Creating effective communication for the audience engagement during lockdown

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Marketing guru Seth Godin once famously said, “It’s easier to love a brand when the brand loves you back.”

These words have never rung truer than now.

The world is enveloped in gloom right now. You only have to switch on your phone or open the newspaper, and there’s just one bad news after the other. So, marketers would perhaps have to pause and think – what are the top four things that the consumer is craving the most right now? To my mind, they are:

  • Positivity
  • Hope
  • Empathy
  • Stability

This is a great time to build brand love, provided marketers are able to craft a communication and engagement strategy incorporating the above during these uncertain times, they would be able to win life long loyalists of their brands.

An effective communication strategy is one that serves as a voice of reason while being empathetic and staying true to the brand’s core character. Nike’s “Play Inside to play for the world” messaging urging people to stay indoors to save lives, is an excellent example of this. It shows how, a brand, during times of need and crisis, can do volte face while being true to their personality.

This is also a time to express gratitude and shine the spotlight on those that help us navigate these uncertain times. And brands have to take the lead in this gratitude journey.

Brands have also realised that if they do their bit during these distressful times, there will almost be an organic pull in terms of engagement. Swiggy’s recent “Shukriya Kare” campaign thanking not just delivery boys of Swiggy but also those of Dunzo was a wonderful act. And it did make a very pertinent point. The point being that this is no time to take a dig at competition brands and oust them. This is the time to come together, stay united, and try to keep spirits high by spreading positivity.

A great example of brands batting for each other during this crisis is the Lays “Thanks for the HeartWork” campaign, which is a tribute to the unsung heroes in the war against COVID, acknowledging the hard work of brands such as KFC to Whisper and Urban Company.

In the face of marketing budget cuts, marketers are divided on whether or not to spend marketing dollars now – at a time when people are not consuming their products or services.

While some are taking a “wait and watch” stance, we, at Columbia Pacific Communities, believe that this is no time to go dark or remain silent for a brand. On the contrary, for a brand like ours catering to a demographic that is the worst hit by COVID-19 (senior citizens), this is the best time to engage with them with a message of hope, positivity and wellbeing.

The most successful brands in the world are purpose driven. They go beyond selling a product. And they believe in solving a problem and making a positive impact in the world.

The right kind of communication can play a crucial role in inspiring consumers at this gloomy hour.

Almost immediately after the nationwide lockdown was announced, we acted swiftly and launched a 19-day social media campaign titled #PositiveLockdown. The objective of this campaign was to ensure that seniors make the most of the lockdown period and try out new experiences or nurture old hobbies that they had earlier not found time for. Through a digital activity calendar of sorts, we shared ideas of things seniors could indulge in – from reading the books they hadn’t found time to read, to learning an instrument and playing online antakshari, to giving gardening a shot.

The campaign reached over 12.5 lakh people and garnered over 13.1 lakh impressions.

The next phase of our COVID communication saw us engaging with our customers through a campaign titled #SeniorsInCommand. The campaign, much like its name suggests, was an ode to seniors who have taken charge of the situation and gone beyond their call of duty to help and support communities affected by the virus. Everyday heroes in our community like ladies who are making masks for frontline warriors or those that are teaching kids online, were brought to the fore. This campaign too reached of over 10 lakh people.

We also launched a weekly virtual chat show titled The Living Room using the FB live feature of Facebook, bringing experts and luminaries to the living rooms of seniors through social media. This initiative resulted in a 193% jump in conversations and reached over 1.3 lakh people, featuring people from different walks of life – from actor-activist-director Nandita Das, Kabir Bedi, to adman Prahlad Kakkar, cricket commentator Charu Sharma and super chef Nimish Bhatia.

These initiatives are not taken with the objective of driving sales. We are aware that ultimately, a consumer’s purchase decision (particularly of a high-value product) is not really based on whether he/she enjoyed a live session on a brand’s Facebook page. And this is where Seth’s words come alive. This is the time to love, care and do our bit without looking at sales and conversion numbers.

This is also the time to build awareness around your brand if you are an emerging brand or create salience and “top of mind” if you are an established brand, because consumers are consuming more content than ever on digital platforms. And the only way to do this is through effective storytelling and a noble intent.

Brands must ensure that communication is in line with the crisis at hand.

Marketers need to be hyper-aware, hypersensitive and have their ears to the ground to avoid sounding tone-deaf or cloth-eared during these troubled times. This is not the time to do a “CORONA sale” and try to capitalise on a pandemic. Brands can’t afford to be irresponsible and insensitive towards certain sections of society. A classic example of a brand communication strategy going horribly wrong was the Kent RO ad.

So, this is the time to step back, hit the reset button, think, rethink, study and understand consumer sentiments, and then build a strategy that is a win-win for the brand as well as the end-user.

Attribution Details

Author Name : Piali Dasgupta, VP – Marketing, Columbia Pacific Communities.

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