By Azeez Disu
Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is affecting every sphere of human endeavours and marketing activities is not spared. Amazingly, the marketing landscape is changing and brands are deploying new tactics to stay relevant in a competitive marketing world.
It is noteworthy that since the pandemic broke out starting from China and spreading to other parts of the world including Africa and Nigeria, it has claimed many lives, leading to the cancellation and postponement of many local and global events. Similarly, many economies have been shut down and analysts forecast the likelihood of a recession in the coming months.
With social distancing and stay at home campaigns gaining ground, many brands are jumping on the bandwagon to stay connected with their target market. In another vein, some brands are reinventing themselves by offering new solutions and also developing new channels to reach their target market in a taste volving world where holding hands or having contact with infected people is a threat.
Stay Safe Campaign
As many countries including Nigeria shut down all activities and urged all their citizens to stay at home to curtail the spread of the virus. Some brands are leveraging on the situation to urge consumers to stay at home with #StayAtHome campaign and series of enlightenment campaigns which includes #Social Distancing among others across mass media.
These have helped the brands to achieve top -of -the -mind awareness and at the same helped them boost their sales.
In the telecom sector, for example, brands like MTN, Glo, Airtel, and 9mobile do send SMS as well as voice messages to subscribers on symptoms to watch out for and how to avoid being infected with the virus among others.
In addition, brands across all sectors from banking, insurance to manufacturing amongst others are not left out in the sensitisation initiatives.
As the close of stores and markets were enforced by the government, most consumers went into panic buying making the stores run out of stock.
The situation is similar to what happened in the United State and United Kingdom when the government ordered a total lockdown and told all their citizens to stay at home.
Unsurprisingly, there had been an increase in adverts of food and groceries, as markets selling foods, water, drugs and other essential commodities are allowed to open in the midst of the lockdown which makes it easy for consumers to still get food items in the market.
However, the cost of goods is more than double. A market survey revealed that the goods in high demand are food items, face mask, hand sanitizers, gloves, soaps, antiseptic liquid, bleach liquid, and drugs like Ibuprofen, Chloroquine, Vitamin C and others. This made companies such as May & Baker, Unilever, Reckitt Benckiser and others record high patronage.
Also, Gin brands are not left out, as consumers demand is increasing remarkably. Most of the time, they consume it and use it to wash their hands as a replacement for sanitisers which price increased drastically amidst scarcity, with the belief that it will protect them from the virus.
In the same vein, experts say handwashing with soap, when done correctly, is critical in the fight against the COVID-19, so this spark up the sales of soaps and detergents, recording remarkable sales in its history as demand outgrew supply.
Shifting To Online And Implications
In a bid to prevent further spread of the virus, companies’ staffs now work from home as social distancing is encouraged. Excitingly, most businesses and brands have turned to online to offer bespoke services to their customers and also connect with even their team members with apps such as Zoom, House party and others coming to the rescue.
With the paradigm shift, data and voice consumption is on the increase. From online videos, social media chats, visiting news sites for the latest news about COVID-19, video calls and others; data subscription grew remarkably according to an independent survey. In addition, voice is also increasing as people call their friends and love ones both within and outside the country to know how they are doing amidst the pandemic.
In most of the affected countries including Nigeria, schools have moved their classes to WhatsApp and online classes where pupils and students are being taught.
Interesting to note, e-learning platforms are on the rise across the world. In Nigeria, we have the like of Mobile Classroom which offered free access to its online portal to students during the pandemic while uLesson reviewed its price downwards.
IMC Agency Business
There is no gainsaying that COVID-19 is impacting every sector negatively including the Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) and its subsectors.
For example, experiential marketing activities which include market and street activations and others have been cancelled indefinitely, making the N30bn industry record a setback. For advertising agencies, their creatives are centred on COVID-19 because it is a new reality while getting new businesses is practically impossible.
As the stay at home continues, the apex advertising body, Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), had to temporarily suspend its operations. It, however, said it would actively keep its digital platforms open and operational to the public and its valued clientele.
“APCON is determined to comply with appropriate measures/directives by the Federal Government in curtailing the scourge. However, we implore the general public and our highly esteemed clients to take advantage of our relevant online vetting platform in accessing our services for the time being,” Acting Registrar/CEO of APCON, Mrs Ijedi Iyoha disclosed.
On another note, Out-of-home industry is mostly affected as people are not on the road to view their boards.
As regards media investment, media such as radio, TV and online are benefiting from the media investment of brands as independent research revealed that television viewership has risen significantly and viewers now consume more of local news and content than ever before.
