General Manager of Content & Engagement at SAC
It’s oh so quiet: A mall in Senayan, Central Jakarta, is seen nearly empty of customers as retail businesses face the adverse effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. (JP/Dhoni Setiawan)
The COVID-19 pandemic has seized our attention. An outbreak of the disease has quickly affected the confidence of investors and consumers. It's only natural for companies to calculate the risks, revise their targets and reconsider their policies, including aggressive plans.
Their marketing plans will also be affected. It is almost useless to sell irrelevant products in this situation, such as sneakers, and offline marketing activation is hampered as the general public is being urged to practice social distancing. It could be worse if your brand depends on an offline experience (a hotel or coffee shop, for example). Creating promotional materials also requires face-to-face communication. In a chat group whose members are people working in advertising and public relations, they are worried their clients would hold back any marketing activities.
Fortunately, humans have been trained to be adaptive. In this situation, your ability to adapt is tested.
Hand sanitizer brands or remote meeting platforms are products that might get traction, but how exactly can a brand survive in such uncertain conditions?
Back to your purpose
In the past, consumers chose products that offered rational benefits. Some shifted from ordinary shampoos to 2-in-1 shampoos for economic benefits. Then, as choices of products become abundant, producers began to develop emotional benefits. Along with the products' features, there is the emotional bonding between brands and consumers. Loyalty makes your customers choose your brand even when other brands offer more features or lower prices.
However, consumers are also prone to changes. The middle class, which keeps growing in numbers and have big buying power, demands something else from brands: a purpose. A brand’s purpose is the reason for a brand to exist beyond making money. In its 2015 research, Cone Communications revealed that millennials opted to reward more socially responsible companies. They are more likely to trust these companies, seek employment and buy or recommend their products to others. With good purposes, these brands live longer in their consumers' lives.
So, if you feel this is not the right time to sell, you can strengthen your brand value by creating a campaign about your brand's purpose. Sariwangi Tea, with its Mari Bicara (Let's Talk) tagline, can strengthen its purpose by bringing families together in accordance with the government's plea to stay at home. For instance, one campaign can have the tagline of, "Now we have time to have a real talk".
Sasa, the MSG-based seasoning brand, introduced the tagline Micin Swag Generation. It tried to change the labeling of micin or monosodium glutamate (MSG), long believed to have bad health effects. Sasa can probably strengthen its message with a new campaign, such as #BukanSalahMicin (it's not micin's fault). The brand can follow up with bold statements, perhaps by stating that there are health issues more dangerous than the suspected effects of MSG. Sasa also needs to make sure to have varieties of their products and new promotional packages for new and existing customers.
I urge brands to have real purposes. How can your brand’s values help people face this pandemic? Tokopedia can help by filtering their sellers, in the case of stores raising prices for face masks, for instance. Dancow with its Iya, boleh (Yes, you may) campaign might be able to create chat bots and applications that are integrated with the mapping of the virus, to help parents measure the risks before saying "Iya, boleh" when their children ask for permission for their activities.
Brand purpose-based activities may not directly increase sales. However, a brand's purpose is created to ensure your brand's value can increase and the company can remain sustainable and accepted by the public for decades to come.
Still, is it economically wise to hold a campaign under these circumstances? Isn’t it wiser to spend more carefully as cash is the most important resource right now? Yes, if you are pessimistic about the bounce-back trend or if you have a business runway of fewer than 12 months. But for brands with visions long ahead, this might be the right time to stand up. (wng)
After 10 years in the advertising business as a creative director, Arya Gumilar established KayuApi Digital Reputation, a firm specializing in using digital channels as a medium for public relations. In 2018, KayuApi merged with SemutApi Colony and Klix Digital as SAC, a branding, marketing, creative and data and technology consulting firm. Arya is the general manager of content and engagement in SAC.
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.