How brands have changed their communication after the lockdown
November 29, 2020 10:48 AM
The only mantra is to stay abreast with the changing behaviour, not to lose the emotional connect, and realign the delivery and creation of the content
This is the time when brands need to move beyond storytelling, put action behind the words, and create powerful campaigns more than ever before
By Ranjeet Kumar
Ever since the Coronavirus breakout, there have been multiple speculations about its impacts on our lives in general and businesses in particular. And what we started witnessing right from the day the country-wide lockdown was announced, around seven months post that we already know that the world is not the same and so aren’t the businesses and their marketing and communication strategies.
The unprecedented crisis which went way beyond reimagining the global healthcare ecosystem led to industry wide disruption. While businesses have been struggling through and overcoming various kinds of risks, the biggest of all has been the reputation risk. Brand loyalty was no longer an option in the restricted environment and consumers were forced to try something new. Also, customer expectations changed from their favourite brands. The focus shifted from product-centric and usual conversations to getting communication that gave them comforting messages.
Knowing that they had to rear off the already-in-place plans for the entire year ahead, lockdown made the situation look grim for businesses at first. Due to the sudden shift of the marketplace to the confines of consumers’ homes, many of the brands went dark either to figure out how to tackle the situation or to observe what was in store ahead. But the crisis also brought an opportunity to make a disproportionate impact on the consumers’ rights when other brands went into silos and a few were still waking up to the new normal in advertising and brand communication.
Brands started by pulling off the ads with the crowd, physical proximity, and outdoor expeditions. Empty streets, people working from home, and the current state of confinement and isolation became the nucleus of spreading message and resonating with what the consumers were going through. Understanding the fatigue and cognitive load their consumers were struggling with, most of the brands changed the way they were communicating with their audiences. It was the time when people started looking for empathy of brands, seeking a sense that brands are standing beside them.
Suddenly there was a redefinition of ROI from ‘Return On Investment’ to ‘Return On Integrity’. The communication now changed from highlighting the USPs to touching human emotions through generosity, positivity, and a sense of belonging. For instance, there were ads that told us how to wash the hands properly while another one brought awareness about water consumption as the frequency of washing hands increased. Some of the brands went out of their way to provide masks, distribute hand sanitizers and gave their facilities for isolation centres. These are communication people were looking for and the ones that they will remember for a long time.
Post lockdown, the content consumption sky-rocketed as the pace of digital adoption got acceleration from the limitations imposed by the lockdown. And brands adjusted their communication to resonate with their customers’ emotions and psychological state. They started creating contextual messages to reach the right audience, the audience that no longer wants the products but wants to see the solution a product/service was offering for the problems they are facing.
Initially, consumers wanted brands and advertisers to understand and recognize that we were all going through a crisis. They wanted to see how they are going to help them through the crisis. However, the new tone and messaging couldn’t stay the same for long since the consumer behaviour remained unpredictable. After the initial announcement and precautionary ads, brands then moved on to bring some entertainment to people who have been locked inside their home for the longest time known. People started looking for an escape from the monotony and wanted positivity and heart-lightening content. Hereon, the ads started getting a touch of humour, campaigns became entertainment-focused, yet the emotional connect was never lost.
Data and personalization became all the more relevant, and brands started leveraging the trust and engagement that micro-influencers had with them. Moreover, the consumers became more focused on the brand’s storytelling and as they started consuming more media, they are now looking for information, facts, or entertainment.
So, brands at this point should make truthful, upfront, and well-educated communication with their audience. The focus should be on targeting the ‘Moments of next’ instead of the ‘Moments of Interruption’. This is the time when brands need to move beyond storytelling, put action behind the words, and create powerful campaigns more than ever before. The only mantra is to stay abreast with the changing behaviour, not to lose the emotional connect, and realign the delivery and creation of the content. Brands should aim to bring an interlock between listening and understanding to deliver a 360-degree view of the brand value they are bringing in not only for the consumer but also to the world at large.
After months into the pandemic, one thing is clear: the rules that the industry has lived by for years will not apply any longer. The new-age consumers now believe in brand democracy more than brand loyalty. By buying a particular brand they show their vote of trust in them. As we stand months past lockdown, the brand communication strategy is all the more crucial today. It will not only impact the way they will sail through the pandemic but also how it will also set them apart when all of this will be over.