Do brands need a new language to communicate post-COVID-19?: Neha Dk, Pizza Hut

Guest Column: Neha Dk, Marketing Director, Pizza Hut India, says everyone has a 'COVID-19 filter' applied to their conversations, which is bound to alter consumer behaviour

e4m by Neha Dk
Updated: May 8, 2020 11:03 AM
Neha Dk

There is no aspect of human life that remains untouched by the ongoing pandemic. In fact, this is probably the first time that the entire world is on the same page. Well, almost! None of the issues of the past, including the very grave issue of climate change, have had the unifying effect that a little microbe has.  

Across the world, marketers have a single problem to deal with, which is that every single person today – irrespective of their age or background – has a COVID-19 filter applied to his/her conversations and social media interaction. This filter is bound to impact and alter consumer behaviour. The nature and degree of impact of change may vary, but that the world post-COVID-19 will definitely be a different one.

Changed priorities

The current pandemic has forced many into re-evaluating and acknowledging what matters the most. While there will be a segment of the population that will end up revenge purchasing that in turn may boost immediate demand for certain categories, consumer sentiment online also alludes to a significant section holding on to their dollars more tightly in anticipation of a rainy day. It is crucial for brands to investigate where they are likely to sit in the consumer priority at the different points in time going forward and modify their tone accordingly to tide over a bearish market scenario. This is the Priority Filter.

Superficial vs sincere

This is the copy of a popular meme doing the internet rounds today. Brands EARLIER – Hey, buy the xxx product. Brands NOW – Hey, times are tough, buy the xxx product. Funny, yes. But this tells us that consumers DO notice when brands sound superficial or tone-deaf. This has always been the case but will probably be more  pronounced going forward. I believe this pandemic has probably changed us as a society as well. On the one hand, it has forced us to become isolated and focused inward on us and our own. On the other, never before have we come together as individuals for the community as we have today. Individuals are going out of their way to provide food for the needy and stranded, we continue to pay our support staff even though they are not really working for us during this phase, we are concerned about the wellbeing of the blue collared workers who made our lives chug in normal times, we are grateful for the delivery boys who give us our daily goods, and we are incredibly grateful for the commitment of the healthcare workers across the world. I expect that going forward, more of us will be sensitive to how brands ‘sound’ and how they ‘act’ towards communities and the values they uphold at a human level. The Sincerity Filter will probably be firmly applied by more people more often going forward.

The Friendly/Capitalist tag  

The other question that will ail brands is one of trust. The pandemic has created increased interactions between trusted relationships, reinforcing the positives. The reverse has therefore also been true. As a result, consumers are probably likely to reach out to brands they either trusted earlier or that they have begun to trust because of a special role the brands played during the hard times. But this is only a half-truth. Over the longer term, brands must prove that they have adapted to the new expectations and new ideas that are built into trust. Will consumers veer in favour of the friendly trustworthy brand, or in favour of an over sanitized coolness. This is anybody’s guess, but the TRUST filter is probably here to stay.

So, in this trinity of Priority, Sincerity and Trust, where will a brand stand? The good news is that brands have an opportunity to write a new story for themselves. They can determine how they want to be seen through the new or evolved filters and drive a new path for themselves. The way we live our lives is probably going to change after this pandemic. Brands need to keep pace with the consumer, who remains as always, the king.

(Neha Dk is Marketing Director, Pizza Hut India)

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com

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