How COVID-19 drove away product-led campaigns

Industry experts believe advertising is increasingly becoming a service, with brands not worrying about sales results or ROI during the lockdown period

e4m by Neeta Nair
Updated: Apr 21, 2020 9:31 AM
Marketing Campaigns

Moment marketing refers to campaigns that embrace the moment, a perfect opportunity for a brand to capitalize on a topical event to drive sales of their product. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed that dramatically. On one hand, some brands like Uber chose to take a backseat, simply because production or their services had been halted completely leaving them no avenue to sell their brand. The others whose services were in demand even during the outbreak, like Grofers, didn’t want to look like they were exploiting the situation by advertising. The third category of advertising, however, started focusing on simply being there for the consumers as opposed to driving sales for their products.

Nipun Marya, Director – Brand Strategy, Vivo India explains, “When there is a complete lockdown in the country, and there are no products to sell, it automatically makes sense for us to not do any product campaigns. Also from a sentiment point of view, this is not the best time to do product-led campaigns. Right now each brand has to take into consideration what is happening around us. That is why we came up with a campaign saluting the healthcare workers in India. We just wanted to do our bit to acknowledge the real heroes of today without talking about our products.”

On the other hand for a brand like Tata Pravesh, the lockdown gave them the near-perfect product connect which they utilized in the first ad they released, yet they chose not to go the last mile. The lockdown to keep out COVID-19 (Coronavirus) presented them with an excellent opportunity to showcase doors and windows, the products they sell in the market, through the messaging #ShutOutCorona. But instead of showcasing their own doors, they chose to crowdsource videos of people shutting doors, even doors which were not from the Tata Pravesh umbrella, a big dilemma in usual circumstances.

P Anand, Chief, Services and Solutions Business, Tata Steel Ltd explains “This comes from the ethos of the Tata Group and I think it goes beyond the product as a brand. See, at the end of the day the messaging was important, the brand connect and the product connect was a secondary piece of information that may be attributed to. If I am crowdsourcing from my customers, or from the audience, I cannot insist on only a Tata Pravesh door. Also, the most important thing was to engage an audience pro-actively without pushing, because I know that I'm not going to sell this product in the next 21 days.”

Other brands like Dineout are propagating the exact opposite of what they stand for just to ensure that their users stay home and stay healthy. They have even changed their brand name across social media platforms to ‘Dineout Later. Stay Home Now’. Ankit Mehrotra, Co-Founder & CEO, Dineout says, "All industries across the globe are severely hit, and none more so than the Travel and Hospitality industry as it thrives on social gatherings. But despite the conflict of interest, we are promoting that social distancing and self-quarantine is the need of the hour to flatten the curve.”

Less than a month ago, ad campaigns were all about brand awareness, engagement, sales, pushing out products in the market. Fashion brands would talk about their new collections, retail brands would talk about their sale properties etc. Now that everything is shut down, brands have realised that these are the times when they can only be authentic about who they are as a brand, their values, what they can do for the society and thereby up the brand love quotient and increase brand affinity.

Arjun Mukherjee, ECD and VP, Wunderman Thompson says, “At this time no brand will actually want to play up their product, in fact, brands want to come out and actually do something which doesn’t directly involve their product and brand but is for the good of people. We handle a product called Engage, a deodorant brand which is now using their factories to manufacture sanitizers, they are trying to help and not exploit the situation. Because brands have not just realized that it isn’t the right thing to do but also that there will be a huge backlash if they try to hard-sell their wares.” In short, for the moment, most brands have said goodbye to product-led, ROI focused campaigns and allowed CSR led ones to kick in.

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