By Vineet Singh
As COVID-19 slowly takes over every aspect of our lives and social distancing becomes the new normal, it has also changed consumer behavior and the way brands market their products. While some brands went quiet, others have decided to switch it up. Brands now have the opportunity to create solutions that promote social interaction online, and get creative while reaching out to their target audience.
Though the intent of marketing stays the same – attracting the audience’s attention, to sell your product, the time for improvisation has come. Earlier, marketers had a wide range of tools and tactics at their disposal to promote or sell businesses. However, as the current pandemic continues to disrupt every industry, two primary areas of change are seen in consumer behavior and impact on individual industries (from supply chain to point of sale). This means that brands need to adopt a different approach of marketing their products to their customers. It’s important to note that your customers have now moved indoors and so should your marketing tactics. Today digital marketing is the most suitable form of marketing and social media marketing perhaps is the best way to ensure a strong digital presence for your brand.
In the quest to kill time, seek information, and calm themselves, more and more people are turning to online content. In fact, a report by Facebook revealed that there’s been about a 70% increase in time spent on the application in Italy. To stay relevant and authentic, organisations cannot ignore social networking platforms and the value these bring to the business. Leveraging social media for business will not only lead to a long-lasting relationship with customers but will also create steady growth in the market. Pandemic or not, it is important that the marketer is able to create a demand. It is crucial that brands and marketers focus on the larger picture, and explore the possibilities offered by going digital.
To be heard, the messaging should be motivated by a genuine desire to improve your customers’ life. Craft a message that is sensitive to the current situation, takes into account your customers’ new situations and concerns, and is honest, transparent, and human. For example, shortly after Americans were asked to stay home, Nike came out with an advertisement motivating people to stay indoors – Play inside, play for the world. Communicating via ad-campaigns that the brand cares about its customers and will go above and beyond to fulfil their needs, is a good way of staying relevant during these times. Video streaming platform Netflix, online food delivery aggregator Zomato, Hindustan Unilever’s Lifebuoy and Amul have leveraged public service messaging in their campaigns.
Establishing a connection with the consumers today, will ensure brand loyalty. Creating deep, consistent relationships with your core customers will give your business a definite competitive edge as well as improve your bottom line. There are many innovative ways to achieve this emotional connection—however storytelling is one of the strongest marketing tools for communicating the brand message, and evoking emotions. In the current situation, it will help create a stronger bond between the consumer and the brand. For example, when Doordarshan announced rerun of old show Ramayana, Amul began running its old ads, in keeping with the original date of broadcast of the shows (Ramayana and Mahabharata). This was a masterstroke from Amul as it invoked nostalgia in the audience, while Amul stayed modern and contemporary by re-using old advertisements. They managed to grab the spotlight even as other brands were struggling to shake off the shadow of the virus.
Social media is a great avenue for effective storytelling, as showcased time and again by brands like Airbnb whose entire Instagram feed instantly captures audience attention. While social media can be a powerful medium, at the end of the day the chosen platform should resonate with your core audience, as the main objective is to increase brand awareness and reach out to a greater number of consumers. Another great example of the art of storytelling was showcased by Converse with its #CreateAtHome campaign on social media. Converse encouraged people to dance, paint, skate, animate, or create, and showcasing upcoming talent on their Instagram, Twitter and TikTok handles to tell the Converse story.
Digital marketing can act as a long term investment, if companies are smart and creative with their messaging. Once this is all over and the world returns to normal, digital marketing will still work as a powerful tool to connect with your audience.
The author is group CMO, Embassy Group