Last week, while doing groceries, I felt the need for retail therapy. I needed a feel-good factor and decided to buy a broom. Never in my life, have I been so involved or enthused about buying one. Masked and gloved, there I was at the grocery store, asking for a bright colored broom. Finally, I settled for one and called it, Yellow. Is this the current consumer sentiment? Finding joy in purchases that you can justify, in the current crisis. Is this the new normal?
Just recently, during a presentation on the changing consumer sentiment and our thinking about the post lockdown world, a client nonchalantly stated that we are Indians and we don't remember the bad stuff for long. Hence, creating a campaign that visualised a world post-lockdown was a bit much. He was insistent on a campaign that made the brand premium. It did pinch that he refused to buy into our ideology of a better world. However, the man had a point.
I think uncertainty does make you cautious. However, it doesn’t rob you of your aspirations. To me, this is a pause. I think people might become more human, but consumers will remain the same. Instead of strategising for the new normal, let this be an opportunity to dig deeper into the client’s business.
It's amazing the conversations you hear in isolation. Probably, the lack thereof, makes you process what you hear at a different level. Maybe, we step out of the quarantine, with superpowers. To listen while we hear. That’s another conversation.
I know of people making a post-lockdown list. It varies from an elaborate meal, a good mattress, a luxury sedan to general debauchery. Their takeaway from the lockdown is the quintessential albeit an exaggerated version of life for the moment philosophy. Consumers who could afford the luxury car that the creative class drives, will find a way to test-drive it. Buy it. Drive it. Then there are those struggling to stay afloat. Jobs are at threat. There’s no cookie-cutter strategy to survive. Not just for Covid-19 but life in general. Either for people or categories. I think the impact of the pandemic will be as varied as our socio-economic fabric.
Having said that, I think promotions will be big. I see that across categories. Not just from an affordability perspective but somewhere to ease you back into consumerism. I woke up with a cleverly crafted message from a brand that still makes me go weak in the knees. It was offering a 20 per cent discount just for me. I fell for it. My first post-covid purchase.
The pandemic has made us vulnerable. However, sooner than later vulnerability gives way to strength. I don’t think anyone of us is in a mood to take any unpleasant behaviour. Customer service will be key, particularly if you want to hold on to your existing customers. Do business as usual but be nice. Loyalty is being robbed of its virility, as digital enthralls us with its variety and brevity. At the same time, there’s this need for a cocoon. To feel safe and loved. Brands need to go that extra mile to make the consumers feel special.
Let’s not forget moms. A mom’s instinct will be heightened than usual. Give her reassurance. Not just a heart-warming story but facts. What is the extra you are doing as a brand to ensure her family is safe? She’s reading reviews & conducting mini focus groups of her own before she buys anything off the shelf.
Retail’s taken a hit. The auto industry’s on a ventilator. FMCG is stable. Travel and hospitality will take time to recover. Yes. We are in the thick of a crisis. Safety and health will be at the forefront as consumers find their way back to the stores. Also, I think we’ve always flirted with Ayurveda, never accepting it completely. Preventive ayurvedic medicines, toothpaste to cosmetics - finally, we will see merit in formalising this relationship. Affordability will be key. However, indulgence isn’t dead. Brands will just have to dig deeper into the consumer mindset to justify it.
Having said that, more power to you if you see it as the emergence of a new world. Cohabiting with nature and sunflowers blooming in parched soil. It’s alright as well if you see clouds of doom and want to live it up.
Either way, it is a wonderful world.
Advertising won’t choke. It may change. Digital will lead. No surprises there. What will be tricky for planners is to find the mindset you are addressing as if we weren't already doing that. Somewhere, we will have to give-in as well. For instance, we’ll have to be content with the new-age content. Don’t take it personally if there’s no brand POV on a TikTok execution. At times, we will have to suffice with quick and dirty solutions. However, I believe we will have a far greater role to play in this reality. To hand-hold the client, even if your own palms are sweaty.
Let's hunker down and do what we do best, dig deeper to weave stories. Some average. Some purely romanticising a product window. And a few inspirational ones where we change the world and make it a better place.
The author is VP - planning, Ogilvy India-North.