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Marketers, agencies adopt socialistic approach in times of Covid-19

Companies are actively responding to customers and employees on the pandemic.

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NEW DELHI: One thing that the ongoing lockdown, imposed in view of the global pandemic of Covid-19, has managed to do is to drastically increase the digital consumption in India. As per a BARC report, launched Friday in association with Nielsen, smartphone consumption has seen a surge of 6 per cent in the week starting 14 March as compared to the last two weeks of January.

This gives brands and marketers a splendid opportunity to tap the consumers online and use their marketing monies smartly to spread awareness about the pandemic.

And a number of brands have brilliantly succeeded in doing so already. Audi recently shared its emblem as four separate circles on Instagram, Dettol managed to make viral a handwash jingle on TikTok, and Domino’s, in a very quick reaction to the pandemic, made some changes on its app and announced contactless delivery.

DViO Digital founder and CEO Sowmya Iyer says, “For Gaana, we did a 20-sec hand wash activity, where we gave the audience phrases to sing for 20 secs to know they have washed hands for 20 secs.”

Speaking about the responsibility that the brands and marketers shoulder these days, Logicserve Digital founder and CEO Prasad Shejale says, “Considering the severity of the pandemic, it is the responsibility of brands as well as creators too, to contribute towards raising awareness during such times and help share the right information with audiences. Focus on educating, entertaining (since everyone is working from home and spending a considerable amount of time to consume good content) and empowering the consumer. In case you are in a position to offer a solution for this, that can definitely earn you brand equity in a legit way.”

Germin8 Solutions CEO and founder Ranjit Nair adds that brands should show their human side and demonstrate that they stand should-to-shoulder with everyone. "They should show that they care about keeping their employees safe. That they are committed to ensuring that essential supplies get to people who need it. They should be calm and reassuring in their tone and try to be genuinely helpful.”

Scenic Communications co-founder Anindita Gupta notes that there has been a lot of conversation around how we can be safe, the precautionary measures one should take to avoid the disease and how businesses are being affected, but there has not been much conversation around how to cope up after the disease subsides. "Brands should utilise networking platforms to connect with their various stakeholders and make them aware of how they are planning to cope with the situation after the pandemic and subsequent lockdown subsides. Brands can have webinars and virtual panel discussions to drive home meaningful conversations around the topic.”

Information is a critical piece that needs to be filled in by trustworthy sources. Triton Communications Executive Director Virendra Saini says, “Brands need to express concern and be there for people. They could make a chatbot available and ready to answer any questions people may have regarding the virus. Even if it does the simple task of redirecting people to relevant sites, it would help a lot. Brands can also amplify messages of precautions from WHO and national authorities in an interesting manner that makes consumers take notice and act. Alternatively, they can help people do something meaningful with their time during the lockdown.”

Iyer says, “Brands should keep their advertisements and messaging relevant to the current situation to include various social distancing protocols as well as precautionary and proper hygiene measures. Real-time tracking technologies can also map the rapid spread of the disease, to keep the population apprised of the rapidly increasing threat. We are also seeing chatbots being deployed by the government and brands to clear queries and conduct an analysis of their symptoms to determine the risk factor."

Taproot Dentsu strategy head Anand Murty, however, notes that brands need to be really careful with what they put out as this isn’t a situation for brands or agencies to peddle products or indulge in tokenism.

He says, “If, however, a corporate entity has the tech or other capability to genuinely contribute towards urgent requirements in times of a crisis - it ought to do so, by leaving brand associations behind. The best work brands and agencies can do at this time is to stand solidly behind their employees, encourage them to heed the advice of scientists and government directives and wait for the storm to pass.”

Elaborating more on the same, Mirum India joint CEO Sanjay Mehta shares, “Not all communications that a brand does is marketing communication, and sometimes, the need is to do communication of empathy. If the business has a direct relevance to the times, e.g. healthcare brands, or food delivery brands, or retailers selling essential supplies, etc., there is a strong need to convey how their services are being offered, what care they have taken to ensure that they are not contributing to any spread of the virus, etc.”

He continues, “For other brands, it may be a good time to still convey a message of concern for their customers and some message around safety and health. If brands are doing interesting things coping at this time, whether for their employees or for other stakeholders, including partners, vendors, shareholders, customers, etc., they can convey what they are doing, for purpose of inspiration and also as a matter of reassurance to all stakeholders. Finally if one is in tech space, one can also evolve unique solutions that work during this period.”

There are brands and agencies who are taking a more holistic and creative approach, not just to interact with consumers but also their own employees.

Metro Brands VP marketing and e-commerce Alisha Malik says, “To help our customers deal with the current stressful times, we are planning on various digital strategies, that will not only help us engage with our customers but also motivate them and spread positivity. We are exploring relevant content that can help educate and spread awareness about, staying indoors or adhering to social distancing as well as content that encourages them to constructively spend their time at home in a qualitative manner.”

Supari Studios CBO Shirley D’Costa highlights, “At a time like this, be it a brand or any entity, it is absolutely critical that your human side comes to the fore: what are your values, your beliefs, and what do you truly stand for.  On that front, brands need to put out any messaging that only helps address concerns, assuage anxiety or adds to people’s general well being - be it through tips, help lists, etc. If not relevant and useful in these times, if it isn’t actually helping anybody, don’t do it. At Supari Studios, we strongly believe that the coming months are not just going to be about business as usual, but about business (with a lot of heart) as usual.”

Healthcare startup 23BMI co-founder and CEO Kuonal Lakhapati shares that the company has been sharing a lot of immune-boosting recipes on its social media channel. "We have been actively writing blogs mentioning precautionary measures against COVID-19 and sharing interesting nutritional knowledge to keep the health intact in the time of distress.”

The Mavericks digital specialist Archit Agarwal reveals that they are using digital platforms to celebrate their team members, who are now working anywhere between twelve and fifteen hours. “We in fact started an Instagram handle for our company just to engage with our team members and create content about and for them so that they share it on stories which we have found to be a point of motivation during this lockdown period.”

GenY Labs Pvt Ltd co-founder and CEO Ravi Jain notes that they are enabling brands in India and overseas to help them make a meaningful difference during the hour of crisis.

“Case in point is how GenY Medium is helping a chain of diabetes care in Canada and inform its consumers of ways to prepare better for Covid-19 since they are more vulnerable. For a leading organic foods brand, GenY has created a series of videos showcasing #CoronaWarriors, to encourage people to help those in need,” he concludes.

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