In the same vein, Olusegun McMedal, Chairman Lagos Chapter, Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) said “According to Nielsen, these are good days for radio and TV news talk programs, which are reaching more people than they have in years. The increase in the radio and TV consumption is due to people being stuck at home and unable to do their normal activities. Also, people are hungry for the latest news on COVID-19.”
For public relations activities, some brands are supporting the government with donations to fight the spread of the virus while others are diversifying by offering new solutions that are in line with the new reality and these constantly make them appear in the news for good in a time such as this.
Meanwhile, some brands are creating social media campaigns that encourage people to stay at home among others, thereby achieving top -of- the -mind awareness with the help of their digital agencies.
Brands And Agencies Need To…
Speaking on what brands and IMC agencies need to do differently, McMedal said “This is not the time for brands to discontinue their PR efforts but they have to rejig the strategy and approach it in a more thoughtful direction. There’s a window of opportunity to be relevant. This is one of the time when knowledge or professionalism count.”
He added “For PR people, we are working remotely. We can do webinars to educate businesses on how they can manage relationships. This is the time for PR people to identify and position credential experts in medicine, law, finance, HR, supply chain management etc. to help people navigate COVID-19 era. Timely dissemination of information is also required at this point to remain relevant.
“Volunteering to be of service in affected areas and donations to the common purse will surely boost relevance,” he explained.
In addition, Yinka Adebayo, Executive Director, Media Investments, OMG WeCa and Publicity Secretary of Media Independent Practitioners Association of Nigeria (MIPAN) said “This certainly calls for careful planning and thorough thinking out of the box. It is a whirlwind that leaves you helpless. If you stand in its way, it would crush you. Your best bet is to ‘smartly’ figure out how to creatively flow with it so that the storm is over, your face will still be in the front. It is indeed a most challenging time for all.”
Reinventing in the time of crisis is critical to the survival of any brand. Some brands are reinventing in this time of COVID-19.
For example, due to the shortage of ventilators and other critical equipment that has become a growing concern amidst rising cases of COVID-19 across the world, Nigerian auto manufacturer, Innoson said it was ready to convert its assembly lines to start producing critical medical equipment that may be in short supply as the country battles the pandemic.
“Innoson Motors is ready to assist the government in any way we can, including the likability of converting outlines to produce ventilators and other equipment,” Cornel Osigwe, the company’s spokesperson, revealed.
In another vein, Anheuser-Busch InBev, a Beer Company, is using the alcohol leftovers from its production of non-alcohol beers to make sanitising products and it will distribute around the world free of charge.
The company would produce “over one million bottles” of its hand sanitiser or disinfectant. “We are proud of the resilience, commitment and agility of our teams that made these initiatives happen and honoured to be part of the solution,” the company said in a statement.
Similarly, Diageo, maker of alcohol brands Johnnie Walker and Smirnoff, has concluded plans to make the alcohol it provides available at no cost to hand sanitiser producers in multiple countries, to help overcome shortages in healthcare systems.
Many years ago, there was the long call for Vision 2020; little did the world know that the year would witness one of the worst outbreaks in the world’s history, COVID-19. As the Post- COVID-19 era approaches, it is believed that many lessons have been learnt by brands and many brands will reshape their business model and deploy innovative ways to be leaders in their space.
In line with the above, McMeda pointed, “Most definitely, the business model is bound to change for almost all the industry and professions. It will even affect real estate, transport and supply chain services will be drastically changed. I foresee a new culture of lean offices, lean operations, and outsourcing.”
Similarly, it is forecast that e-learning platforms, e-commerce and online services platforms will grow remarkably.
As regards technology, Adebayo pointed out that it will change the way businesses operate, “There is no doubt about this. You cannot experience what you have never experienced before and remain the same. All of the things will change after this experience. It is going to be a radical transformation of what we do and how we do them. One of the key changes, I see would be in the area of technology. The Stay-at-home order has forced many of us to hold meetings, negotiate and close deals, relate with prospects online. Things that we normally would have jumped on the road to do are now being done online. Technology has always been there but our usage of it has been abysmally low. The current situation is sure forcing to maximize its usage for faster, more effective and efficient result. There are certainly many positive sides to this development. So, it depends on how you look at it. For me, I choose to see the cup as half full rather than half empty.”
On another note, the demand for data will continue to grow over voice as more people need it to run their daily life and businesses via the internet.
More so, more brands will diversify and venture into other areas they have never explored before as some brands did during this era.
It is believed that brands and IMC agencies will key more into the digital space and see how their brands marketing efforts can be fully digitalized in order to achieve an optimal result.
Meanwhile, now is not the time for brands to hide and wait for things to go out of proportion. It’s time to get to action, find a new voice and identify how their brands can be part of the solution of the world.