Reinventing marketing communications during COVID-19
Guest Column: Shirish Agarwal, Head - Brand & Marketing Communication, Panasonic India says innovation, empathy & relevance should be marketers' tools to survive the slowdown
While brands were gearing up for the summer season, this pandemic caught them off guard. A crisis such as this is unprecedented and there is no readily available playbook to help marketers navigate this unchartered territory. Across brands, planned campaigns and marketing calendars have been paused for now. This has forced all of us collectively to think of innovative ways to engage with customers while staying relevant and adding value.
In such tough times, brands must focus on instilling confidence in customers. Innovation, empathy and relevance should be marketers' tools to survive the negative sentiment and economic slowdown. Brands must be genuine in their efforts and must deliver the right information and means to cope with the situation. At Panasonic, we are creating content with positive and relevant messaging with a focus on human approach over a product-centric one. As part of our content strategy, we are using our digital platforms to highlight government initiatives, DIY videos on servicing appliances and creating topical content around the lockdown. We believe, such efforts will help the brand in building a loyal customer base by catering to the current needs of our audience. And since everyone is working from home, we are also amplifying our employees’ voice by sharing their WFH hacks and asking others to share theirs on our social media handles.
As people have no choice but to stay at home during this lockdown phase, as a marketer it’s imperative that the brand proactively reaches out to its customers where they are. And digital as a touchpoint is playing a key role here. For example, to keep our consumers engaged, we are organizing virtual photography workshops titled #PassionNeverRests with industry’s leading photography experts. These are free of cost sessions wherein the experts share their insights and experiences across diverse genres and disciplines in photography, including wedding, travel, cinematography, vlogging, aviation, fashion and landscape, to connect and fuel the passion points of the participants. Moreover, with the onset of summers, most of the consumers are researching on servicing their ACs, for which we have developed a DIY video helping people clean their machines themselves. By harnessing the power of digital, we are supporting consumers by addressing their issues virtually and via our social media handles as well. So while the principle of the marketing will remain the same, its application may change.
Brands also need to prepare for post-lockdown phase. Currently, consumer sentiments are low, they will postpone the planned purchases as much as they can. But still, once the lockdown eases out, there will be few buyers in the market for summer goods like ACs and refrigerators. However, this time, price will play the most important role in the consumer decision journey. Consumers will be looking for brands offering more value, not just in terms of discount but value adds like zero cost EMIs, additional warranty, free installation etc. Consumers won't be spending much on researching the product features or specification; rather they will be hunting for best deals and value for money. Accordingly, brands need to be ready with some offer led communication to leverage the sentiment once the lockdown eases out.
But there are no two ways about the fact that consumer insight will remain critical while forming any marketing strategy going forward, however, the GTM approach for brands may differ than what it used to be earlier (depending on the industry vertical). In fact, the insights might become even more critical once this pandemic is over and things start getting back to normal.
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