NAVIGATING MARKETING CHALLENGES IN THE TIMES OF COVID
THE CURRENT HEALTH CRISIS HAS CREATED A HOST OF NEW CHALLENGES FOR PRODUCT COMPANIES FROM MANAGING SHIFTING PRIORITIES IN TERMS OF BUDGETS TO PEOPLE RESOURCES. BUT, THIS TIME HAS ALSO HELPED THEM IDENTIFY IMPORTANT OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE LONG TERM.
Dealing with the challenges of the present times, the products marketers have realigned and repositioned their marketing plans to find silver lining among the dark clouds. Representing the sector’s new approach, some of the marketing heads of the product companies shared their views.
Explaining the COVID – 19’s effects on supply, demand and industry dynamics, Kailash Didwania, President, GreatWhite Global Pvt. Ltd stated, “The economic downfall has taken a toll on the real estate and home decor industry. Renovation, construction work and other services related to the architecture and design industry have come to a standstill. Disposable income is a notable avenue for the decor industry and due to uncertainties like job security, employee downsizing, salary reduction, etc. because of the pandemic, people have been focusing more on saving instead of spending and this sentiment of the customer has also affected the industry adversely. On the supply front, production has taken a hit due to lockdown, lack of raw material and labor resource and social distancing norms. Restrictions on logistics have also affected the industry gravely.”
Mario Schmidt, Managing Director, Lingel Windows and Doors Technologies Private Limited spoke about the how the marketing departments are focusing on available offline and online channels. “Online we are engaging at various levels through various webinars, discussions and social media activities. For offline activities we have also created an awareness about our products. We are the only window company in India which contributes in waiving off the carbon footprint. We have grown trees at Manesar. We also roped in cyclist in a month-long campaign where he cycled 6000km across India to waive off the carbon footprint, “he said.
Adding to the sentiments, Amit Gossain Managing Director, Kone Elevator India shared, “As a new rule of the game, digitalization has the power to transform industry, improve safety, quality and bring innovations to the market more quickly. This will be the year of Digital transformation, as we will seamlessly integrate physical and digital capabilities to provide new experiences, new business models, and new offerings for both our customers and their customers. With an objective to gain positive visibility and increase recognition of the brand through engaging content, KONE has been already strong in Digital Marketing with a robust focus on Social Media. We have a solid and relatively engaged following and social media is integrated into content production process.”
MANAGING MARKETING PLANS
Mario Schmidt admitted that last year the unexpected happened and no one actually thought that life would change the way it has now. “During the lockdown last year we never gave up on our R& D, rather we came out stronger and ready to face the challenge. We kept ourselves engaged with our customers by simple marketing and PR strategies. We checked with them on a personal level how they were doing, we invited many to join us in our webinars and when we were ready with our new products, we created that awareness.”
Kailash Didwania stated that although the world was adversely affected by the pandemic, GreatWhite, did not spare any effort to take care of ther businesses, employees, customers and all its stakeholders. “To ensure an uninterrupted connection with our customers and channel partners, we have adopted the digital route. We’ve worked out several new strategies like virtual exhibitions, meetings and training to engage and educate our customers. We have also optimized our social media platforms to effectively communicate with our target audience. GreatWhite has undergone a paradigm shift from traditional marketing to digital means.”
Amit Gossain sharing his view said, “2020 has been a challenging year marked by historical events and unforeseen changes in work and home lives; it has also been a year of learnings for all of us. My thoughts match Henry Ford as he once said, “Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time.” Therefore customer programs and brand building never stopped. As COVID- 19 fast-tracked digitalization across all industries, we quickly adapted to digital transformation across our organization and continued to perform better than the market in a challenging and unpredictable environment. And digital marketing was one such area. Our continued commitment to business continuity and customer excellence was reflected in the way we adapted to virtual ways for collaborating with colleagues and customers.”
HANDLING BRANDING & CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP
People are paying close attention to how brands are responding to and acting during the COVID-19 crisis. Sharing their strategy Kailash Didwania said, “We are utilizing social media and other digital platforms to connect with our customers. We have introduced loyalty and training programs for our fellow electricians since they are the major brand advocates and after-sale service providers. We have adopted virtual meeting platforms to stay connected with architects, designers and other prominent influencers from the fraternity to understand the trends in the construction and design industry. The company has also undertaken extensive CSR activities during the pandemic.”
Amit Gossain added, “We have a very strong brand; this serves as a major strength. A strong brand is consistent in the way it communicates, looks and behaves. The strength of the brand depends on the consistency, distinctiveness and relevance of the experiences the stakeholders have. We expand our Service Network and Infrastructure to place our customer needs at the heart of our business and bring new services and innovations faster to the market for them.”
Mario Schmidt expressed similar views, “For us it is extremely important to stay connected with our customer on a timely basis. For our social media be it Instagram, FaceBook or even our YouTube we ensure we put up posts that are informative and engaging. I also on a personal level stay connected with our customers via social media in a very engaging and active way sharing relevant product and industry related information. All our customers can connect with me directly via an email or even call our customer care and they can be assured on a prompt reply.”
CHALLENGES OF USING DIGITAL/SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS
Amit Gossain concurred that today’s pace of technological development – digitalization in particular – is at an unparalleled level. So much so that it can even seem scary or overwhelming. “Are there risks to connected, driverless cars roaming our roads and robots replacing doctors in making diagnoses? Yes, of course, life is always full of risks. But the real and potential opportunities and human benefits brought by digitalization are arguably far greater. The trick is to not let technology rule what we do and instead make it work to our benefit,” he emphasized.
Mario Schmidt felt that all digital platforms are the need of the hour to get connected to a large audience in a short span. “One has to at the same time tread cautiously. How one uses the social and digital platform depends on how they want to reach their audiences. With influencer marketing picking up brands must consider various options to stay linked to their customers. We are Lingel are using the traditional as well as digital platforms to stay connected.”
According to Kailash Didwania Digital media, despite being a great way of connecting to your customers, lacks a personal touch. “Virtual platforms are efficient to engage with our audience, however, the comfort of look and feel, which is essential in our industry, is non-existent. Delivering unique and engaging content to our audience regularly also comes with its challenges, one needs to be extremely cautious about what is going up on digital platforms, especially social media platforms. Managing customers & audience is the most arduous job.”
On the topic of managing a lower headcount and remote/distributed marketing team Mario Schmidt pointed out that the question remains how focused and hardworking your team is. Communication is so quick and planned and even working remotely or in the same area or even with a smaller headcount does not matter. It is all a state of mind as to how one should overcome a challenge when resources are limited. Agreeing to the view, Kailash Didwania added, “When the pandemic hit the nation, we were among the first few organizations in the industry to adopt the remote working culture to ensure that our employees are safe and the business is operational in its capacity while adhering to the government norms. We regularly conduct motivational and fun virtual gatherings to keep our members happy, motivated and enhance their skill sets as well.”
In conclusion, building a high level of brand trust is critical to enabling the buying decision of the consumers. This is the reason that most of the brands with a higher level of brand trust have performed well even during the pandemic.