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The Role of Brands and Marketers in an Unprecedented Crisis

Rajesh Pantina
Head of Marketing, Asia Pacific
5 min read
Posted on April 21, 2020

As the world come to terms with a new reality in the face of COVID-19, brands and marketers globally find themselves having to answer a difficult question - what should they be saying in these unprecedented times? Or, should they even respond?

Do Consumers Want Brands to Stop Advertising?

When Kantar recently surveyed more than 35,000 consumers, immediately after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 as a pandemic, their expectations were clear:

  • 75% of respondents believed that brands should inform consumers what they were doing
  • And, only 8% thought brands should stop advertising

In fact, data after the 2008 financial crisis shows that brands that continued advertising came out stronger - up to nine times faster in stock value than others. With consumers making their expectations clear, what should brands keep in mind during these unprecedented times?

Embracing Purpose-Led Brand Communication

Brands, legacy or new, are important during a crisis and should stay true to their purpose. They must remember the following tenets of purpose-led communication:

  • Long-Term Approach: Brands must take a long-term approach by being respectful and sensitive to the times they are in, where an immediate push for sales takes a back seat for prioritizing consumers’ needs.
  • Mental Brand Equity: Marketers must leverage owned, earned and paid media channels to provide consumers with information that can help navigate these times – be it with educational ‘how-to’ guides or product updates, in a periodic and time-sensitive manner.
  • CSR/PSA Initiatives: By engaging in initiatives such as public service announcements, brands can not only spread awareness on COVID-19 but also on related causes. These initiatives alleviate stress for those most affected by the crisis.

Leveraging Digital Responsibly During Crises

As the situation is ever-evolving and ambiguous, digital platforms - especially mobile - can help brands reach consumers in a fast, time-sensitive manner. Though governments and global organizations such as WHO have shared guidelines, how can brands navigate this pandemic effectively?

Understand Your Consumer

In order to maintain sensitivity, it is critical to understand that consumer behavior is rapidly changing, and in some cases will lead to a new normal. Brands can build these insights from a variety of sources including public information shared by government agencies, reports by leading think tanks or running their own mobile surveys. Complement these insights by leveraging intelligence to understand shifting patterns from appographic data to offline visitation patterns.

Identify Emerging Audiences and Make the Shift

Ultimately, brands must curate information for these new behaviors and emerging personas, such as recipes for the techie who is learning to cook for the very first time or educational games for working parents trying to teach their children at home. Brands should be prepared to face a new consumer and an accelerated shift in their behaviour on the other side of the crisis.

Amidst all this, what we must not forget, is to be “human” and that we are in this together. By going above and beyond, brands can inspire and instil optimism in the global community. Brands can alleviate a core concern through valuable information for the most affected, provide a transient yet significant moment of relief through humor, unite near and dear ones through the power of technology or cater to the needs of frontline workers in the best possible manner. Whatever be the means, brands must lead the resurgence and solve for the challenges that their customers are facing in an empathetic manner. By leveraging digital, brands can provide useful information to consumers in near real-time and drive a lasting impact.


Interested in understanding the changing consumer behavior better? Check out our global COVID-19 insights page or reach out to us at mobilemarketing@inmobi.com.

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