Opinion: It's time to connect in meaningful ways

The author offers three ways in which brands should connect with the consumers

May 14, 2020 06:46:00 AM | Article | Mayank Jyotsna Soni

The first case of Covid-19 in India was reported on 30 January. Since then many steps have been taken by the Government to contain the virus. Many brands tried to be connected to the consumers in their own ways.
Most common strategies used by the brands were the messages suggesting that this is a tough time and we will sail through this. Along with it, they were sharing messages related to importance of social distancing, methods of washing hands, staying at home, downloading Arogya Setu app, donations to PM CARES and other funds etc.
The brands which are in essentials category also communicated their efforts on serving the customer and safety measures taken by them. With entering lockdown three, staying connected in a valuable way with consumers, for both essentials and non-essentials offering is the need of the hour.
This could be broadly done in the following three ways
1. Keep consumers engaged and motivated through positive messages activities that resonates with core value of the brand - Amul through various messages like ‘Stay healthy. Not hungry. Amul, Lockdown in Bread”, “Better saaf than sorry. Amul. Always safe” through Amul Girl keeps giving positive vibes to consumers, #FlipkartBrightSide connects with customers by sharing positive stories around COVID-19, exercises and yoga routines, comedy by stand-up comedians, shows along with some games and DIY tips e.g. for photography. Understanding consumers sentiments, designing the communication and activities around core brand value and consumer sentiment is the key. For example, Nike’s “Play for the World” campaign involves the message “If you ever dreamt of playing for millions around the world, Now is your chance. Play Inside, play for the world” clearly communicates that playing is important but safety is more important. This combined with series of videos and images under “You can’t Stop Us” and giving challenges of workouts to people with #playinside and #thelivingroomcup. Though similar trends from Nike need to be seen in India. Bata though its #StayActiveWithPower gives Titan gives tribute to fighter of Covid-19 via different online sessions.
2. Moving towards offering essentials- Wherever possible, brands need to add value to the life of consumers with providing offering in essentials for consumers to sail through the tough times e.g. Swiggy and Zomato entered into grocery and other essential deliveries, Work from home offers with extended data by airtel, extension of data limit by Jio, launch of JioMart for the delivery of essential groceries. The brands that could enter into consumer’s mind during this time is going to remain there for longer time. 
3. Communicating the effort to fight Covid-19 beyond monetary donations- Donation is an activity which most of the organizations have been involved now, and going beyond it is the need of the hour. Donations do communicate the efforts of the brands but with uncertainty going around for a longer period of time, ensuring consumers that the brands are adding value to the life of people around including theirs. They need to communicate on the ways they are with consumer in dealing with COVID-19. Care for employees, concrete actionable for customers with specific actions taken to fight Covid-19 should be the focus. Amazon India is using the #HumSabEkSaath #TogetherIndia and sharing the letters from frontline heroes for their work with specific safety measures taken for being there for customers, thanking customers for their patronage. Swiggy shows the steps taken to make deliveries safe like sanitization in every 4 hours, mandatory temperature checks, no contact delivery etc., Bata with #ParkYourShoes and ‘let the world heal’ and donation of Bata shoes to the needy is trying to communicate the same.
Brands now need to be prepared to be connected with consumers in more valuable ways where they can engage, motivate, and stay relevant. The efforts to fight Covid-19 in order to add value to the life of consumers by making them safe is something going to make the connection stronger. This is the time to show the value through actionable with but beyond donations! This is what is going to stay with consumers in the long run.
The author is assistant professor (marketing), Indian Institute of Management Ranchi.