As marketers, we need to think like humans and not ‘consumers’: Amitabh Pande, IKEA India

Guest Column: Amitabh Pande, Country Marketing Manager, IKEA India, says brands that ‘show up’ during times of crisis are the ones that ‘stay’ with the people after the crisis

e4m by Amitabh Pande
Updated: May 5, 2020 9:05 AM
Amitabh Pande IKEA

We love jargons, don’t we? And if there is one legacy that the COVID-19 will leave behind it is the normalisation of this phrase ‘new normal’. I suppose it is because the current situation is so NOT normal, that we need a new word to describe it, just so that we are able to deal with it. By calling it, we feel we can control it. When in fact, the reality is anything but.

Just because we have given the situation a new name, does not mean that the ‘VUCA’ associated with it is gone away. And this is why I feel the ‘new normal’ is a highly exaggerated phrase. It assumes that the last few years have been normal. The fall of liberalism, the rise of the right-wing, the migrant situation, the rise of world temperature, the CAA protests, the slowing of the economy, the anti-globalisation world… What has been normal about the last decade or so, anyway? COVID-19 is then, just another dramatic episode in the life of the many people across the world. Perhaps, the one thing that is unique is that it’s happening all across the world and affecting everyone personally at the same time. And maybe that’s why it’s 'hitting home' so hard.

But, when it comes to marketers responding to it, the playbook is no different from what we are best at doing, in, dare I say, ‘business as usual’ times. Continuously understanding our changing audience, and responding to their needs in an empathetic and relevant way.

The word that perhaps becomes more important during this time is the first word in the above sentence ‘continuous’. As organisations, because we have to plan our strategies and actions, we love to think in discrete blocks. COVID world, post-COVID world, new normal. But people live their lives in a continuum. One moment flows into the next. One day into the next. One month into the next. And that forms the continuum of our lives.

Therefore, as marketers, we need to think the same - as humans and not ‘consumers’. By staying close to what people are feeling and doing on an ongoing basis, we need to connect to them today (‘during-COVID’, if you must put it in a box), whether they buy our products or not. It has been established time and again, that brands that ‘show up’ during times of crisis are the ones that ’stay’ with the people after the crisis. Can my brand respond to my audience’s needs today? That is the first priority. At IKEA, we want to Make Everyday Brighter for the many people by speaking to the needs of their lives at home. With people stuck at home, during this time, we want to help them see that their home is full of possibilities. Through our social media handles, website, and other communication, we want to show that home.

The idea is to pre-empt not predict. We are painting different scenarios and keeping readiness to be able to respond to them. And yet, knowing fully well, that we may be surprised when a scenario we haven’t conceived emerges. And if it does, we will get to work on it.

After all, we are not fortune-tellers, we are marketers. We understand what people want and then connect to them, in a unique and meaningful way. COVID or not. New normal or old normal.

(The author, Amitabh Pande is Country Marketing Manager, IKEA India)

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of

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