Is Adaptability The Only Refuge For Brands?

The pandemic is expected to create long-term ripples and influence the consumer psychology like never before. It is imperative for marketers to read the change and adapt to this volatility.


“The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings.” Kakuzo Okakura

For most marketers, the pandemic has brought-in a turmoil of changes in their current strategies and future recourses, as consumer attitudes and preferences evolve. There seems to be an incessant need for brands to reconsider their positioning as the concept of ‘fortress home’ from the 90’s returns. For most of you oblivious to this, ‘fortess home’ is referred to a phenomenon when people began to turn more inward and prioritized social values like safety and security.

Hence, the spotlight turns to the brands, where they are revisiting their strategies to deliver a sense of safety and trust amongst the larger community. It is no more about you and me, but many more in between. 

Sonali Singh - Head Digital Marketing, Bosch Siemens shares how these newer horizons are altering the brand positioning today and that it is rather an exciting time to create stronger touch-points. She adds, “It is an opportunity for marketers to show empathy to their consumers, to evoke positive messages through their brand communication. This has reflected in the kind of advertising we are doing now vs. the pre-covid days.”

So, does this mean a shift of focus from ‘return on investment’ to ‘return on empathy’? Arvind Bhandari - Executive Vice President, Director Nutrition South Asia Region, Nestle believes that the brand fabric doesn’t change. “The fundamentals remain the same- brand purpose, positioning remain same at large. However, contextualizing and making the story relevant alters. This is reflected in the communication getting tweaked or modifying the quality of creative,” he adds. 

One can never deny that empathy does go parallel with brand loyalty. Building and maintaining healthy relations with the consumers remains to be the cornerstone for any brand. And this further translates into better ROIs. Talking of the notion of loyalty today, the marketers believe that the loyalty of yesteryear has rather reconfigured. Bhandari here adds, “If the brand is transparent about its purpose, forget loyalty, you can create a cult status for your brand. Diving deeper can give you higher dividends.”

How are the brands staying relevant?

Content is democratised today and there’s an increased pressure on brands to stay as relevant. This burdens the brands to adapt to the newer norms, while continuing to stay who they are. Vishal Bhatnagar - Sales Director-South Asia, BBC Global News believes, “The values and habits of the brands should not change. The constant endeavour must be to understand the evolving consumer needs. Be intimately aware of how the audience is changing, engage with them, while adapting to new tools and technology. The change needs to be in the delivery mechanisms, not the fundamentals.”

Singh also adds here, “Adaptability will go a long way. Accessibility and value for consumer is important. Hence, an assurance message is the need of the hour.”

Bhandari is also of the opinion that brands must evolve as the time demands. However, their roots must remain the same. “There may be another trend the next year; hence, brands must strike a balance between its essence and the reflection of the changing environment,” he says.

The Notion of Going Digital Heavy

In the earlier times, brands created and circulated one asset on all of their platforms. Today, the consumer demands different. It is important to understand that while humans haven’t fundamentally changed, their interaction with technology has changed. 

So, with most brands investing heavy on digital, does this translate into an effective brand positioning?

Bhatnagar opines, “Medium reflects a change in behaviour. So, if your audience consumes more online content, going digital heavy is feasible. Millions of dollars on traditional media is not required.”

Singh holds contrasting views. She says, “We create messages that are media-agnostic. Digital is here but till when is the question. Digital helps us in building the gap and ensure better branding experience but looking at our product portfolio, we do need tangible touch-points.” 

Bhandari on the other hand believes that each brand varies in its requirement. “If you are a mass brand, then digital-only may not be the best bet. However, for niche brands, it is a great way to have intimate conversations.

Going hybrid is also a great alternative. Brands can make use of TV for better reach and digital for intimacy.”

Altering the Brand Communication

This time calls for the growing demand of essentials than anything else. While people are hesitant to shell out their money on anything other than these essentials, this sure is putting most brands in spot. Ensuring an effective brand communication, while generating revenues, appears to be challenging and pressuring for brands. 

Singh explains how the brand is communicating during this testing time. She shares, “We are utilising this time in generating awareness and educating the audience through DIY videos, conferences, discussion forums, etc. We are aiming for positive testimony that will eventually convert the prospects into customers.”

Bhandari shares, “The brand must modify its 4Ps with time. Look for any disruption that can be possible during a crisis. The key takeaway is that a marketer must be ready for a crisis portfolio as well.”

It is obligatory for consumers to expect more mindfulness from brands in these testing times, by addressing the larger issue than being opportunistic. They expect brands to communicate around the company’s purpose and values. Instead of pushing the product benefits, gravitate to empathetic communication and the consumer will never leave you.