Life – and marketing – beyond the COVID-19 shock
3rd June, 2020

Is COVID-19 here to say? We don’t know the answer, but what we do know is that the initial kneejerk reactions and panic is slowly ebbing. In its place is a realization that we might have to live with the status quo for at least some time to come. Phrases like ‘new normal’ have become commonplace as mindsets shift towards a coping state rather than shock and horror.

Marketing and communication ought to reflect life for it to resonate with the times. We’ve all done our fair share of videos with soft focus stock footage and softer acoustic piano. Now comes the turn of more serious communication.

Going further than ‘we’re here for you’

It does sound good to hear ‘we’re there for you’. But an overdose of feelgood can backfire and blank out all communication. Audiences are prone to becoming immune to the overdose of the so-called grit and fortitude in the face of adversity, the forced smiles, the gentle pats on the shoulder and a tearjerker voiceover throughout.

So how can brands change gears and make their dialogue with audiences more meaningful? Experts have argued that marketers need to go beyond mere lip service and put their money where their mouth is. Since life has turned over a new leaf, is there a way marketers can be helpful in the new scheme of things? Can brands genuinely change themselves and their approach in response to the prevailing situation?

Making a difference on the ground

This is already happening, albeit in small ways. Essential workers enjoy food discounts at restaurants, stores have dedicated ‘elderly’ timings, banks are pitching in with interest holidays and fee waivers. Of course, these impact bottom lines for marketers but leader brands let go of short term gains and focus on building long term equity with their customers.

As always, one size never fits all. Now markets, countries and skies seem to open up – perhaps brands can seize this positive wave and convey optimism in their communication?

From lockdown to slowdown

Brands can also be cognizant of ‘life after COVID-19’ and converse about the post-lockdown scenario. Understandably, the last two months have led to behavioural changes that are bound to stay with us for a while. This will happen alongside the inevitable economic slowdown – and that changes behaviour even further.

In tough times, it’s tougher still to get a share of the wallet. But it gives brands and marketers ample opportunity to communicate with relevance. It means thinking beyond the obvious and looking beyond stock footage/uplifting piano scores. What it calls for is forward-strategizing for a world we’ve never known before. How well we do it determines our success quotient.