PepsiCo India’s Tarun Bhagat on the marketing strategy which brands need to follow in the time of Covid-19

Why brands need to promote hope, fun and trust in their communication

Tarun Bhagat, director-marketing, Hydration and Cola, PepsiCo India
Tarun Bhagat, director-marketing, Hydration and Cola, PepsiCo India

At a time when everyone is trying to look beyond the pandemic called Covid-19, communication needs to be crafted carefully by brands. From creating awareness to showing empathy – are some of the ways brands can remain relevant. Tarun Bhagat, director-marketing, Hydration and Cola, PepsiCo India talks about how brands can remain pertinent in the time of Covid-19. (Edited excerpts)

On what is the marketing strategy brands should follow to remain relevant

The Covid-19 health challenge is making both consumers and brands face a new reality. The world as we know is going through a shift with new behaviours emerging. In this scenario, brands have to re-think and re-evaluate their strategy to adapt to this dynamic environment. 

We conducted research on the shift in consumption behaviours during this period and three main pillars emerged, that is now a core to our marketing strategy– ‘Hope, trust and fun’. 

  • Hope – This is tied very closely to empathy. Brands need to be empathic and craft messages which are reassuring and relatable to consumers in these unprecedented times. 
  • Trust – With uncertainty all around, today consumers want to reach out to brands whom they can relate to and one that provides them value for money. Now more than ever, consumers need to see brands walk the talk in everything they do – whether it is the core product promise or leading a cause to support communities. 
  • Fun – Today brands that can present an opportunity for consumers to express themselves in a fun manner are the ones that will emerge as winners. Consumers are working twice as hard, donning multiple hats and with sources of entertainment and recreation being limited, a brand can be an enabler to give them that opportunity to engage and feel creative. 

On the dos and don’ts brands need to follow when communicating with consumers

There are three key things which brands need to be mindful of while communicating with consumers. 

  • Be consumer-centric – It is crucial to be aware and thoughtful of what consumers need today and therefore continues to innovate your brand offering to meet that requirement. In terms of communication, brands need to empathize with their audiences and uplift their spirits to start with. They need to communicate in a simple yet relatable manner. 
  • Build trust – These are times that call for sensitivity and brands will need to tread a fine line between over- and under-playing their roles in consumer lives and communicate mindfully. As consumers look towards brands for information and solutions, brands need to be more responsible. 
  • Go innovative and digital – While digital has been growing over the last few years, there has been newfound appreciation for the medium by consumers recently. While all other platforms will have a role to play, digital has grown tremendously as people settle for the new normal. Brands will need to prioritize not just digital marketing, but also the content that they market on these platforms. Pure play advertising will not be as effective anymore and brands will need to create content which will allow their consumers to engage and interact with them. 

 On the periodicity of the conversation

In the current scenario, it is important for brands to remain frequently connected with consumers in a meaningful way. Brands need to evaluate how to stay relevant without being too promotional. At the same time, sensitivity in their messaging needs to be maintained consistently through timely campaigns.

On how to maintain trust with consumers

Maintaining consumer connect and building loyalty in these challenging times should be of utmost priority for brands. Brands will have to shift marketing focus to what is going to be the new normal and by crafting messages that are empathetic, informative and value-oriented. 


On looking after employees as they are also representatives of the brand 

Companies are actively stepping up for their employees in this time, be it taking simple preventive measures like sanitizing the workspace, implementing a work-from-home strategy, or updating their sick leave policy, or finding creative ways for boosting morale. Brands should be proactive in communicating care, concern, and commitment to the safety of their employees. 

On communicating with consumers post Covid-19

Consumption patterns have been disrupted since the onset of the pandemic. Like brands, consumers are also facing the challenge of having to quickly learn new ways to operate. Communicating with the consumer is key and it is crucial for brands to empathize and emerge as partners that care for their needs. 

As brands, we need to follow the behavioural shift amongst consumers and communicate in the way they want to consume information, through a right platform and with messaging that is value-oriented, educational and compassionate. With content consumption at an all-time high on social media, online platforms have become an important tool in the marketing mix to engage with consumers.

Read Also: MullenLowe Lintas Group’s Amer Jaleel on the relationship between brands and agencies during Covid-19

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