As the global pandemic grips the world, we are all facing new challenges and opportunities at work, and on the social front. We at ad:tech spoke with multiple brands to hear how they are working through these challenges and also using to rework their Brand Purpose. Each person answered two questions for us:

Marketing in the age of uncertainity

  • What strategies are you using to enable business in the current scenario?
  • What do you think is the role of brands towards larger society in times of a global pandemic?

Ipshita Chowdhury

Director Marketing

As marketers, we need to ensure we fully support and stand by our colleagues in the frontline of the organisation. We have enabled that via our business continuity planning and regular check-ins and virtual reviews. We are all in this together, including our business partners, we are touching base with them regularly as well. We have also connected with our agency partners and are reviewing work virtually and via calls. I think, such scenarios only bring out our innate creative behaviours and abilities to innovate. As a responsible brand, for our end consumers, we will continue to be accessible for all their needs via our online and offline presence and our channels of communication and feedback are working as usual.

I also think brands certainly need to manifest themselves with a larger purpose and sense of responsibility especially in times such as these. And not add to the panic in any manner. Consumers do look up to trusted brands, even more, now. This is the time to display empathy and sensitivity via all channels of communication. Digital can play a big role towards this with extremely responsible use of social media, towards allaying fears and promoting authenticity.

Elizabeth Venkataraman

Senior EVP & Head of Marketing

We are asking customers to bank from home and stay safe. We are encouraging customers to use digital banking for their everyday needs like shopping, payments etc. We are giving them videos incase they are new to digital on most common tasks to make their lives simple. Many customer meetings are happening on calls, video calls.

Brands today can create awareness and influence behaviour with mass messaging so it is our responsibility to nudge the right behaviour within our product or service and protect the interests of the customer always.

Sunil Kamath

Chief Business Officer

At a time when the entire world is battling the pandemic situation owing to coronavirus (Covid-19), brands need to be more careful about their communication on the crisis. Every brand needs to ensure that the right information is passed onto the customers and not participate in unnecessary conversation that may fuel up the panic situation.

Brands should own up the responsibility of demystifying myth vs reality and connect with every Indian, breaking the geographical and language barriers, to increase awareness around the virus.

Business can wait, and it's time for us to give back to the society and the people who have been the greatest asset of every brand.

Viral Oza

CMO

The purchase of a home is a big, important decision for every consumer. Hence, we are focused on helping them navigate this purchase journey in the most convenient and safe manner. This means looking at the entire purchase journey and evaluating each stage from their perspective and taking the necessary steps to ensure their and our teams safety with minimal compromise on the quality of the experience for our consumers.

In times like today, brands should just go out there and do what they believe is needed to help people stay safe or know they are safe (e.g. testing). If the actions happen to be in line with what the brand stands for, then that's a bonus. Because consumers will appreciate the actions brands take for them and not whether there is a fit with the brand values or proposition! This is the time for a brand to prioritise the wellbeing of people at large and use its capabilities and expertise to ensure the same. That is all that matters!

Ashish Tiwari

SVP - Marketing & Digital

We have kicked off a detailed BCP plan which enables employees working from home, office apps being made available over VPN and ensuring key resources are spread across to address any eventuality arising out. Our work premises is getting sanitised at periodic intervals and everyone entering is checked for any signs of fever/cough.

Brands in these times need to stand to support the society. These moments demands going beyond balance sheet and act like a true member of society, delivering and living brand promise for society & not only for paying customers.

For example, we at Future Generali India Life insurance kickstarted a campaign to enable consumers have verified information for protection & prevention of themselves and their loved ones. Below are some measures which we have taken to combat myths & help provide verified information to people

Help Line for Customers (7am to 9pm): Future Generali Coronavirus Medical helpdesk on call to address your concerns and queries with authentic information by qualified medical representatives. The help line number is 022-6836 6581 / 82

WhatsApp Chatbot (24/7): Interactive Whatsapp chatbot to address frequently asked questions. The Whatsapp number is +91 81081 98633

Live sessions with experts: We recently conducted a live Facebook session with senior medical consultant from Nanavati hospital, Mumbai. More to follow.

