Cristiano Ronaldo’s brushing aside of Coke, in the place of water in a press conference in Portugal that brought down Coca Cola‘s share price, instantly from $56.10 to 55.22 during the Last Euro 2020 may not be COVID related; but speaks volumes of how the rapid changes in the environment (COVID included), will force marketers re-think their strategies.
Much has been written about brands and COVID and the focus henceforth will be on post-COVID implications for brands, presuming they have seen the worst of the COVID phase.
Marketers have always been interested in the intent of consumers; now it is the turn off consumers to explicitly, expect the intent of a brand’s promises - “What can a brand do for me?” in the post-COVID recovery phase. Would consumers’ be much more than their 'usual self", generally associated with benefits of the brand, iconic celebrity associations, and marketing mix.
It's worthy of note that, warning consumers about COVID or lack of vaccination or having an association of CSR activities are useful but post-COVID requires a different perspective to make an impact on consumers. Marketers should avoid clichéd types of communication, which was common during the early times of the COVID.
It's also important for marketers post-COVID-19 to create unique and customer-oriented marketing solutions. But, the big question that now stares all marketers in the faces is how to attract and retain consumers and inspire loyalty.
One of the ways to achieve this is for value to be emphasised. But this also depends on the type of the brand, because a brand competing in the commodity type of market, is different from an organic brand offering in the food category; A brand in the grain segment will have an opportunity to further elaborate on the quality of organic grains to strengthen its brand proposition.
A luxury brand in the category of automobile needs to not just highlight the symbolic status appeal; the brand may like to have localized events (in accordance with the target segment) with appropriate “local heroes” or any other brand endorser as appropriate (for example, a well-known corporate personality).
A brand in the sensual consumption sphere (for instance ice cream), may have to emphasize the pleasure of consumption as a kind of celebration of the return of normalcy and perhaps initiate a social event with an appropriate contest involving the brand(several themes and variations can be worked out for such alternative depending on the type of product category).
Also, a brand of milk additive (both for kids, adults, or senior citizens) needs to re-launch /add a variant that emphasizes specific immunity boosters and perhaps a call line for customization of the usage of the brand, in line with the daily activities of the consumer. The trust factor is important and if the consumer lifestyle demands a better alternative than the brand, the brand should reflect the sincerity in its suggestions.
In addition, brand handlers need to get into action. For example, an antiseptic brand can provide establish small kiosks, educating consumers on overall hygiene, not just on washing hands; a premium edible oil brand associated with health and fitness can provide customized information on post COVID diets.
Several studies in the consumer behavior research literature have shown strong linkages with brands. There are two ways to approach the buyer’s perception of brands. One is to highlight the problem solving associated with the brand and another is to reflect the enhancement of consumer’s daily life.
As far as possible, it may be appropriate to use the latter appeal in the post covid era, depending on the product category. This is not a blanket approach, and a brand should consider its past communication, the strength of differentiation with other brands in the category, and the motivation of consumers. The idea, of this suggestion, is to imply that happy emotions are more appropriate after consumers have visually experienced negative emotions in almost every news channel.
There may be several digital initiatives, other than the run-of-the-mill communication that is ridden with visuals. Savings, and thriftiness will have a significant meaning post-COVID, and brands will have the opportunity to use the occasion as appropriate.
A bank in a developed market has introduced a mobile app, that enables a consumer to press a key to save any amount, however small it may be -the sheer convenience of saving converts the intent into action). An emerging market like Nigeria, with millions of consumers in the “savings” mindset, especially after the pandemic will be interested in such an app.
Besides the utility, there is also a sense of experience associated with the feature. Tissot has used augmented reality in the UK, to literally enable the window shopper to try out the brand using a digital band, send it to friends and then decide on the purchase. Such an initiative by an early mover brand can create excitement, among consumers, especially after being locked up indoors during the pandemic.
A super-market in Germany has introduced an incentive to every consumer who takes a photo of his /her choice of product in the store, using the mobile app. While these initiatives may not post covid initiatives, in the respective, countries, they may be very appropriate in a market like Nigeria, given their novelty appeal in the given scenario to generate joy among consumers.
Brands will benefit, if they study the digital applications of brands in developed markets and adapt them (as appropriate) to the home markets as consumers (mass markets included) are emotionally linked to mobile phones.
Post pandemic offers marketers an opportunity to integrate brands and technology, and brands should consider the new measures as an investment in the brand.