People have begun to live differently, purchase differently, and, in many ways, think differently since the emergence of Covid-19. This pandemic has everyone going through a reboot. While some changes may be only for the time being, this reboot is likely to enforce a permanent paradigm-shift to the existing structure of society and economy. It should be kept in mind that some things will never be the same again and this new normal will be 'never normal'.
Consumers all over the world are now viewing brands through a new lens and according to a number of studies, new consumer behaviours formed during the pandemic will last far beyond the global crisis.
The way brands respond to the many crises they are facing at present because of the pandemic will shape the perception of the consumers about them in the future, and so they must prepare to emerge stronger than before. It is high time brands recognised this as a new reality and chalk out a thoughtful navigation plan to add value to the consumer's lives.
We already know that many brands are no strangers to crisis management. However, most of these crisis response strategies that worked flawlessly prior to the pandemic have now proven to be obsolete, and even the most agile advertisers, who are accustomed to rapidly evolving their branding strategies and quickly adapting real-time advertising tools, are frequently found unprepared to face the unprecedented changes brought about by the ongoing pandemic.
Many have responded with tailored approaches in order to give target customers reason to believe that brands will work together to overcome this crisis and move forward. However, it is understandable that in times of crisis, most brands may find it difficult to find where to begin.
This begs the question, what steps can brands take to serve and grow their customer base, mitigate risks, and improve sustainability during these chaotic hours?
First and foremost, brands must remember that Covid-19 is not a marketing opportunity to be exploited. This is simply not the time to increase sales or focus solely on profit. Offering products/services at a reduced price will work better and can be viewed as an empathetic gesture.
Secondly, brands should identify their impacts on societal aspects and design their strategy in a manner that helps customers the most in this crisis. While doing so, they also need to double-check that their communication is clear, relevant, and culture-sensitive.
Hence, brands should adjust their activities as per the present context and avoid being sarcastic or cynical. Nike, for example, immediately moved to adopt a new message: "Play inside, play for the world." This should be done because feel-good content that alleviates anxiety and promotes a positive message will help to improve a brand's image in the long run.
Finally, brands must strive to make better use of communication channels such as email, SMS, website, social media, and in-app push notifications. This will allow brands to better respond to their customers' concerns, questions, and complaints.
That being said, it is necessary to acknowledge that in such uncertain times, it is better to keep your brand strategy open to constant improvement based on new opportunities, challenges, and information rather than taking a given set of instructions as gospel and not moving forward from them with time.
Sabbir Rahman Khan is a Knowledge Management, Communications and Advocacy Professional.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.