Chirag Taneja

COO

Uncertainties like the Coronavirus are disrupting much of what we know in Marketing, making it imperative for the brand to adapt and experiment. The most important of actions that needs to be taken by any brand is to over communicate and communicate aggressively that they are here, they are viable, and they are ready to deliver. Some ways that a brand can respond are -

Analyzing the nature of the crisis and the responsive consumer behavior to the same - It's important to understand the consumer behavior during this crisis so that the brand can respond and play a unique role in the customer's life, making the brand useful in the hour of the crisis. For E.g. Pushing the skin and bath range at Bombay Shaving Company to help the consumer meet their hygiene needs in the rise of Corona virus. The key is to be seen as a brand that wants to help, and not be seen as an opportunist.

Competition and channel reactions to same - Just like our brand, most competition will also evolve a strategy in times of crisis. It's important to ensure even in times of crisis we can differentiate in terms of communication and respond to channel needs faster and unique ways. For. E.g with complete lock-downs of cities and malls, we change focus from offline offerings to online offerings. We also explore new mediums of online interactions with the customer. With more and more people working from home and spending time online, we find newer avenues to reach out to them.

Do more than just selling - While brands rush to the consumer with the most relevant products and offers, crisis is also a good time to gain brand equity. Brands need to humanize themselves in the hour of crisis, share relevant and necessary information, help avoid panic. Brand need to be seen as a support than just taking advantage of a crisis.

Searching for new target segments during a crisis - Crisis like COVID19 have induced a more hygienic way of living. Consumers are now making lifestyle changes. A segment which was not responding to our products earlier may start responding now. Thus important to search for new segments and remarket to segments which did not work earlier.

Shweta Srivastava

Head of Digital

Never has the marketer's job been so difficult, what it is today!

Two way communication, Demanding consumers, Conversational content, Real Time evaluation and tons of data points, they are sufficient to complicate the planning and delivery.

Marketers suffer from analysis paralysis, making them take less risks and mindful steps. Customers are the king today with more exposure and amalgamated experience of screens or touch points. To enable businesses in the current scenario, Digital is the only way to go. With its intrinsic nature of 'Driven by Data', it allows 'Marketers the Power' and 'Marketing the Relevancy' at scale. And that is what we are adopting as well to make our Brand more relevant to the customers/Consumers.

In the times of global crisis due to recent pandemic, Brands need to be more responsible in their communication and messaging. Virtual interfaces and Digital connect leveraging technology needs to be adopted by the giants to make sure it gets cultivated to aspiring brands and consumers.

Karan Kumar

CMO

Meaningful customer engagement is a constant that needs to be driven through all times, this depressed ones notwithstanding. That said and given the imperatives of these times where social distancing is being highly recommended, brands should proactively minimize opportunities for physical engagement in the context of experiential marketing and instead use technology based alternatives that could be most suitable. Second, depending on the context and industry of operation, brands should focus more on messages that are reassuring, bring out the proverbial silver lining and go some distance in allaying common anxieties. Examples of this could be of brands operating in the banking and financial investments space who could proactively reach out and reassure customers and investors about the safety of their liquid assets and investments through other financial instruments.

In troubled times, a brand's role is to spread reasonable cheer and content that is objective, informative and relevant to the living context. Instead of fishing in troubled waters and attempting to profit in the short term, brands need play their part in allaying anxiety and instead, driving messages of hope and positivism. Responsible brands and depending on the categories they operate in should come out with messages that are both objective in intent and informative in content. Such messages will discourage and counter consumer behaviour which in such times is more driven by fear and anxiety, which is fuelled by stakeholders that often have mischievous intent and spread misinformation.

Virginia Sharma

Director Marketing Solutions

We at LinkedIn believe in the power of our networks and communities and that is what is guiding our approach to managing this crisis as well. We've moved quickly to use our platform to bring trusted news and facts to members, like broadcasting WHO updates live daily; we've scaled our events platforms to enable companies to reach audiences virtually; and we've unlocked several learning courses and resources that help professionals be productive and successful. While the distractions are real, supporting our members and customers is one of the most important things we can do right now and that remains our focus.

