As brands try to find a sign of semblance post a period of uncertainty, it has become more important than ever to understand and evolve as per changing consumer expectations. From selling goods online to incorporating consumer feedback are some of the ways brands are trying to remain relevant. Maulik Chandarana, head of business and strategy, ABND Branding Practice talks about how brands and agencies can engage with their consumers–
On the playbook, brands and agencies need to adopt in the new normal
The now more-than-ever cliché ‘never let a crisis go to waste’ is, perhaps, more critical than ever to consider for both brands and agencies. In a realistic sense – technology was always changing consumer habits, buying preferences and patterns. The acceleration– a result of the pandemic, is perhaps where the real knock has happened.
Brands are in a situation where the push has come to a shove. This is why the collaborative efforts of an agency and brands need to become more authentic. They need to be driven by prospects of catering to long-term sensibilities of customers and cultures they operate in.
This could definitely mean choosing certain segments of markets over others and truly catering to them well. Being ‘everything to someone’ is better than trying to be ‘something to everyone’. That would also mean taking stands when needed and knowing when to use communication for effective returns and responses. Think about it – for example, riding on the meme-wave is great, but is it necessary for every B-2-B brand? Or when every brand had their ‘logo elements’ running away from each other to harp on ‘social distancing’, did it not become gimmicky after a point?
I am not saying that one shouldn’t engage in short-termism, but it must be calculated. Agencies can help here. More so, it should be in sync with the long termism, where brands today have a great opportunity to better their best practices now. Of course, for some other brands, the opportunity could be about either taking corrective measures or being realistic about biting only as much as they can chew. Internal outreach and team engagement is another big area where brands can focus on. The ‘real’ tribe of a brand are its employees, and flagbearers among these will benefit brands immensely. In a nutshell, one grows at a place where one can grow the place. Brands can be this ‘place’ with agencies helping.
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On the gradual return of the business – how much of it is restored and the new trends which can be spotted compared to pre-Covid times
One thought that the gravity of the situation would significantly ease, especially with the vaccine roll-out world over. But the resurgence of the virus impact has only elongated the multitude of events, incidents, emotions and turmoil. People have been affected personally and there has been a hit professionally too. And for now, there still seems to be a lot of trial-and-error at play.
Businesses had already been divided into online and offline with many offline brands trying to gain a foothold in the digital space to match the growing preference of buying from online channels. There was resentment earlier among traders too that may only grow with lock-down scenarios. Yes, the scales do not equitably favour offline retailers and local shop owners as they cannot match the delivery and ‘discount’ prowess of the big players. But that is exactly why it is going to be a wait-and-watch game as supply chain and channels rehash. In one way, it may possibly work out favourably as common grounds may emerge with ‘truces’ and/or better systems in areas in pricing and delivery.
In general, though, businesses, especially, manufacturing ones and other small and medium enterprises will have to be more cognizant of people’s well-being. ‘People first’ attitude will see a visible rise. Also, the new businesses born during this time will see a flux with a lot of experimentation. With the new generation of entrepreneurs and younger workforce coming in, there is a high chance that the ‘better preparedness’-mindset will gain prevalence.
The ‘work-from-anywhere’ team member is growing as a credible resource for us at ABND just like numerous other organisations globally. This is a meaningful development in thawing a highly fragmented yet strongly opinionated world where individuality can have voice and not be lost. One can pursue various hustles simultaneously. Interestingly, business playbooks are no longer venerable bibles. They evolve or give way to new ones.
On how brands can create at-home meaningful experiences for consumers
It goes without saying that in-home meaningful experiences call for imagination. However, while leveraging technology and digital platforms is a given, the messaging, interaction and engagement is what matters to customers.
As many experiences shift home, brands can definitely use data to interact with customers for the personalised effect, but here’s where intrusion can be felt. Most customers understand that devices are listening, and maybe even seeing, but that’s where brands will have to employ technology sharply and be more mindful.
Additionally, while investing in building these experiences, the angles of hygiene and health should not be missed out. This applies to both online and off-line experiences. For example, when food-delivery services indicate temperature of the delivery personnel carrying their food or packaging interventions, they inculcate a sense of security.
Not all businesses will have it easy and behavioural shifts will dictate category growth. For instance, while getting homes painted is seen as a wonderful occasion for change, its reliance on third-party painters and contractors may lead to preference of wallpapers, so as to that require lesser on-site time by third parties. Here, re-imagining the entire experience gains significance for the brand. This will be far more important than simply doing topical communications or riding the meme-wave or the ‘we care’ bandwagon.
On how brands can make the most of the shift towards digital
Just like the physical world demands living by certain rules clubbed with one’s personal judgement, cognizance of the nature of the digital world helps in shifting and adapting better.
The digital space never sleeps. Communication in the digital world is like flinging a message in the bottle into the vast ocean. But that very nature of it can make it untraceable or ‘lost’ or it can hound when it ‘resurrects’ unexpectedly in the future. Thus, knowing what to communicate and importantly, be an authentic voice of the brand is important. Authentic voice can withstand voices of backlash.
Another important thing is that there are various means to communicate, interact and sometimes, simply exhibit on various digital platforms. Being active on these platforms where the brand really can engage with its chosen set of customer segments is most useful. This means not necessarily running after platforms that are most popular alone, and not looking down on other platforms or channels.
Clearly, it is about due consideration of digital outreach opportunities, clubbed with understanding of its finer nuances. It makes for efficient engagement with customers or users, and impulse sales as well. It’s an opportunity waiting to happen if right engagements are happening with right audiences, and there are ways to buy without hassle. Technology has made it possible.
Last point, without trying to be cheeky, who doesn’t love a viral? A viral video, content, photo, message, etc. – brands would be happy to get publicity, right? But here’s where caution is a must. Viral marketing, influencer and micro-influencer programs and all such methods of digital communication should be harnessed with brand authenticity. That will help brands align with voices to reach audiences who will believe.