Why brands cannot be quiet when the world is suffering
The rest of 2020 isn’t going to be pretty.
Stop being in denial. We have to brace ourselves for the worst. Then start preparing our actions to overcome these challenging times.
Most marketers and agencies in the world are secretly “hoping” that the second quarter is going to be the toughest and darkest part of this year. Then, our hopeful selves wish to see the world normalizing a bit—to let in some light by the third quarter.
The truth is, COVID-19 has triggered massive pay cuts, layoffs and furloughs in major companies and small businesses. Downsizing workforces or even closing shops are being announced almost every week.
The advertising and digital industry underwent the same, preparing for the worst. Definitely, with revenues dropping and profit being affected, company budget allocations and spending priorities are drastically changing.
So, what should companies do?
Amid these challenges and redirections, the sentiments of marketers are still very optimistic. Our Dentsu network asked several business leads through a survey just this month, what their fearless forecasts were. We were surprised at their positivity and gave us hopeful forecasts for their brands and businesses.
They talked about bouncing back with no excuses. They believed in winning the market as soon as the product supply stabilizes. They planned to seize all opportunities to regain market share and further strengthen their brand’s relevance.
will survive and thriveAdvertise. During the recession back in 2008, brands that made their presence felt recovered faster versus those who didn’t. Procter & Gamble was one of them. P&G’s chair and CEO during that time, A.G. Lafley, simply saw opportunity at the height of the crisis. He believed that while everything should undergo renegotiations, he would get ahead of the curve when commodity and energy costs came down.
Kantar even reported that when companies stop advertising, they put their brand health in danger. A good combination of relevant messaging, a strong and efficient media and digital plan with key brand metrics helped a lot of brands survive and recover.
Strong brands should always have a point of view. They should share how their companies are helping. They should show different ways how their brands are reaching out. They can even join consumers in what their beliefs are or be present in the activities where their markets are. The worst thing to do is pull back, be quiet and invisible. In a world where empathy rules, be human and real. Be hopeful. Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson did not sugarcoat the serious news about COVID-19, but he still offered hope in his interview. In an emotional video address, the CEO of the world’s largest hotel company announced that thousands of employees would be furloughed and that he would not take a salary for the rest of the year. “The impact to people’s lives will be profound,” Sorenson said. “We’ve got to find a way to get through this together. We will, ultimately.”
A hopeful business attitude influences the future you want.
Be creative and innovative. What is certain is what the world is calling the “black swan” events—unexpected situations that create lasting change. It is important to obsessively identify the problem and opportunity to be committed in delivering solutions. Personally, these are windows of possibilities to somehow inspire relevant and innovative creativity.
World War II inspired women to join the workforce when the men were sent out to the front lines. 9/11 created enforced aviation security and created all kinds of products to make flying easier. SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) pushed e-commerce and gave way to the rise of QR codes.
This pandemic has already led to countless brand innovations. From Dyson designing a new ventilator in amazing speed to Alibaba and retailer Zhongbai building an unmanned store for essentials and disinfectant supplies. LVMH has transformed their perfumes to sanitizers, Tanduay and San Miguel’s alcoholic drinks to rubbing alcohol.
Think of your brand’s strength. Create or even partner with another company to innovate—for a purpose.
Be present with empathy. Into months of lockdown, consumers need to feel your brands’ presence more than ever. They have a critical role in helping consumers stay informed, engaged and feeling positive about going “back to normal” in life.Entering our quarantine lives, we experienced a progression of feelings and responses.
First, we felt the fear of not completely understanding the situation. How dangerous is this virus? What do we do if we get the symptoms and there are no tests?
This was when brands helped inform. Brands held our hands and shed light to what is the truth and what is fake online. Brands gave us reassurance that truly, “we’re all in this together.”
A few weeks into quarantine, we were feeling alone, useless and isolated.
This was when brands started reaching out. To promote normalcy, yoga, painting, and cooking online classes were offered, with options of doing these with a group of people. More options for pickup and delivery were provided. Shopping for essentials became a part-time habit. Definitely, brands with great e-commerce platforms became big winners.
After a few more weeks, we all became restless.
Brands at this point, continuously inspired, entertained and promoted positivity. The best brands stayed relevant by creating activations, promotions and amazing initiatives while building on their equities.
Times like these require your presence and your voice. What is your brand’s equity? Build this up by staying relevant today.Move forward. People want to move on. Even if COVID-19 is here to stay—at least for a few more months.
First, we will have to read and understand this totally new market. Everywhere, emotions will be hardly seen because everyone will have a mask on. Facial upkeep for men and beautification for women may not be top priority. Salons and barbershops are not in the priority list to open anytime soon. So, will this make everyone focus less on hair grooming? Whites will come out, beards will grow, caps will become an essential.
There will be less freedom to move as public spaces will be marked with boundaries. With expanded sanitation procedures, more will opt for practical clothes, bags and shoes for everyday comfort and ease to disinfect.
On services, families will try to be as social and productive at home. DIY (do-it-yourself) activities from home repair to cooking meals to salon grooming will definitely continue. This means YouTube’s influence will grow even stronger.
The new marketplace will reach out and connect more. Call these “sari-sari stores on steroids.” B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-consumer) selling will flourish with village and neighbor stores, market-on-wheels, mobile “palengke” and even wholesale pickup and delivery of meals from specialized restaurants. While delivery is going to be a major need, there will be opportunities in personalized shopping and casual couriers. Now, as we all move toward postlockdown, your brands should continue to think of ways to make home stay more delightful and productive. Empathize with the back-to-work crowd and their challenges. Maximize the new digital lifestyle. Remember to be human. Brands that are honest and real will have that right instinct to say and act appropriately. But, never be quiet. Loyalty and appreciation are built with presence and genuine concern.More importantly, we have to accept that technology will play a very big part as an enabler in connection and experience.
As we approach the second half of the year, let’s combine positivity and action to fight our way to a very happy Christmas. —CONTRIBUTED
The author is global copresident of DentsuMcGarryBowen, which covers more than 3,000 creative people, working in 33