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Advertising or no advertising: Do consumers even bother during Covid-19 crisis?

Some brands have changed their communication around the pandemic and are being creative with advertisements, but does the consumer really pay attention to it during a global pandemic when priority is the availability of essentials? BestMediaInfo finds out

As India and the world fight the Covid-19 pandemic, brands have been creatively advertising around the situation. However, as the battle continues and people find themselves locked inside homes, does it actually matter what a brand communicates? Experts suggest that as the situation progresses, people primarily care about the availability and prices of the products. 

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Shivaji Dasgupta

According to Shivaji Dasgupta, Founder and Managing Director, Inexgro Brand Advisory, this is a time for direct action and communication must facilitate that action.  Explaining he said, “All brands should continue advertising as long as it is not illogical, irresponsible or insensitive. Illogical when there is no supply or demand, like say airlines or radio cabs. Irresponsible when the action may be detrimental to health and well-being. Insensitive when one is making fun of the current circumstances, like wearing masks or making an over-claim.”

Dasgupta said at this hour, consumers are only bothered about availability at the right price and with the least possible effort — of the brands and services they are comfortable and familiar with. “Only when there is no supply, will they experiment. Brands not in the consideration set will enjoy limited attention at this stage, as priorities are elsewhere. Although, it can be equally argued that with an increase in viewership, people are watching TV for longer periods, but with a lower appetite for brand-building messaging,” he added.

“As in when Domino’s announced the safety initiatives or the tie-up with Aashirvaad Atta from ITC, that communication is necessary and influential. This is a time for information-centric messaging, aiding the well-being and living quality of citizens — any other communication is truthfully unnecessary,” Dasgupta said.

Sridhar Ramanujam

However, a few experts also suggest communication is important to be on the consumer’s mind. Sridhar Ramanujam, CEO, Brand-Comm, said brands that have top-of-mind recall must not worry. “These are uncertain and challenging times. I think brands that are dominant and are on top of mind are at an advantage because people are not going to make drastic changes at least at such times,” he said.

“I don’t see people will stop buying if there is a lack of advertising. This has put a challenge on smaller brands as people would opt for known choices at this point. However, if there is a new need in the market, people will opt for a lesser-known brand,” he added. He said brands must also focus on being available at such times. He said local kirana stores that are willing to operate at such times will gain more traction than any of the brands.

However, Ramanujam said it is equally important for brands to be on the minds of the consumer to be ready after the situation is under control. He said at a time when media and buying prices are low, brands can communicate. “The dealerships of cars and bikes have been shut; the argument that will arise is why should brands advertise in such a case? However, I think we need to look at the purchase cycle; a car is not purchased as often. It might take months for me to decide and purchase a car. Suppose when media and buying costs are low at a time when people are consuming media, I might gain the top-of-mind attention for whenever the consumer is ready to make that purchase,” he said.

He said it is important to maintain a threshold level of advertising if the purchase cycle is not short. Ramanujam said brands should be cautious and avoid ‘in-your-face’ advertising as people today understand and can differentiate between good and bad communication.

GP Sah

GP Sah, Global Business Head, CG Foods, said brands that are available today might even get traction for a prolonged time even after the shortage is over “When there is supply shortage in any particular category of FMCG, there is no option for the preference of a brand. Under such circumstances, available brands having good quality may get traction for some prolonged period of time even after a shortage period. To be relevant during such a crisis period, socially responsible brands should concentrate more on the CSR aspect to earn goodwill from their consumers. In this way, such brands can easily bounce back once their supply-side resumes,” he said.

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