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Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.” – Walter Landor

The impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak on brands is unprecedented in scale and volume. Ever since the first outbreak reports came in from Wuhan, China, the pandemic has infected people in more than 200 countries. India and the rest of the world are facing a prolonged fight against the coronavirus disease. National as well as international brands are pitching in to increase awareness, minimise the spread and contribute to the welfare of people, directly or indirectly affected by the coronavirus crisis.

In a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus, countries have imposed stringent social isolation, which prohibits non-essential contact and movement from one place to another. In India, a nationwide 21-day lockdown was announced to break the chain of infection and protect the citizens of the country from further harm. Consequently, the lockdown period is a tough phase for brands, as visitor flows, supply chains and business operations have been severely disrupted due to the coronavirus attack.

Businesses are trying to find the new normal in the chaotic and unpredictable environment. As a result of lockdown restrictions, customers can no longer visit stores or shop online except for essential items such as groceries and medicines. In such a scenario, it is crucial to stay relevant in your customer’s mind and make a meaningful contribution to maintain brand identity and strengthen brand value.

Leverage Social Media: Social media channels have always been conducive to build brand awareness and brand loyalty. The lockdown period is encouraging brands to tap into the potential of influencers for generating positive publicity online and, at the same time, enforcing the stay-at-home message.

Go Beyond the Ordinary: India’s leading educational institution, IIT Kanpur, is demonstrating how to go beyond the ordinary and take a step forward to provide nourishment for children of migrant workers. The IIT Kanpur community centre is setting an example by cooking and distributing food to poor children.

Contribute to the Cause: Famous brands which, until now, have been enjoying significant success, are giving back to society in unique ways. While Netflix has pledged to donate a huge sum to help daily wage earners in the entertainment industry, Nike has donated millions of dollars to COVID-19 response fund.

Promote Social Distancing: A health crisis of such a magnitude has necessitated the implementation of innovative measures to promote social distancing. Major global brands such as Audi and McDonald’s have redesigned their logos by separating the iconic rings/arches in order to encourage social distancing.

Adapt Brand Strategy: The need of the hour is to provide value and not offer hard-sell content in any form. Otherwise, customers may perceive a brand as insensitive and profit-focused in precarious circumstances. Therefore, brands are promoting socially relevant content across marketing channels.

Reinvent Content Marketing: Focused content marketing can help businesses to build relationships and grow sales. It is possible to turn the uncertainty of the lockdown period into an opportunity of providing high-value content assets on company websites, social media platforms and channels such as LinkedIn.

Share Knowledge: The coronavirus-triggered fear has pushed customers to seek a variety of information related to coronavirus updates and future economy. Brands need to bridge this gap and enlighten customers with well-timed knowledge-sharing resources via live-streaming events, webinars, etc.

Introduce Innovative WFH Wear: Leading fashion and lifestyle retailers are coming up with an innovative WFH collection to woo customers like never before. As working from home has become the new normal, these brands are inspiring customers to try the comfortable and stylish all-day, WFH clothing.

Offer Flexibility in Payments: Brands understand that this is a difficult time for customers, and it may take a while to splurge on luxury or fashion brands. Some companies are mulling over flexible payment terms, so customers have the peace of mind to buy what they like without any nagging payment worries.

Follow the Best Practices: The coronavirus pandemic has unsettled the status quo. In the wake of the colossal outbreak, branded content can be made available on popular video chat apps and social media platforms, including Zoom, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok to engage and empower customers.

The core values of brands are being tested during the coronavirus-induced lockdown. This is the time to show solidarity, not singularity. It is no longer a game of outsmarting the competition but coming together to combat the crisis. If a brand finds it challenging to map the customer journey, a branding agency can support the brand in its endeavor to demonstrate the caring side and implement appropriate strategies because it takes a wave of support to calm worried minds and quell fears.

Great brands value timely interactions rather than cold transactions with customers. The character of a brand comes into play when customers want genuine answers to their problems, small or big. The coronavirus outbreak forced many businesses out of their comfort zones and compelled them to find practical solutions amid an aggravating crisis. Irrespective of a brand being hugely successful or not, what matters is whether it can connect with customers, in truly substantial ways, today and beyond.

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