As coronavirus spreads its tentacles, a lot of brands are working towards spreading awareness around the disease, especially those operating in the hygiene category.
But should they be doing so, given that too many sources of information at such a chaotic time might turn out to be confusing for the general public?
Experts believe brands should not think of creating campaigns around the coronavirus unless its content is more informatively simplistic (and scientifically proven) as compared to the information being rolled by the government.
“Awareness is already there on TV, print, radio and the internet. I don’t think brands should use all the mediums and create clutter for the consumers. It’s a time to not create clutter and be informative in possible ways, apart from the information already present in the market,” said R S Sodhi, MD, Amul India.
“The government is already taking multiple measures for consumer awareness and we don’t want to confuse the consumer with the same messaging on multiple platforms,” he added.
In view of the increasing number of cases in India, the government has announced a slew of measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus outbreak in India. Several states have ordered schools and colleges to remain shut to contain the viral infection.
According to Samit Sinha, Founder of Alchemist Brand Consulting, brands should not think of monetising the crisis. Building an image on a consumer’s psyche over this topic will not be a good move. “I would urge brands not to try and take advantage of the fear and panic and add to it. Unless you are a healthcare brand and you have a relationship with something that can be done,” said Sinha.
Here is what we are doing as precautionary measures to address COVID-19.— Deepinder Goyal (@deepigoyal) March 13, 2020
Contactless food delivery is already available on the @zomato app through our ‘delivery instructions’ feature. An app update over the weekend will make this explicitly clear to everyone. pic.twitter.com/HJ012g5zfH
Brands that are usually seen reacting and communicating around newsworthy topics are currently staying quiet for the larger social good.
According to Sodhi, there should not be over-bombardment of awareness campaigns; it is one of the major reasons why many responsible brands are quiet and not rolling any Covid-19 related campaigns, and waiting for the crisis to pass.
“It would be incorrect if any brand commercialises the crisis by creating any type of stupid communication. Brands should not try to do any sort of stunts on this. There are times in life when one should back off and chill. Brands should not indulge in communication on the crisis,” said Tarun Singh Chauhan, Founder, TSC Consulting.
Sinha feels brands could have pitched in and diverted a few of their advertising budgets for public service campaigns had there not been awareness efforts from the government.
“It’s very critical for brands to not create panic and spread misinformation. If too many people start spreading information, it would be irresponsible. Sometimes the most responsible thing to do is to do nothing,” he said.
Experts said there is a lot of panic among consumers in terms of what kind of information they need to work with. They say this is not the time for brands to say, “Use my products or this product is the safest”.
However, experts say a right move for brands would be to amplify government’s communication, if they wish to do so.
“This is the time to help the government and not run your own parallel story with your campaigns,” said Chauhan.
“If a soap brand tells you to wash your hands more frequently, to my mind it would be of poor taste because the brand is trying to profit from people’s misery. It would be a brand trying to exploit a bad situation for their short-term monetising,” said Sinha.
Sinha said brands need to behave responsibly. “I don’t think this is the time for creative agencies to come out with clever campaigns. Everybody’s focus should be on containing the spread of the virus. The only thing brands need to do is behave responsibly,” said Sinha.