The business of marketing in the 'New Normal'

Guest Column: Sanjay Gupta, Marketing Director, India SA & APAC Rides Brand Marketing, Uber, stresses on the need for marketers to be meaningful in their actions and thoughtful in their communication

e4m by Sanjay Gupta
Updated: Aug 3, 2020 9:06 AM  | 4 min read
Sanjay Gupta

Over the years, I have heard many marketers say that times are changing and it will be survival of the most agile. Well, for once, that is actually true. When a crisis of this magnitude hits, there is no set precedent or playbook that businesses can follow. But steps taken during the crisis can have a long-lasting impact and can put the company on a better footing when the economy recovers. 

While there are some who believe we have reached a new normal, others like me believe that we have yet to understand what all will be new, and what normal will finally look like. What we know today is that consumer needs are changing dramatically, and as custodians of brands that serve this constituency we must adapt and adapt quickly. 

As we look to win back the hearts and minds of our consumers, here are three things that I believe could help us in that journey. 

Identify The Shifting Need State Of Your Business In The ‘New Normal’ 

What we previously knew about our consumers’ behaviours, lifestyle and priorities, have changed and would need a re-examination. As marketers, we need to identify our new early adopters, understand how they are repurposing traditional use cases, and reimagine our product portfolios to cater to the evolving new normal. 

Case in point, at Uber, during the early stages of the lockdown, we realised the three need states that were most prevalent- transporting health care works, enabling essential travel, and facilitating last-mile delivery. We swiftly modified our product portfolio to cater to these segments. We rolled out UberMedic, a dedicated and reliable service for transporting frontline healthcare workers. We partnered with marketplace leaders like Flipkart, BigBasket and Spencer’s Retail to ensure last-mile delivery of essential supplies to thousands of consumers. To facilitate urgent travel during the lockdown, we launched Uber Essentials, and started a new package delivery service called Uber Connect. 

I share these examples to show how obvious it is that these are more relevant today than a trip to the office or a social occasion, and ask you to reflect on what’s the fundamental need state that’s changed in your consumers' needs as it relates to your business.

 Win On The New Category Driver - Hygiene Safety 

Consumers have now added a new attribute to all categories- hygiene safety. For any business that has a physical interaction with the consumer, hygiene has assumed a new meaning and moved up in the attribute hierarchy. What's interesting about this new paradigm is that in the absence of clear markers of hygiene, consumers are evaluating hygiene based on their personal standards of safety.

 The lockdown has made us cognizant of the fact that our actions, both responsible and irresponsible, have a material impact on others. This has, in most cases, made us more responsible. As brands, it is imperative for us to assume greater responsibility, and ensure that our standards are high and we deliver on them consistently. The key, however, is too distal what’s really important and not get lost in the myriad of signals that we are receiving. 

Lead With Actions And Not Ads 

There will be a premium on #ActsNotAds - It's time for marketing to be more meaningful. For the tribe that believed in purpose-driven marketing, this is your time to act, your time to show that you meant it.  

As brands, we must be cognizant of what we say and how we say it as today tone matters more than ever. They say leaders are judged in times of crises. Our consumers will judge us based on what we did and not what we said. Today more than ever, it’s time for Acts and not Ads. 

Walking the talk, at Uber, we partnered with local authorities to give away 10 million free meals and free rides. With this, we partnered with cities, food banks, hospitals and others around the world to move whatever matters most to them. In India, we partnered with 29 cities, 19 states, and 62 healthcare organisations, and pledged 280K free trips to the National Health Authority (NHA) and other city and state governments across the country for transport of frontline healthcare workers. 

I believe these changed times will usher in a new era of marketing. And as marketers, we should be meaningful in our actions and thoughtful in our communication. And by focussing on what we can do for our consumers, our partners and our cities, we will enable a better tomorrow for all of us.

Sanjay Gupta is the Marketing Director, India SA & APAC Rides Brand Marketing, Uber.

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

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