Building your brand in the times of COVID-19

Guest Column: Neha Markanda - Head of Business Marketing - Facebook India, writes why brands will need to stay agile and resilient as marketing trends change at a real-time pace

e4m by Neha Markanda
Published: May 26, 2020 8:44 AM  | 4 min read
Neha Markanda

COVID-19 has crunched half-a-decade of consumer behaviour change into half-a-year. People and communities across the country have been severely impacted. Businesses, especially small businesses, have been acutely hit. With people spending more time online, there is tremendous acceleration in digital consumption led by social media, and with at least 400 million people using the Facebook family of apps every month in India,  we are at the heart of this rapid digital transformation.  

Consumer Behaviour Has Changed:  

With everything coming to a standstill, brands, large and small, have taken to social media to engage with their consumers. The Man Company, which sells premium grooming products for men, had to stop its deliveries. Yet the brand took to Facebook to start ‘Quarantine Olympics’, a daily challenge for its community. MakeMyTrip is bringing alive the experience of travel through powerful visuals shared on its Facebook and Instagram handles even though no one can travel right now.  

The reason these brands have taken to social media to either connect with their existing users or to reach new ones is because they understand that COVID-19 has compelled customer journeys to dramatically change, and that brands have no option but to build for these altered consumer journeys. 

People are on digital platforms more than ever before. There are reports that suggest that data consumption in India has increased by 25%-30% since the lockdown began*. We recently announced that for the first time ever, there are now more than 3 billion people actively using Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp or Messenger each month.  

So rapidly has the path-to-purchase changed that Facebook in partnership with Kyoorius started ‘Curated Conversation’ in a weekly marketing leadership connect to help the industry navigate some of these new realities. So far Industry stalwarts such as Sir Martin Sorrell, R S Sodhi, Managing Director at GCMMF Ltd (AMUL), legendary ad-man Piyush Pandey, marketing-strategy guru Rama Bijapurkar, and creative director and author Dave Trott have shared their thoughts with industry leaders on possibly the most unprecedented marketing challenges and opportunities of our times.  

Building New Consumer Experiences: 

The joy of new experiences such as travel, eating out, and meeting friends might have come to a sudden halt but the appetite for online experiences has increased. Instagram travel account ‘Bruised Passports’ is taking its followers on virtual tours, brands like SugarFree are hosting FB Lives with celebrities, and Virat Kohli recently posted a video on Instagram of him trimming his beard using a Philips trimmer. The time is apt for brands to create new experiences for customers with the help of virtual launches done through a Live or by leveraging the power of influencers. 

Re-emerging from COVID: 

As the Indian economy opens up to limited business activity, this is the right time for brands to think about how to build for the coming months.  

  • Empathy: Brands must act with heightened consumer empathy. The pandemic and the lockdowns are difficult on everyone, and the last thing a brand should do is exploit it. 
  • Be smart about your media mix: With consumers embracing mobile and social media to connect in times of physical distancing, brands should rely on measurable business outcomes to drive results. It’s important to be effective and efficient. 
  • Activate full-funnel to drive ROI:
    • Top-of-the-funnel: Be consistent in brand messaging but play with messaging hierarchy to convert consumers with relevant hooks. Maggi has been posting stories and videos of everything they’re doing to bring Maggi safely to us. 
    • Mid-funnel: Solve for customer needs to eliminate friction in path-to-purchase. Vodafone Idea Limited is the first Indian telecom to launch a WhatsApp powered ChatBot (named VIC) to address Customer Queries.
    • Bottom-funnel: Micro-targeting with mobile can help brands get the first mover advantage with the country being divided into different zones with distinct restrictions.  

Never before in history have we seen marketing trends change real-time at this pace. As brands chart their path towards resurgence, they’ll need to stay agile and resilient to multiple changes and challenges that are thrown their way. 

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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