With the pandemic becoming a part of our life for the long run, marketers are rethinking conventional medium while preparing for the new normal
By Pushp Raj Singh
There might be very few aspects of human life and businesses that have remained unaffected by the COVID 19 crisis. As a result, almost everything is being looked at with a new lens. It has been a common understanding that at the time of crisis, marketing needs to be the strongest. With the pandemic becoming a part of our life for the long run, the marketing leaders across brands are rethinking conventional medium while preparing for the new normal. The question arises, what’s changing?
The transitions in traditional ad space
The pandemic has accelerated changes which were on the cards, but would have taken a few decades to realise. One of the biggest changes that has emerged is that the pandemic has shrunk advertising avenues in conventional media. The events segment as well as the travel and hospitality industry had almost closed, therefore affecting physical event marketing severely. The cancellation of events and outdoor activities have had moderate to severe impacts on various ad spaces. With very few people venturing out, the attractiveness of billboards, hoardings, banners, etc, have taken a hit.
Reports suggested that advertisement bookings on television got halved in April, especially with production work halted. However, the slowing trend has been mostly for the private channels, as for public channels like Doordarshan are attracting revenues by becoming the most watched channel in India. During the lockdown as we move through the various unlock phases, the ad space in the print stands affected and is dealing with uncertain times, although the space is expected to recover amidst unlock. As India unlocks further, the conventional ad avenues are expected to open in the second half of the year.
Where’s the action?
Meanwhile another space is showing a staggering growth. The transition to digital space has received a strong push. Suddenly, brands have become hyperactive in leveraging a host of digital platforms.
As per Statista, a whopping 4.57 billion people were using the Internet in April 2020 which is 59% of the world population. Similarly, as per the latest estimates, around 34% of Indians use the Internet, which translates into over 480 million users. It is estimated that the Internet usage has increased by 47% in the world in the first quarter of 2020. So clearly, brands find their audience in the digital universe.
Moreover, physical distancing has forced the world population to go digital in order to avoid crowding. The impact has been limitless, with offices transitioning to work from home culture in a matter of days to weeks and major sectors, such as education, going online. Not only have these developments added more audience for brands in the digital space but they also have enabled brands to really target the various consumer segments effectively.
Just like the B2C space, the marketing landscape of B2B marketing has equally changed. A series of virtual training programs, meetings, webinars, online conferences, virtual events, media and audience engagements, activities, and competitions have surfaced in the past few months. Brands are trying their best to connect with their stakeholders regularly and affirm brand recall, to communicate their core values and extend support, to understand the need gap of their influencers and key partners, and to innovate solutions for filling the gaps.
The right messaging
Communication is vital here. With the crisis continuing, brands need to understand that a single wrong message may have dire consequences. On the contrary, the right messaging can simply go viral and foster brand image. At the time of crisis, it is critical for brands to communicate sensitively and carefully and build in inclusivity in its messaging. It is important that the heroes working on the ground, the common construction worker to driver, are highlighted and the messaging remains positive.
Crisis provides an opportunity to showcase what the brand actually stands for. It is during the crisis that the right marketing message can convey brand values better. JK Super Cement’s recent campaign, #YehPuccaHai evaluated critical sensitivities to communicate the strength and determination of the brand which is reflective upon the strong resolve of construction workers, truck drivers, and several key stakeholders.
In a crisis, brands need to build empathy in their communication for one and all. This is the right time for a brand to talk about others and not about oneself. It is equally important to find the right resonance of brand values across its stakeholders, consumers, or business partners. Most importantly, it is crucial to have a stance expressing unity and support, exhibiting the right intent, safeguarding health, and/or delivering solutions amidst crisis.
Leveraging diverse platforms
By undertaking digital as central to the COVID 19 era marketing strategy, brands have opened themselves to a host of platforms, tools, and communication channels. The new normal of marketing would include brands having wider reach across digital mediums and stronger targeting. Today, brands are mastering working on numerous platforms from messaging apps, social media sites, advertisement and search engine tools, to influencer marketing and so on.
Digital technology has immense potential for creativity and innovation in messaging formats and communication. The list is limitless and evolving, such as using matrix of videos; online games; competitions and virtual challenges; user driven activity; leveraging audio capabilities such as creating a ringtone, leveraging animation and graphic such as gifs, cartoons, stories; conducting surveys, and last but not the least utilising the myriad of social media platforms and channels.
The fundamentals of marketing would largely remain intact even in the COVID era. What is going to change rapidly in the new normal is the way we communicate amidst the largest crisis that we have seen in the modern times.
The author is president marketing, JK Cement Ltd. (Grey Cement Business)