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    Brand antidote for brand managers!

    Brand antidote for brand managers!

    Brand antidote for brand managers!
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    By CNBCTV18.com Contributor  IST (Updated)

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    In the new normal, "business as usual" may seem abnormal but that is not a reason enough for brand managers to fade into the background.

    The last couple of months, which have brought the world to a standstill and, have turned an incredible bull run in the financial markets into a probable recession. While many are engaged in describing the current upheaval as a "black swan” event, what's required is a quick paradigm shift in the strategy and focus on brands across all industries. It is vital for brand managers to address the current crisis by empathising with the distraught public at large and extending genuine help and support to concerned clients in particular.
    In the new normal, "business as usual" may seem abnormal but that is not a reason enough for brand managers to fade into the background. Companies/clients are under undue stress to sustain their top line and manage costs and people. As a study by the brand strategy advisor Kantar reveals, 77 percent of clients expect brands to be helpful during this pandemic. Being helpful and kind does not just mean that brands specialise in eloquent, uplifting messages only; clients today expect concrete proof. The company needs to match its words with the right actions. A couple of shining examples: Alcobev major Diageo has pledged 8 million bottles of sanitiser for our frontline warriors! Leading law firm JSA has honoured all pre-COVID-19 hiring commitments, even during the pandemic. When we are in a war, let our actions speak.
    Sometimes the best gift you can give someone is 'space for self'. COVID-19 has disrupted life and delivered an unplanned, hazy agenda to CEOs across the world. The turbulent times need clients to chart a course to enduring stability; let them think for themselves instead of being flooded with our thoughts and solutions. Providing such space is a precious gift with a brand message: " I am not here to sell my product but to ensure your success, even at the cost of a temporary business loss.” It is pertinent to note that providing space does not mean opting out of the picture, but rather strengthening the business relationship by constant empathy with the ongoing struggle to come to grips with the challenges. Empathy ensures customer loyalty and long-term engagement.
    ‘Death by webinar’ is a common phrase in B2B marketing, particularly in the services industry circuits. A wise marketer is mindful not to go that way, as one’s aim must be to live and not kill to conduct more webinars with or without any pandemic!
    A resolution to the duplication of content is possible by opting for collaboration. For instance, a legal firm recently worked with a consulting firm and a real-estate executive to create comprehensive content on the post-COVID nuances for the real-estate sector. The material was deemed by the industry to be relevant to the times and holistic. The collaboration provided the interested reader with a cohesive whole instead of three, separate studies, each incomplete in its coverage.
    Use positive messaging and change media landscape to combat negative news and misguided information, which trigger insecurity for clients; such focus on client well-being will always be remembered, in good times and in bad.
    In tough times, we need to be in our clients’/customers’ shoes to understand their sentiments; only then will we know what will help to retain their loyalty or get new clients. For example, JetBlue is one of the first airlines to waive change and cancel fees for coronavirus-related concerns. This move will give JetBlue brownie points in customer service, earning the loyalty of existing passengers and attracting new ones. Insurance companies, on the other hand, take a completely different stand when they refuse clients the benefit of considering the coronavirus a valid reason for cancelling a flight.
    Employees are value plus, the trusted ambassadors of your brand. Your clients directly relate to how you deal with your employees when prospects are bleak: the impression you make is your ‘Manager Image’.
    A few internal marketing hacks that can help:
    Internal hackathons: Create a great platform to co-curate strategy hacks for business issues, engaging your employees across the grade. Such collaboration promotes positive bonding, which ensures healthy growth of the business.
    Knowledge Development: Get life coaches/thought leaders from the industry for knowledge development. A well-informed mind will strengthen confidence in charting a course to success in uncertain times.
    Capture their story: Get creative by collecting content from employees on their work-from-home experience and sharing it with mentors and leaders. This coverage is your story for your digital platform, What is more, it will give employees a sense of involvement for collaborative success while it is your chance to build trust within the firm. Employees may eventually move to different organisations whether laid off or not, but what they will carry with them is the impression of you and your organisation. It’s up to you to make it an unforgettable memory of trust and experience which you gifted them in challenging times.
    Lastly, document responses and consequences for later review, and lessons distilled: Rapidly evolving situations expose existing organisational vulnerabilities, such as an inability to make hard decisions or an excessive bias towards consensus, which constitute opportunities for improvement. Keep learning from this first of its kind experience and as a tennis champion, Billie Jean King once said: "Champions keep playing until they get it right."
    —Bharath Shivappa is Chief Strategy and Development Officer. Jaayaa A Kumarr is AGM – BD at J Sagar Associates. The views expressed are personal
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