Wunderman Thompson’s Tarun Rai on the relationship between brands and agencies in the times of Covid-19

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Published: May 18, 2020 10:05:07 AM

Rai talks about why in pandemic it is more important than ever to keep the conversation with consumers on-going

Tarun Rai, chairman and group CEO, Wunderman Thompson South AsiaTarun Rai, chairman and group CEO, Wunderman Thompson South Asia

At a time when the world is battling a pandemic like Covid-19, communication needs to be crafted carefully by brands. There resides a chance of either too less talking or more. It is here that agencies play a significant role in hand-holding and telling brands the dos and don’ts of communication. In a candid chat with BrandWagon Online, Tarun Rai, chairman and group CEO, Wunderman Thompson South Asia, talks about the journey that brands and agencies need to embark upon to walk through such difficult times. (Edited excerpts)

On the art of maintaining a relationship in a turbulent environment – brands and agencies

We are facing an unprecedented crisis. Businesses and brands are facing huge challenges. But we must not forget that consumers are equally if not more, challenged. This is certainly not the time for brands to desert their consumers. This is the time for brands to keep the conversation going with their consumers, to stay alive in their minds and offer solutions to them if they can. People will remember the brands that partnered them through this crisis and it will help cement their relationship in the post-COVID world.

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

Brands can’t assume that it is business – or in this case, communication – as usual. Brands need to be particularly careful of being empathetic and authentic. Brands must be seen to be ‘doing’ things to either directly help their consumers (making their brands available despite the lockdown through e-commerce, home delivery etc.), or directly help in solving the broader COVID issues (changing production lines to produce sanitisers, face masks, etc.) or promote and push important health and hygiene messages. And in all of this, brands need to be ‘authentic’. They cannot be seen as opportunistic. They need to be seen as ‘responsible’.

On the periodicity of the conversation

It depends on the category and what the brand is trying to communicate. Brands can’t afford to go silent. But, as discussed above, they need to be authentic and have something worthwhile to communicate during the crisis. And clients and brands must remember that the crisis will get over and consumers will remember the brands that didn’t abandon them.

On the role agencies play in the life of brands and advertisers

This may be an unprecedented crisis but it is not the first that the world has seen and will not be the last. So, like with the other crises, this too shall pass. The task for agencies is to help our clients and their brands navigate through the current crisis and more importantly be ready for the post-crisis world. The crisis may have affected all the brands of a particular category in the same way. The difference between brands will become evident once the crisis is over. The ‘bounce-back velocity’ of brands will be the differential in the post-COVID world. As our clients’ partners we can help improve their brands bounce-back velocity which will lead to market share gains on the other side of the crisis.

On the mantra that agencies and advertisers should follow to beat the Covid-19 blues

We have to stay positive. We have to navigate the short-term turbulence but stay focussed on our long-term destination. We can’t let the short- term dictate the long term vision of brands and business.

Read Also: BBDO India’s Josy Paul on the art of communication brands and agencies need to follow

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