to increase our focus on offline public relations activities such as virtual roundtable conferences, webinar sessions, etc. MediaTek is maintaining consumers’ focus on the interesting mix of technologies that we power, especially products like mobile phones, tablets, smart TVs, wi-fi routers and voice assistant devices, which have become even more vital. We are also devising marketing mix strategies for mobile and non-mobile segments.”

While brand building and marketing is a difficult thing for most brands to undertake simultaneously right now, communication is still essential in some way or the other.

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