Not the right time for brands to be opportunistic, say industry leaders

As part of the 2nd webinar hosted by exchange4media, we had Abhishek Gupta, Edelweiss Tokio; Saurabh Gadgil, PNG Jewellers; Tarun Jha, Skoda Auto India and Sanjeev Shukla, Muthoot Pappachan Group

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Apr 15, 2020 11:00 AM
e4m webinar

In what appears to be a time created by COVID-19 – when board rooms are being replaced by living rooms and offices by work-from-home setups – industry leaders deliberated upon the present challenges for brands in the second webinar hosted by exchange4media recently.

On the panel for the webinar titled as ‘Brand Challenges - The Road Ahead’ were Abhishek Gupta, Chief Marketing Officer, Edelweiss Tokio; Saurabh Gadgil, Chairman and MD, PNG Jewellers; Tarun Jha, Head of Marketing & Product, Skoda Auto India; and Sanjeev Shukla, Group Chief Marketing Officer, Muthoot Pappachan Group. The panel discussion was moderated by Neeta Nair, Assistant Editor, Impact.

The webinar was kicked off with the panellists being asked if there was any scope for preparedness since COVID-19 didn't arrive suddenly and some other counties had been dealing with the outbreak for a while now.

Although Gupta agreed that the crisis had been looming, the magnitude of it could not be anticipated.

“At the back of our mind, there was always a thought that the situation would not come to what it has come to today. Yes, we had time to prepare but nobody would have anticipated that things will come to this," said Gupta.

Asked about the challenges and the steps being taken by Edelweiss Tokio Life, Gupta said their business, which heavily relies on the advisory model, has been facing a major challenge to sustain confidence. “In these hard times, we are mainly focusing on keeping up the confidence of our employees as well as the consumers,” he added.

As an advertiser, Gadgil said, that when they realised things had started worsening they decided to talk to customers first. “We launched a helpline for customers to place orders and made an entire plan to run the business online. We're also talking to customers across social media to educate them and answer their queries.”

Shifting the discussion towards the automobile industry, Jha took a query about how the automobile industry, already facing a slowdown for the last one year, has been placed on the advertising front. With all showrooms and manufacturing spots being shut, advertising has also been come to a complete halt, he said.

The brand had three launches lined up for Q2 but now it all depends on when the lockdown would be lifted, Jha shared. "A car launch takes three long years of planning. We have everything planned but we will launch the new products only when normalcy has been established and people are ready to step out of their homes," added Jha.

According to Jha, the two aspects that will be critical post the lockdown will be the mood of the buyer and the consumption or spending patterns.

Next to be discussed on the webinar was the importance of digital advertising in these tough times. While Print, TV and Radio advertising have slowed down, digital is still maintaining a foothold, so how are brands leveraging this, the panellists were asked.

According to Shukla, "These days, we're using more of digital, leading us to see a 42% jump in the medium’s usage. Although digital arrived a few years back, today is the time when all aspects of it are being used."

“However, people are still not very open to digital payments. As far as media consumption is concerned, digital is booming but for payments, people in India are still wary. We have started asking consumers to use e-pay channels and implement various e-services.”

To the question about how does the brand draw a line between informing, promoting itself and the rest, Gupta said: “As long as you're sticking true to your brand value, it's all fine. Don't suddenly start doing what you were never doing, rather make sure to be true to your brand values.”

When asked if brands see an opportunity in these times, Gadgil said: "Just taking advantage of the situation is completely a no. It might emerge as an opportunity for some but right now it's not the right time to be opportunistic but to stand in solidarity with the nation and the world."

To the query that while most FMCG companies are trying to stay connected with their customers, what is the automobile sector doing, Jha said: "Though we're not using mass media, we cannot afford to be not visible. So we're using social media to stay connected with our customers."

"When you can't earn money, you can earn goodwill," he highlighted.

Jha also spoke about measures that Skoda Auto India has taken, inclduing extending the deadline for customers whose annual service and warranty claims are expiring in the lockdown period so that they are not inconveninced.

Talking about their learnings from the present marketing scenario, Gadgil said, "Life is uncertain and full of challenges." He explained this is the time when brands focus to make short-term plans to revive business.

During this period, Jha said he has learnt that work from home is efficient and helps people to take quick decisions. Jha also said that this phase has made everyone realize the importance of interdependency, not just at home but in the professional and social set ups as well.

Agreeing with other experts, Shukla said, the major learning that they have got from this lockdown is the realization that from healthcare workers to essential service providers specialists have gained importance at each level.

On their post-lockdown plans, the panellists shared their wish list, saying that the two things on top of their minds were to take their families out for a treat and thank their employees for working tirelessly during these testing times.

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