Puneet Das

VP - Marketing

In order to enable business to sustain, we are ensuring adequate supply of stocks especially at traditional trade level which can feel the maximum impact. We are also, re-deploying investments on activities such as on-ground activations which involves direct consumer interactions in public places.

Due to restricted travel/avoidance of public places, consumer ordering of 'online grocery' can go up during this time. Hence, ensuring availability of the right portfolio mix in these on-line channels. In these times, brands need to work towards easing consumers concerns during such times, adapt to changing consumer behavior, and displaying the right balance between driving consumer engagement vs. commercial interests.

Srikanth Bureddy

Co-Founder & Director

In the current scenario, continuing to take care of its employees and the society at large, Valueleaf Group of Companies has asked its workforce to work from home due to the uncharted breakout of COVID -19. Measures have been taken to ensure every employee is productive during this period by making work a priority, above all else. We have held back any new initiatives for the time being. Day to day consistency in work being done remotely is the key to balance the business performance. We've focussed all our energies on the on-going tasks to ensure our businesses survive in the current situation. We also need to understand that Brands bring awareness! We see brands in every medium of communication every day. This makes it easier to connect to people for conveying the right message at the right time. Foremost, outweighing such emergency situations with a clear contingency plan towards its employees is the primary aid a brand can leap towards. We look forward to greener footprint whether if it's for big or a small cause adding up to a better future.

Virat Tandon

Group CEO

The important thing for all of us to do is to keep calm and think compassionately about not just our employees, but also the clients and other business partners. Take precautionary measures for all the people in your circle of influence.

Most importantly, how can we help the daily wage earners or the helpers in our circle of influence stay safe and also continue to earn their livelihood. If you have brands that can help in these times, then put your thought and energy into activating ideas that can help the people they serve.

The health and hygiene brands that we work with have a direct role to play in protecting people against the Coronavirus. These brand teams are working 24X7 to create content that can help. We also work with a few consumer tech, e-commerce and foodtech clients and our teams are in touch with them to suggest ways in which we can help consumer and at the same time keep their delivery staff safe.

All brands may not have a role to play. And that’s fine. What we completely want to avoid is any insensitive commercialisation during this situation.

Technology is playing a huge role in helping people deal with these circumstances. I think when we meet on the other side of Coronavirus, we would have learnt a lot of new ways of working and living our lives. That will call for a big reset.

Prashant Verma

VP Marketing

Being an online grocery store, it is our moral responsibility to ensure that our customers get the necessary supply of essential food and household items. We are working hard to ensure safe and hygienic home delivery by thoroughly disinfecting and sanitizing our warehouses and delivery crates along with providing masks and sanitizers for our personnel for their safety as well. To ensure smooth supply, we are working closely with additional manufacturing partners to scale the supply basis demand, while requesting customers to opt for considerate shopping so that shelves remain stocked for everyone.

Anamika Sirohi

VP Marketing

Marketers love to personify brands , putting a lot of thought into the personality and their relationship with consumers.

Well, now’s the time for brands to step up. The word that comes to mind is empathy. This could mean communicating, reassurance or even active help without immediate monetary concern. Byju’s made all classes free for students since schools are closed. The one thing brands should avoid is appearing overzealous and opportunistic. Empathy would help in not crossing that line.

Neena Dasgupta

CEO and Director

These are trying times and at this juncture one wonders how myopic we tend to be. On the other hand, it is a testament to the tenacity of human nature where we shrug everything and continue to build again. Our economic reality is set in the fact that business must now go on for the well-being of people, ensuring that employees are paid, and families are taken care of. Work will hinge on long term goals, effective marketing brought on by slashed marketing budgets and a greater emphasis on productivity. As an opportunity it is a time for companies to forgo short term profits and build for the future while investing in building their brand.

Sumeet Singh

CMO

Marketers are applying extra precaution and it makes sense given the situation across. Consumers are anxious at the moment, and brands are operating in an era where channels like social media can amplify backlash. Overcorrection might not be a good idea but yes being sensitive and cautious definitely is wise. Blindly overly purpose-based messages and advertising is not something I would recommend rather depending upon the vertical / industry I would caution marketers from just turning off all communication and in a sense, leaving consumers with a vacuum around what the brand believes.