Opinion | Brands celebrate positive vibes to beat covid blues3 min read . Updated: 13 Aug 2020, 08:32 AM IST
Even after the phased Unlock, firms continue to back content, campaigns that talk of positivity
It started with a spate of campaigns expressing gratitude to covid warriors, the frontline staff helping people amid the pandemic. The killer disease and the lockdowns that have taken their toll on India drove brands ranging from pharmaceutical companies and tyre makers to packaged food firms to recognize and thank people fighting to save lives. There was a sudden flurry of both television spots and digital films recognizing the services of doctors and other medical staff, as well as foot soldiers such as delivery personnel and factory workers performing their duties under perilous circumstances.
Even after the phased Unlock, the burst of feel-good advertising endures. Companies continue to back content or campaigns that talk of positivity. Although it did not come up with a television commercial, social media platform Facebook sponsored a series of positive, upbeat stories in several print publications and on broadcasting platforms. The company doesn’t call these advertorials but partnerships to highlight accurate information and showcase stories of people involved in the covid-19 fight, ranging from frontline medical personnel, police and administration, essential services providers, NGOs and good Samaritans. “It also celebrated voices and highlighted solutions discussing recovery," said a Facebook spokesperson.
Mondelez, the maker of Cadbury chocolates, through its advertising agency Ogilvy, reached out to consumers through a spate of print ads “Fill in the thanks" that enabled readers to fill in their personalized Thank You for people who made their lives easier. The print ad put the spotlight on everyday heroes who make our lives easier but go unnoticed. These include people such as household help, the society watchman, and the office administrative staff.
Organizations globally and some locally, too, are navigating towards the horizon of resilience and hope and the Facebook initiatives reflect the same, said Ashish Mishra, managing director, Interbrand India. The other key theme that’s centre-stage globally and has some strains of it visible locally, too, is that of hyper inclusion, he said. “Slowdown as well as the confinements have created solitude and reflective perspectives around materiality and greater significance of meaningful connections. Individuality implodes to give way to the long-ignored collectivism. Brands that often serve as a barometer of sociocultural shifts have begun to reflect them too. Cadbury’s recent expressions are in line with that," he explained.
Samit Sinha, managing partner, Alchemist Brand Consulting, does not think that the depression around covid-19 may be solely responsible for marketers suddenly discovering the merits of adopting feel-good communications themes, but it may have been the catalyst.
“It is important for brands to remain as salient as possible and maintain a threshold level of brand recall and affinity among consumers, as well as boost the morale of other stakeholders such as suppliers, collaborators, investors, and their own employees," he said, explaining the strategy behind such communication.
To be sure, the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown created immense disruption in supply chains and distribution for most consumer goods companies. That combined with depressed consumer demand would have certainly led to companies conserving their advertising budgets in the short term.
It’s undeniable that as product differentiation on the basis of tangible or functional benefits is becoming increasingly hard to establish, leave alone sustain, brands have no choice but to earn trust on an emotional and indeed feel-good level, Sinha said. “This is also likely to make the role of CSR in brand-building more important than ever and we are likely to see that as a growing trend even in the post-pandemic world," he said.
Such a communication strategy may not really have a downside. The only possible danger is if brands were to substitute product excellence for social or environmental relevance. Given the availability of alternatives, no one can influence consumers to patronize shoddy products or services regardless of how heart-warming their communication may be, Sinha said. Mishra added that brands need to watch out for two things: One, be careful of becoming a caricature of care and lose themselves in the sea of sameness. Two, be prepared to resolve the dilemmas of humanity, welfare and equality against the on-hold greed for aggressive growth and profiteering. “Something that will be raring to raise its not-so-pretty head at the earliest opportunity of normalcy," he said.
Shuchi Bansal is Mint’s media, marketing and advertising editor. Ordinary Post will look at pressing issues related to all three. Or just fun stuff.