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As normalcy returns, optimistic brands slowly up their marketing spends

Brand marketers are re-evaluating marketing spends and allocations to create demand. Experts told that TV and digital would get a majority of spends as consumption in these two mediums increased in lockdown

Companies are hoping for a slow 'return of business to normal' from June as the three unlock phases and a rise in demand for non-essential items have made brand owners optimistic about the time to come.

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Brand marketers are re-evaluating marketing spends and allocations to create demand in consumers’ minds for product purchases. The pandemic has changed the landscape for many brands and the way they plan to spend on marketing.

Experts from brands and agencies told that TV and digital would get a majority of spends as media consumption in these two mediums significantly increased in lockdown. Performance marketing strategy will be significant in the digital spends of brands as the focus will be on creating sales-driven campaigns.

Lockdown 4.0 gave relaxations for the selling of non-essential products in standalone stores in a phased manner and on e-commerce. In containment zones, lockdown will continue till June 30.

Green Lin

With consumer focus shifting to online avenues, global laptop brand MSI will sell its products online and communicate over a digital medium. "E-commerce has always played an important role in the growth of MSI in India. We will engage with our customers and promote the products on platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and YouTube," said Green Lin, Regional Marketing Manager, MSI.  The brand has seen a rise in demand for high-performance laptops with functional mobility.

Many brands that had cash reserves but could not use it for marketing in the last two months due to production halts have started coming back with new campaigns.

“Winning a share of voice at this time supports a long-term recovery plan for companies. 34% marketers have said they will either maintain or increase spends in 2020,” said Prashant Misra, SVP at Magnon/TBWA.

Rahul Gandhi

According to Rahul Gandhi, CMO of ID Fresh Foods, the brand always had massive spends on digital and BTL. However, the BTL (below the line) spends will get deployed on e-commerce as consumers have become friendlier with online platforms.

Gandhi said ID's marketing spends will increase as new competition has entered the market with a similar core philosophy and product proposition that the brand has had from the last 15 years.

"ID's core philosophy and product proposition from the last 15 years has been to give healthy and hygienic food without any preservatives. We were good for immunity from 2005, and because of the onset of the virus, many brands jumped on the proposition ID had from years. In our mind space, we have more competition; hence we have to be louder than others," said Gandhi.

The brand has planned for an omnichannel approach for marketing and will advertise on TV, digital and radio. It has to be programmatic-driven and purpose-driven marketing.

Chaitanya Ramalingegowda

Chaitanya Ramalingegowda, Co-founder of, said they have reached 75% of their pre-Covid marketing spends, and most of it is on performance marketing. The brand will not spend on brand building campaigns as it becomes hard to measure ROI reliably in purpose-led campaigns. "Purpose-led will be lesser than performance-led," he said.

Primary targets to achieve from marketing now

A lot many brands are optimising their digital spends and looking at creatively expanding their arms in the space. The movement will support brands to preserve their cash and track ROI.

"When ROI on expenditure becomes paramount, brands go for performance campaigns and ignore the storytelling, brand-building and emotional connect in its communication with the consumer," said Gandhi.

He thinks brand communication should drive purpose and performance as only performance-led campaigns can put a brand image in danger. "Consumers are looking for trust, and they wish to see preventive measures brands have taken while making and delivering the product," Gandhi said.

According to Gandhi, the concept of marketing will not change due to the pandemic, and the marketing objective will remain the same for any brand. The objectives include increasing brand awareness, consumer preferences, giving the consumer a reason to try, making sure the first experience is so good that re-purchase happens and to bypass the emotional or rational values a consumer may have towards the product.

Prashant Misra

Misra said that 22% brands had changed their content and communication strategy as per their positioning, values and tone of voice. Brands will be more digitally available to people at home with a rise in local searches.

With campaigns on digital mediums, aims to create brand re-call about how its products are relevant in the lockdown.

MSI will use social platforms to connect with the users and understand their requirements.

Krsnaa Mehta

"Social media will be the primary market for marketing. We believe Facebook and Google ads are here to fulfil that aim and there are many more digital platforms that can offer a reach for brands that fits the bill. For retail, the two remain the primary platforms," Krsnaa Mehta, Founder, Executive Director at India Circus, a Godrej Venture.

Does brand marketing mean normalcy of business at A&M agencies?

The opening up of markets and the situation returning to normal has also stirred some positivity among media, creative and digital agencies. With many brands wanting to get active, June is looking better than May for A&M companies.

Navin Khemka

Navin Khemka, CEO, MediaCom South Asia, said, "Most brands want to see an immediate impact on sales as the lockdown lifts. We see much short-term offers and information like the ease of availability, delivery, e-commerce readiness communication by brands."

According to media agencies, TV and digital are getting a majority of spends as consumption in these two mediums has increased.

Divya Karani

Divya Karani, CEO of dentsu X India, said brands in essential categories stayed on course and did not blink during the challenging period. But marketers such as Maruti Suzuki stepped forward firmly and decisively after the lockdown. "The media mix now is mainly TV, digital, followed by print and radio," she said.

Raj Kamble

"I am confident that the V-shaped recovery that many are predicting will happen," said Raj Kamble, Founder and CCO, Famous Innovations.

He said people with higher purchasing power are not affected. While they may delay or downsize large purchases such as homes, weddings, jewellery, their day-to-day brand choices are not going to change fundamentally.

"Agencies need to keep a close track of people's sentiment every day as changing emotions of people can have an immediate impact on the way we communicate for brands. Brands that are sensitive and that react fast will benefit," Kamble said.

Anil K Nair

It's an excellent time for brands to pivot, define the purpose, future-proof their business with technology and innovations, add massive value to their customers' lives and design value propositions around their customer needs. All of this will need spending and investments and agency partner support, says Anil K Nair, CEO of VMLY&R.

Nair said categories such as auto, telecom, foods and ecommerce are more optimistic and will try and maximise their return to media. Many others like fashion, retail and entertainment among others will subdue. 

Will performance marketing be crucial for brands?

As an aftermath of the pandemic, digital + technology are something that will get leveraged with more focus on outcome-driven planning. Creative fresh will align to the core proposition and offerings of brands. With sales down for almost 60 odd days, companies are trying to tamp up business as much as possible.

Sandeep Sreekumar

"We are expecting higher focus on performance marketing and SEO, which is likely to justify the budget allocations. With new trends coming into play, we are excited to see what the future holds for us," said Sandeep Sreekumar, Managing Director, Media Moments.

Nair sees monies getting invested in performance creative, drive to commerce, digital overall, strategic alliances and some segments on TV. For brands with deep pockets, this is an excellent time for some bargain-basement deals.

Yamaha's key focus is to bridge the gap between consumer, business format and restrictions. The immediate attention will be on ROI and sales. Brand investment will realign with business targets foreseeing the demand and supply after lockdown.

Vijay Kaul

Marketing spends will eventually focus on optimising ROI and saving bottom-line. “We are agile and tracking the ground reality from sales, dealership network and consumer perspective. It gives a more real situation update and layering a solution that will help the brand in the new normal to scale business,” says Vijay Kaul, DGM of Yamaha India.

Yamaha plans to be with customers at every stage of their purchase journey and brand experience. Digital layered with the technology of artificial intelligence and machine learning will help to achieve the planned goals and TV will help to build top-of-mind awareness before the festive season.

Kiran Ramamurthy

“This is a period for marketers to be alert to very fluid situations. There are going to be no silver bullets. A ‘test-and-learn’ approach where one experiments with both creative and media is probably best in the short and medium term,” says Kiran Ramamurthy, COO, MediaMonks.

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