How Digital is playing the perfect protagonist for brand communication during the lockdown

Experts weigh in on the digital approach during the time of COVID-19, and believe that management of social media channels is of utmost priority during the lockdown

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Updated: Apr 13, 2020 9:19 AM  | 5 min read

Within months of the COVID-19 outbreak, the world was acquainted with the novel Coronavirus, its symptoms, its reach and more, all dependent on the mercy of information circulated through digital and social media. The credit also goes to communicators across the globe for proper penetration of legitimate information through different social media platforms.

Brands have also adapted to the popular phrase of ‘survival of the fittest’ as the coronavirus outbreak has forced brands to change the way they communicate with their consumers. With print taking the backfoot, brands have resorted to a completely digital approach to remain relevant in today’s scenario which now makes social media management more important than ever.

Pankaj Duhan, Chief Marketing Officer, RB South Asia Health, agreed by saying that Dettol believes in driving meaningful conversations through their communications. He added, “Understanding the consumer’s mindset is of the utmost importance to us, therefore our campaign communication is built in a way that creates significant conversations that drive awareness”.

Duhan drove our attention towards the #HandWashChallenge and how it has been garnering attention during this pandemic. He said,” I believe the campaign works well if the idea resonates with the consumers. In this case, the message from Dettol about handwashing with the right technique and the right duration was a big hit”.

Changing the way of communicating is a strong step towards driving positive engagement. The strategy has to shift away from increasing revenue or adding customers but it has to be retention centric.

Prasun Kumar- Chief Marketing Officer, Magicbricks feels the strategy has shifted away from new consumer acquisition to retention and engagement. He added, "Brands do realise that a consumer may not be in the contextually right frame of mind to receive product buy-sell communication. Hence, the effort is to connect and engage with consumers with messaging showing empathy, concern, gratitude etc.”

Kumar pointed out that although the narrative has changed, the channels of delivery have also largely skewed towards stay-at-home media namely TV & Digital. Social media being the most preferred one.    

Shivjeet Ghatge, CEO –StepSetGo, a startup in the fitness industry also explained how brands are doing their best to engage their users. He also pointed out how brands are becoming opportunistic in an effort to stay relevant. He said, "Relevant brands are doing everything they can to reduce the barrier to entry for their platform. This is the reason why you can see deals like 30-day free premium memberships everywhere. Can you call these things opportunistic, sure! Is it helping users through these hard times, certainly! It all boils down to individual perception. One thing is certain, brands that are relevant need to fight with other brands for attention and brands that are not, and they need to get very creative to hold on to their users until things come back to normal”.

When all the activities are becoming digitized, management of social media becomes an important task for brand custodians. Kunal Dubey, VP & Head of Business, Dentsu India Slingshot said that agencies and brands need to put on the creative hat more than ever to get the user to talk to you and interact on social media. He added, "It is a great time for brands to build a relationship with their community without talking transactions. Users need brands (companies and individuals) more than ever to deliver joy and a sense of comfort.”

Talking about using different social media platforms to leverage their #HandWashChallenge, Pankaj Duhan said, "Our goal currently is to inculcate right handwashing practices amongst the masses given the current unprecedented times. Therefore, for our recent campaign- Dettol #HandWashChallenge, we partnered with TikTok, a highly engaging platform with an extensive user base.

“Dettol in partnership with Bollywood actress, Madhuri Dixit released an engaging public service announcement #ApniSurkashaApneHaath with an aim to encourage viewers to practice handwashing. Herein, we chose Television as a medium, given its mass popularity and accessibility”, added Duhan.

Magicbricks CMO Prasun Kumar drew attention to yet another important aspect of social media management. Kumar said that brands are also taking extra care not to let the narrative go wrong as any backlash on a piece of content can cost a brand a lot. He further added, “Another thing which has become important is Social Media listening. All brands have deployed listening tools to get to know the pulse of the consumers”.

The complete digital approach with social media being the perfect protagonist, technologies such as Marketing Automation platforms( Clevertap, Netcore), Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, video conferencing apps like Zoom and others, are widely being leveraged. In no time, the Zoom app has become one of the highest downloaded applications. Other solutions by established players such as Google, FB, Microsoft etc. are also widely used for the purpose. 

To conclude, Anusha Shetty, Chairperson & Group CEO, Grey Group India, explained that this is not just about changing communication strategy, this is about being real. In this phase, consumers would like brands to be meaningful and helpful to them, and brands are stepping in to do this. Yes, brands must make a choice to be relevant to their domain and area of expertise.

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