How should brands behave in the post-pandemic world
December 11, 2020 6:57 AM
Brands in the new age may well have to reveal more of their inner motivations than they did in the past
Today, every piece of brand communication is actually a piece of corporate communication in disguise
By Agnello Dias
Somewhere at the peak of the lockdown, I remember reading a slogan that said: ‘Notice how the economy has slumped because we’re buying only what we need?’ It’s a populist statement that seeks to make a distinction between ‘need’ and ‘want’. What we need drives human existence; but what we want, I daresay, drives human progress.
To want more than what one needs has powered almost every forward step we have taken as a species. And as the economy hobbles gingerly back to some semblance of normalcy, it is now undeniably evident that the yawning fiscal chasm staring us is driven by one single factor: the lack of demand.
In such a scenario, it’s only natural that the spotlight should fall on what has been the engine of the demand generation machine for so many years now. Brands and brand creators. So how, if at all, should brands behave in what will now forever be referred to as the post-pandemic era?
Let’s look at the biggest change in the collective psyche of the human race in the last 10 years. In a decade that has seen the entire world submerge itself in a sea of hyper-connectedness, the search for real has turned into marketing kryptonite.
Keep it real
Almost every creative meeting with any advertiser these days, whether it’s an initial briefing or a pre-production meeting for a film, ends with this blanket, all-encompassing template statement: “But please keep it all very real.” Find real people who look good, write real stories that sound interesting, and craft real dialogues that sound nice.
In fact, the quest for real had started several years before the pandemic and the lockdown. A far cry from the escapist, frothy world of the ‘90s, where unreal and aspirational were two sides of the same pie chart.
It has reached a point where consumers may have differing views about what they want their brand to be, but they’re pretty unequivocal about what they DON’T want a brand to be. Don’t be pretentious, they all seem to be saying. Don’t pretend you’re not here to sell me something when we all know you are. In fact, say it upfront and I may well buy into you. In fact, no brand image is better than a fake, pretentious brand image.
This is getting increasingly underlined because we are living in times when there is no real separation between the corporate and the brand. Gone are the days when consumers lapped up brands, ignorant of the corporations behind them. Today, every piece of brand communication is actually a piece of corporate communication in disguise.
So, brands in the new age may well have to reveal more of their inner motivations than they did in the past. They may have to expose their vulnerabilities. Perhaps, even be blunt and upfront about their business purpose and communicate in a manner that does not seem hypocritical. And mind you, blatantly going out there and peddling your product may in fact be more honest than a brand that claims to be in the business of greater common good. In other words, unreal perfection is out; flawed reality is acceptable.
So being unpretentious, honest, blunt and, perhaps, even acknowledging their failings is what may bode well for brands in a post-pandemic world.
The world is just about coming through a crisis that is unprecedented in human history. There is enough introspection that is going on already. So, instead of climbing on a high horse and telling people what to do, perhaps it makes sense as brands to go back to basics and tell consumers what we do.
The brands that get that right will own tomorrow.
The author is creative chairman, India, dentsu, and co-founder and CCO, Taproot Dentsu