Aishwarya Ramesh

"There will be resurgence in demand once the crisis ends": Nandini Dias, Lodestar UM

Now is the time to air reassuring messages and use media to build trust, says Dias, talking about nuances of communication during COVID-19.

Amidst heightened stay at home measures, people are now consuming more media. New media behaviours, especially in digital and mobile, have emerged. These have been fuelled by disrupted daily routines and shifts in consumer motivations, some of which will become 'the new abnormal' for the post COVID-19 era. It was to discuss this topic in detail that the Mobile Marketing Assoction hosted a webinar on the topic 'Media Habits in Cathartic Times'.

The objective of this webinar was to understand how consumer behaviour has changed because of the Coronavirus and what a post COVID-19 world might look like, for marketers. The discussion was hosted by Rohit Dadwal and saw participation from Kasper Aakerlund, regional president - UM, APAC, and Nandini Dias, CEO of Lodestar UM, India. The MMA Webinar presentation was based on MAGNA global report and research done by UM strategic teams across APAC. MAGNA is the centralized IPG Mediabrands unit that is into intelligence, investment, and innovation strategies for IPG teams and clients. The MAGNA Intelligence team usually produces more than 40 annual reports on audience trends, media spend and market demand as well as ad effectiveness.

In addition, the UM teams have studied and referenced a vast trove of writings going back to the 1920s and have created a robust body of study, learning, and knowledge. The presentation includes behavioral changes observed during the multiple recessions that the world has experienced, the marketing principles that brands followed during adversity and futuristic trends that need to be leveraged today. The webinar also discussed key implications for brands and had tips for marketers of immediate and long term opportunities across digital and mobile channels. Dadwal began by pointing out that these are exceptional circumstances, and that social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, saw nearly 1,700 per cent increase in the time spent on its app.

Aakerlund began by discussing the changing global scenario and compared the severity of the Coronavirus spread to the SARS epidemic of 2003 - which is famously credited for speeding up consumer adoption of online shopping. He added that there's been an exponential increase in screen time as more people turn to screens of different sizes as an escape from boredom.

"We are also seeing a rise in TV viewership, but that is expected to decline as consumers return to physical workplaces. However, video-on-demand and OTT platforms are in the process of experiencing exponential growth that also happens to be permanent. It would help marketers to double down on strategy meant for different screens and use whatever technology is available to reach the audience - who also happens to be a highly engaged one, at this moment," Aakerlund explained.

"Right now, it's crucial for brands to have an e-commerce presence and ensure that stock of their products is available, too. A consumer should be able to easily find and buy your products on multiple platforms," he added.

He also said that working from home and home-based schooling has changed consumer behaviour as web conferencing and video calls become the norm, changing learning processes. "Business apps, online education and digital health platforms will change the way we interact with each other, and there might be more e-doctor appointments in the future to avoid overwhelming health workers," Aakerlund said.

Dias’ presentation covered key implications of the pandemic on advertising and marketing companies based in the APAC region. “A brand’s choice of communication during this pandemic determines its personality. This is a chance for responsible marketing to come to the forefront, and going 'media dark' at this time is a very expensive proposition,” she said.

She took the example of search engine Google – talking about how the company always pulled an April Fools prank every year; but avoided doing so this year, as a conscious decision to not add to the misinformation that is already running amok in the world. “For a brand like Google, it would’ve been suicide. Many brands have also changed their most sacred property – their logos, to encourage users to practice social distancing. Retailers, such as Lush, which are seeing a marked decrease in footfalls, are also offering in-store handwashing facilities. These are some of the ways brands are practicing social responsibility at this time,” Dias explained.

“Media consumption during the lockdown is higher and now, brands should focus on building emotional connections with their customers. Now is the time to air reassuring messages on TV and use the media to build trust. That's why Doordarshan is bringing back the 'Ramayan' as well. It had a record viewership and saw plenty of conversations and UGC content, such as memes," she added.

“Brands will recover differently from this crisis, depending on how they behaved during the pandemic. Reducing media spends at this time can create a negative impact and brands should focus on increasing their share in the consumer’s mind. That’s the main function of marketing after all,” Dias said. She added that when cyclical events, such as the Olympics, resume, so will ad spends. “There will be a resurgence in demand once the crisis ends. It’s important that sectors prepare for a rebound in growth and increase their agility accordingly to keep up with the same,” she said.

View the full presentation below:

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