It’s true that the COVID-19 pandemic has plummeted the economy into serious uncertainty. But, far more importantly, it’s also a frightening and dangerous time for the lifeblood of the economy: customers – everyday people.
At a time when it’s harder for people to buy, whether due to vigilant social distancing or financial insecurity, it’s how brands engage with them, even give back to them, that will determine their profits during this period and whether they’ll bounce back once the world recovers.
Here’s how brands are using marketing and campaigns to respond to the crisis, offer people support during this time and help to make the difference to their communities and the world at large as we all try to get by.
Vadilal Ice Creams is India’s second-largest ice cream brand with significant exports to USA, UK, Australia etc. It has a distribution network of 50,000 retailers, 550 distributors and 250 vehicles for delivery of goods.
Vadilal reached out through their Instagram to promote social distancing by staying topical and taking cues from Ramayana, one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India. A 1987-launched Indian tv series Ramayana, which was a visual representation of this ancient script was re-aired on television during the COVID-19 lockdown.
To stay relevant and connect with their consumers, Vadilal cleverly promoted social distancing mentioning ‘Lakshman Rekha’, an anecdote from the epic. Lakshman Rekha forms a strong connotation amongst Indians and is widely used in conversation to ‘not cross the line’.
Lakshman Rekha, contextually, is a line drawn by Lakshmana, an avatar of Hindu God Vishnu, around the hut he shares with his elder brother Lord Rama and Rama’s wife Sita during their exile. Before going out to search Lord Rama, Lakshman draws a line around their house to protect Sita as he asks her to not cross that line, known as the ‘Lakshman Rekha’.
After big storms, we look for rainbows. Because we are people and we love to hope. And this is what we teach to our younger ones.
A nurse from Florida started a challenge to draw a picture of a rainbow and hang it on the windows. This has been a viral trend worldwide sooner than Coronavirus itself.
Apple was not late to create a commercial to express how creative people can be, and how much time we have now to do so when we are staying home.
In March, as the leading sports brand apparel, Nike closed all its stores in key markets – including the US, Western Europe, Canada, and Australia – the brand has been driving engagement with consumers using digital means.
Nike, through its, ‘Play For The World’ campaign is not only reinforcing the brand’s message but also inspiring people through the power of sports. Nike’s digital ecosystem, including the Nike app, Nike Training Club app, Nike Run Club app, and social media channels is giving athletes and other fitness freaks free workouts, content, and expert guidance to help them reach their fitness goals while staying inside their homes.
The video ads released by the brand under the title ‘You Can’t Stop Us’ includes images and short videos of people working out in their homes, be it their kitchen, basement, living room, or bedroom. These videos also include footage of famous personalities including basketball star LeBron James and volleyballer Sarah Hughes.
Within an hour of the campaign announcement, a batch of Nike’s athletes posted the ad on their social media channels including Cristiano Ronaldo, Michael Jordan, and Tiger Woods.
Bumble is a dating/ networking/ friend-making app which is popular worldwide. They created this lovely emotive campaign around the power of connections, and how people can still meet new people, despite social distancing.
The best part of it was the positivity – giving people something to look forward to when things get back to ‘normal’.
Hungama is South Asia’s largest Digital Media Entertainment Company, headquartered in India. They have several sister portals such as bollywoodhungama.com, which is world’s largest Bollywood portal, thegamebox.com, India’s first social gaming portal etc.
Hungama continued promoting their playlists as an escape and a mood-setter during the lockdown period. It encouraged people to tune into their playlists while they worked from home during the lockdown. To make the message more creative and engaging, they rhymed the sentences and used Hinglish, a language that reverberates with their audience.
To encourage families to stay at home and help to flatten the curve during the peak of the Covid-19 crisis, Lego created an animated video urging kids to be superheroes while offering suggestions on what to do to stay safe.
By speaking directly to children and empowering them with a positive role in the crisis, Lego forged a real connection with its target demographic while offering genuine value with educational tips and resources on playing well at home. These STEM and STEAM-based initiatives are geared towards inspiring families across the globe to get creative during the pandemic.
The campaign’s inclusive messaging and content-driven direction offered audiences the perfect storm of engagement and educational value, which has so far resulted in record sales during the pandemic.
The company has made an intelligent and timely move by revoking its promotional campaigns and replacing them with ads that address the current situation. They take a subtler route with two striking ads.
One ad titled ‘Built for Right now’ tells the tale of its 100-year history and how it built machinery to support America during the War. The other one called ‘Built to Lend a Hand’ elaborates on its knack for immediacy – its ability to realise and recognise its customers’ needs.
These underline the fact that Ford intends to stick to ‘the greater good’ rather than market its products at such a time.
Adhesive brand Fevicol conducted a masterful and creative digital campaign around social distancing. It shows two elephants pulling away from each other with the line “Kal ke mazboot jod ke liye, aaj thodi doori maintain karona.” Not only were they one of the firsts to do it, but also did it with much aplomb.
9. Alexander McQueen
The luxury fashion industry has been affected by Covid-19, with brands forced to shut stores and suspend operations. This has resulted in increased digital engagement, however, as brands strive to maintain engagement with consumers online.
Alexander McQueen is one brand that has been successful in doing so, launching its ‘McQueen Creators’ campaign back in early April. Aiming to “inspire and initiate creative conversation”, the campaign involves asking users on social media to get involved with a new creative concept each week. The very first was to sketch and upload an interpretation of the final rose dress from Autumn/Winter 2019. Users are asked to tag their photos with the hashtag #McQueenCreators in order to get the chance to be featured on the Alexander McQueen channel.
With its creative and interactive elements, the campaign has been effective for generating continued engagement, as well as fostering a sense of community and togetherness for fans of the luxury brand.
IKEA is a great example of focusing primarily on building trust with your base instead of simply trying to sell a product. There’s generally an understanding that the promotional content created by brands on social media is ultimately meant to help increase their sales, which can make any attempts at compassion feel fake. However, in some cases, this can be done effectively.
IKEA managed to do exactly that with their #StayHome campaign. The purpose of the video they shared on social media was to encourage people to cherish their homes as they found themselves quarantined within their own walls. No IKEA products were featured, and no mention of their online services was made. It might seem a little counterintuitive for such a big brand to make no attempt to bring attention to themselves, but in simply relating to the experiences their customers were going through, they came across as genuinely caring.
In a time when it would be so easy to throw in the towel and languish, these brands are proving that they have so much more to give during these uncertain times. Sure, profits are going to be hit across the board, but it’s how companies present themselves and what they offer to the communities that are going to make them stand out. Months down the line, people will remember the brands that helped them through or supported others.