Brands in need of immunity

When the whole world is pondering over the country's preparedness in curbing the spread of the pandemic and its after effects on economy, the marketers are likely to overlook the need of the hour as far as their brand is concerned. The truth is, crisis hardly imply immunity from performance management as sooner or later markets are bound to judge companies on how effectively they have managed the challenge.

Noticeably, disruptions in the VUCA world have been receiving significant attention in conferences, seminars and workshops meant for industry leaders. Still, not many could fathom the unprecedented and improbable disruption that a virus could bring about in businesses across sectors, across markets, irrespective of their size or might. While for essential service providers, the challenge is about getting uninterrupted operations at the face of an unsurmountable surge in demand, for others it is about staying focused to sustain the shock and bounce back to the original level of functioning. Catastrophe is never an end to the story, and outliers in this race will be the ones who turn the trauma into long term growth.

It is definitely not a time to wait and watch. The real test for the brand has already begun. Amidst many other challenges including the ongoing experiment with work-from-home models of working; here are four pointers for the brand managers to act upon to stay fit.

Time to strategise: In this temporary lockdowns, marketers will find themselves with a lot of extra time that could well be interpreted as a welcome break to relook, rethink on the strategy that has been in place. Prudent ones would use this time to reorient and reinforce the new branding strategies that would bring them competitive advantage to fit to the changing norms of doing business in the post pandemic era.

Activate social media multiplier effect: This is going to be the right time for taking your brand to social media. The time is just perfect with the current boost of 50X social media traffic and engagement that is peaking higher than ever before.

Channelise employee confidence in the brand: It is now an opportune moment to get the inner core stronger. Training and developing employee's confidence in the brand, its core values and philosophy would go a long way in retaining talent and acquiring the right mix of customers both internally and

externally. An Airtel showing its network engineers or a Nature's Basket showing the commitment of its delivery executives while encouraging people to stay home during lockdowns will not only boosts the morale of the internal stakeholders but strengthens the brand's image in the minds of the consumers.

Communicate: Communicating the core values of the brand in this times of crisis would definitely pave way for the broader vision. Strong brands such as Harley Davidson showing parked motorcycles and urging riders to stay home or Unilever's Lifebuoy claiming any good hand wash would be good enough to keep you protected resonates the voice of resilient brands that would win the battle against all odds.

Facing this unanticipated disruption, to assume strong brands to remain invulnerable will be the biggest mistake. Strong brands are built around strong relationships that need to prosper in this turbulent time with timely action and execution. As brands go through this real test of resilience, those which actively work on their tolerance for variability, continuous adaptation and exploit opportunities will remain immune.

The success stories will feature the ones who remain optimistic and focused to manage growth despite the trauma with a long term perspective on actions for their big brand picture.

(Author of this article is Associate Professor and Marketing Area Chair, International Management Institute, Kolkata)

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