Marketing In The Times Of COVID 19-Dr Gaurav Sood

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and the lockdown has not only changed the way you live but also the way you consume digital media. The pandemic has led to social distancing and self-quarantine and has changed consumer behavior and consumption of media habits. According to Nielson study the average daily TV viewers have grown by 32 million with an average daily viewing of 3 hrs. and 51 minutes. Even the kids are watching more news and movies than their usual kids’ entertainment channels. Most people now prefer their own devices for personal entertainment and getting connected with the world.

The time spent on smart phones has increased by almost 2 hours per week to 25 hours/week. So, what are consumers doing on smartphones? They are chatting and social networking 25% more during the lockdown than earlier. Chatting is always used as a better option to connect than over calls – because the consumer in a WhatsApp chat gets to multitask and can control the conversation since chatting permits more response time than on a phone call. Also, most of the social networking sites have witnessed an increase of 20-25% time spent/user/week.

No company barring few beneficiaries of the pandemic, has ever dreamt of such a situation in the first quarter of their business. All those marketing dashboards and the planning hours in the last quarter have gone down the drain. Figuratively, it rained, poured and drenched most of the marketers before they could open up their umbrellas. All those happy new year voices faded away and the consumers they were eying on were got locked down. Marketing activities declined everywhere. Google search ad clicks begun to slow down well below the weekly average, thus leading to a sharp decline in Googles conversion rates.

Digital marketers who were planning to invest hugely in google ad campaigns to sell their products, generate leads and drive traffic to their website were terribly disappointed with the performance of the google ad channels. Google search and shopping were in the negative and the only respite the digital marketers can get was in the growth of Google Display and YouTube traffic.

So, what is the economic outlook for India? Major financial have decremented the growth estimate for India by 0.5 to 1.5 percent. This is likely to put a downward pressure on the markets and the industry. Automotive, Power, IT, FMCG, Healthcare and Telecom will witness a negative growth trend. Supply chain will get disrupted as India has strong dependency on China for raw and intermediate materials. Tough decrease in oil prices by half will benefit the fiscal and current account deficit but the Rupee depreciation to a new low of around INR 77 per US$ will spoil the party. The economic recovery is a long road ahead but the consumer sentiments about economic recovery post Covid-19 is quite optimistic in India as compared to the Europeans and Americans.

So, what should you do?

Firstly, scenario planning for the best and worst case needs to be looked into. Company needs to engage all of its department like marketing, finance, HR, supply chain to develop specific challenges that the customer, brand and company could face in each of the scenarios. For example, if all is well, then the scenario involves purchase of TV spots during Indian Premier League (IPL); a worst-case scenario in which IPL is cancelled should identify alternative ways to reach customers.

Secondly, as a marketer, better understand where do you stand in the post Covid-19 times. Understand the new challenges and look for opportunities which earlier never existed. Marketers need to listen to their customers and understand their moods. Start marketing for your customers, because you can add genuine value to their lives. Start marketing for your suppliers and their businesses. Start marketing for yourself. Take for example, McDonald in Brazil to spread the message of social distancing, posted a picture of its separated iconic golden arches.

Similarly, Pizza Hut changed its logo to Pizza Home to remind people of social distancing.

Thirdly, Brands need to build trust and not be opportunistic in driving short term sales. Coronavirus is considered to be a black swan event and will have far reaching consequences in the lives of its customers. Therefore, the brand needs to understand the sentiments of the consumers on social media through various listing tools available and craft messages which are relevant and authentic.

Fourthly, most of the consumers are online and want the brands to continue with their advertising, so any knee jerk reaction will decrease the share of voice and should be necessarily avoidable. Brands should show sensitivity and continue with brand communication through messages of consumer wellbeing and positivity. For instance, singers are doing free online concerts, the universities are conducting online sessions partnered with the industry.

And finally, since most of the media is consumed from home, therefore shift your brand media mix to the new norm. It’s critical for digital marketers not to get bogged down by the current crises or not to slacken their digital marketing budgets but rather take a long term view of the situation. People are spending more time online and probably have not cancelled but have postponed their purchase decisions. So your brand has to be upfront in engaging your customers through public relation activities. People are still searching, so optimize search engine for your website. Also it is essential to engage people with emotional & relevant content in these testing times and finally engage them through email marketing as they too want to know what their brand can do for them in these difficult times.

Hope mankind and business tide over these demanding challenges while staying home and staying safe.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors’ and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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