How to redefine brand relationships through activations to effectively connect with at-home audiences during pandemic

May 30, 2020 3:09 PM

In the past 60 odd days marketers are scrambling, experimenting, innovating by pivoting a lot of what was planned offline into digital and online efforts

Outdoor media has and will see a burnout in the coming few months.Outdoor media has and will see a burnout in the coming few months.

By Megha H Desai

At the heart of brand activations or experiential marketing at large, the key has always been forging connections between people – bringing together a like-minded community to share a common experience, one the brand represents.

In the past 60 odd days however, marketers are scrambling, experimenting, innovating by pivoting a lot of what was planned offline into digital and online efforts. This requires rethinking and retooling. The question is how can marketers build or engage with their community when the entire community is locked down at home? And do brands need to create a short-term strategy only or is this going to rewire the long-term planning as well?

Go where your audience is

Pokemon Go quickly tweaked its offering during this time to allow its users to play indoor and let gamers complete their game without meeting in person. I believe the brand witnessed a 60-65% jump in consumer spending after this was done! So brands need to figure how to reach their consumers’ homes, devices, profiles. Outdoor media has and will see a burnout in the coming few months.
It is critical therefore, more than ever before, for brands to be inside the content rather than pushing that content from the outside.

The emphasis is more on the message now, less on the medium of delivery

Think about it – all the brands today know exactly where their consumer is. In the house. The ‘Where’ part of the strategy is solved. It’s either the TV, the mobile phone or an in between screen like a desktop or laptop. The priority therefore is what is the message the brands are sending out to their consumers?

I think LVMH was one of the early adopters in this where the brand decided that it was important for them to stand ‘with their community’ during this time and they adapted their production facility to make hand sanitisers for the community at large. Loyalty of their consumers gets cemented with such activities and messaging that implies they are a ‘brand that cares.’

In India, companies like Diageo also committed their facility to make 3 lakh litres of hand sanitizer along with providing health insurance for trade partners making them a company that is thinking beyond immediate profit.

More importantly, the messaging indicates that the brand is a part of the community, and not someone on the outside talking to the community.

Connections, Connections, Connections – whether you are offline or online

The largest sports events, the biggest concerts, conferences, exhibitions – everything is off the table for now. What all these events did was bring human beings together and gave them an opportunity to connect with the brand and connect with each other.

Guess what – consumers are building those connections even now – look at the unprecedented rise of Zoom app downloads – from 10 million daily users to over 200 million! Human beings are social creatures, and everyone is still looking for that connection and that shared experience.

Consumers are building their own communities, even now. We’re seeing it happen around us – Facebook Watch, Houseparty apps, Zoom live sessions and the like. Just as people need to be connected, it’s important for brands to as well by encouraging group experiences and providing additional value in some way.

How does a brand create and how does a brand measure?

There is no denying that given the new work systems, it is harder to develop a full-fledged campaign. Colleagues are in remote places, work hours keep changing with additional house work, morale tends to dip with the looming uncertainty everywhere. One key thing, therefore, is for brands to deliver positive and uplifting tone and messaging.

People are going to be high strung, cautious even in the coming days. Consumers’ buying decisions, patterns will change for the long term so figuring how and when people will behave is a question every marketer needs to keep exploring. Community building will need to happen not just through advertising but through the services and the delight that the brand provides.

On the surface, community-building may seem trickier to measure than traditional ad campaigns. However, sources say metrics like sentiment, earned media and engagement can help marketers gauge consumer response.

Offline activations are about that one day/ few hours that the community comes together to experience something. Before and after is usually an extension of that shared experience. However, the same activity when made digital, needs more consistency rather than a one-off hit. Virality may be easy to achieve but it cannot be an everyday thing. Virality spreads far but not deep.

Brand activations have always focused on building brand loyalty. And that focus should not change even today.

The author is the founder of TABHRASA

Read Also: IAA and Havas India roll out a fundraising campaign for Bengal and Odisha

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