During the epidemic, brands must look at how they can provide succour: N Chandramouli

The brand expert & CEO of TRA hints that the brands which have a CSR budget must use it now

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Updated: Apr 3, 2020 9:01 AM

The last couple of days have been an indicator of how brands are being compelled to adjust their creative strategies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  To add to it all, consumers are anxious at the moment, and brands are operating in an era where channels like social media can amplify backlash to any botched communications. Hence, given the situation at hand, marketers are being forced to rethink their go-to-market strategies to better account for the realities of coronavirus and be particularly sensitive to its impact on human lives.

 So how can brands ensure that they keep their hands clean and do their bit for their consumers?  Brand expert and CEO, TRA, N. Chandramouli chatted with exchange4media on how brands should navigate this increasingly volatile landscape. The expert hints that the ones which have a CSR budget must use it now.

Edited excerpts below: 

  1. Q) According to you, how can brands approach the COVID-19 situation and be a part of the conversation without being opportunistic or using it as a marketing ploy?

These are tough times for every brand and organization. Every brand has something to contribute, and when an epidemic of such magnitude hits across the globe, each brand must look at how it can provide succour during this time.

 Many test prep, online education, food and beverage brands are already providing their products are contributing through their products, services and technologies. It is the time for every brand to introspect to see how it can help and assist as the entire nation prepares for an increasing work-from-home scenario.

 This type of thinking is what we call Buying Propensity thinking, a direction for the brand which keeps the customer at the centre of their strategy, and decides on how it can contribute to their consumers. Brands which have a CSR budget must use it now. Those who don’t have a CSR must look at different ways to bring succour to their consumers. Combined, this impact can be extremely alleviating.

  1. Q) What is the strategy that brands can employ to come out of such turbulent times?

Today, most brands have remained sales-centric and therefore have kept the brand at the epicentre of their strategies. In pursuing the consumer, they have begun to treat it like a hunt. And if they are the hunters, you can imagine what the consumers have become. These turbulences offer an opportunity for brands, as many will not be executing their big campaigns, and will be rethinking how to navigate this crisis.

 At this time, they have the opportunity to turn the brand strategy on its head and become totally consumer-centric. All strategies must change to wooing the consumer, not pursuing the consumer. This also means that sales can no longer be a metric for a brand, and it has to change to the Consumer’s Buying Propensity, their keenness-to-buy.

 While the change sounds simple, it is a complete 180-degree turnabout from what brands were used to doing. We are consulting several brands on how to bring about a brand philosophy change so that this crisis can change into an opportunity for them.

  1. Q) Various advertising agencies, consulting firms, law firms consult rival brands. The strategies drafted for these competing brands could encounter a conflict of interests which could lead to an erosion of the agency's trust quotient. Comment?

The decision is that of the organization, and mostly not of the agency and therefore the onus lies with the former. Any agency, be it advertising, public relations, consulting firms, law firms among others, are privy to extremely sensitive brand and organization information, which is in the hands of the competition could destroy the potential of the organization and even harm it.

 The claim made by these firms is that they have water-tight compartments within teams and handling competing organizations as clients simultaneously would not pose a challenge. But information is a contagion and it spreads by social contact, and much like the only solution in the COVID-19 crisis is social distancing, so also it is true for brands.

 No organization or brand must give their mandate to any firm which has a competing account. With a plethora of firms to choose from, the people choosing the firm must make this the first basic hygiene check and organizations must put this as a mandate in when choosing firms of all types.

  1. Q) Tell us about TRA’s Top 50 Most Desired Brands 2020 and of any trends that you’ve seen this year. Also which are the brands which dramatically changed spots when compared to last year?

 Thirty-six of last year’s top 50 feature in TRA’s Most Desired Brands 2020 this year as well and 14 are new entrants. The retained brands among top 50 have only an average of 10 ranks up or down, showing considerable consistency. Eighteen brands fell in ranks, 22 brands rose in ranks, showing an increasing Desire trend for the leaders.

 Samsung Mobiles leads for the second consecutive year. Among the top 50, which is in its sixth edition, there are 3 debut entrants, namely MI, Puma and Bajaj. All three brands have been constantly reinventing themselves to engage with consumers to be desirable to them.

MI is innovating by putting in more into less and is even about to launch its 108MP camera phone soon. Puma, the lifestyle sportswear brand has signed Kareena Kapoor as its brand ambassador and beaten old competition of Adidas and Nike. Bajaj has this year exported more two-wheelers than sold in the domestic market. Such market dominance also shows clearly in the Most Desired list.

  1. Q) Can you share a recent brand turnaround story that really intrigues you and what do you think worked in turning the company’s fortunes?

 A brand that really intrigues me and is a very good growth story is Madame, a Womenswear brand that has created a unique and differentiated brand in a very short time. The women’s fashion industry is a very difficult terrain especially in times of fast fashion, where change is the only constant.

 Morphing a knitwear brand into a full-fledged fashion house providing the best of fashion at the right price has been Madame’s USP. Madame carries the semblance of any great international brand having extended its brand into women’s accessories, and is also making a strong mark there. In women’s apparels, I would put Madame as the brand to watch out for over the next three years and it is also one of the most investable brands in apparels’ category.

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