Sameer Singh
Guest Article

"Brands should try for eyeballs, mind-share and recall, but also look beyond numbers": Sameer Singh, TikTok

Considering the gravity of the current situation, here's what brands should be mindful of...

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the world to a standstill, truly a black swan event. Governments across the globe have stepped up their response measures working tirelessly to contain the novel corona virus outbreak that has put human lives at great risk. Unprecedented times call for extraordinary efforts. This is also true for consumer brands and those in the advertising and marketing fraternity.

The need of the hour for brands is to look at gaining eyeballs, mind share and top-of-the-mind-recall; yet it is also about looking beyond the numbers. The prevalent market conditions necessitate campaigns that are not only inclusive but can also drive a long-lasting message that will influence changing consumer behaviour. In fact, considering the gravity of the situation, this is what really matters.

Consumer media behavioural change

Factor these, things like social distancing and self-isolation were unimaginable to say the least. Work from home, is now a reality. The world is set to alchemize, so will consumer behaviour and media consumption habits in the life post COVID-19. The signs of change are showing already. A recent report by Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India and Nielsen highlighted that consumer consumption across television and especially smartphones have increased dramatically. In the first few weeks of the lock down, the total time spent per user on smartphones increased by 6.2 percent to 25 hours a week.

What does this mean for brands?

So the numbers are great. However, what are the consumer behaviours behind them? In a situation of forced collective confinement, are people as engaged with multi-user screes that are constantly on? Or are they zoning more into the personal screen of choice?

Brand owners, marketers and advertisers thus need to look at COVID-19 as a seminal and paradigm-shifting event. A worldwide phenomenon, this will redefine the rules of consumer engagement in the years to come. Taking this into account brands will have to be cognizant of the changing consumer dynamics and focus on the best medium that will enable the optimal combination of engagement and scale. Setting brands apart will be those adopting unconventional ways to be meaningful and inspiring at the same time.

Consumer and services brands that will navigate and stay relevant in this era will come out stronger on the other side. How can all of this be achieved? Let’s discuss some of the strategies brands and marketers can consider to accomplish this.

· Razor sharp approach

Assessing opportunities and being mindful of the shift in media and consumption behaviour is very crucial in these times for marketers and brand owners alike. Acting prudently, consumer and services companies might have to change gears in the short term. Now is the time for brands to be pragmatic, re-assess their messaging from driving sales to enabling consumers to get through tough times. The launch of Disney Plus in India is an apt example of how brands should quickly pivot their campaigns.

· Optimise digital footprint

Consumers have been engaging with digital content while being glued onto their smartphones and other handheld devices for hours. Taking cognisance, brand owners and marketers need to use innovative digital content marketing channels. This will help build conversations with their new and core audience and also drive engagement. This tendency will only increase, marking a gradual shift to digital channels, dramatically enhancing online consumer traffic in the 'new normal' world post COVID-19.

· Be compassionate, authentic and sincere

Organisations and those in leadership positions need to be sincere and authentic. They need to be visible while having a guiding purpose to drive forward the business as well as serve the communities they are operating in. The ongoing lockdown across India has demonstrated extraordinary compassion from companies . For instance, Lifebuoy's recent campaigns urged people to wash hands frequently with soap, alcohol-based sanitisers and tissues. The advertisement was hugely applauded for being inclusive asking people to buy any soap while driving the key message of maintaining hygiene.

· Break the clutter and build a conversation

Adversity brings out the best of innovation and opportunity. Now is definitely the time to be creative, memorable and stand by your consumers. One way of doing that is driving engagement as a means to interact with consumers in a friendly way. Brands need to embrace user generated content (UGC) and short format video platforms, that are significantly influencing the purchasing decisions of their target consumers, especially Gen-Z and Millennials.

· Drive optimism

Considering prevailing market sentiments, brands need to be extremely conscious about the slant and tonality of their messages and communication. Being confined at home while following the social distancing norms for over a month now, people are seeking ways and means that are not only refreshing but also help them de-stress. It thus becomes very critical for brands to ensure their communication entails positivity whilst instilling a feel-good factor.


Though an ongoing global crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic presents businesses an opportunity to be caring and supportive to their customers and communities being served. Connecting and engaging with the consumers passionately in times of need will go a long way in creating a long-lasting bonding effect that will outlive the social and economic impacts of the novel corona virus outbreak.

(The author is vice-President, Monetization at TikTok India. He is ex-CEO of GroupM South Asia.)