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netroc5 2020-04-09

Marketing Communication Amid COVID-19 Fears

Since Mid-February 2020, global concerns about COVID 19 and its impact on the health and economy of various countries started shooting up. Sovereign GDP projections took a nasty tumble and lockdowns came up, markets around the world nosedived. Projecting 30 plus percentage drop in revenues, organisations quickly cut costs and Capex. Recruitment took a backseat. “Non-revenue earning” expenses were drastically pared. One of the major expense heads that were severely reduced was marketing and communication expenses. Digital marketing which was growing reasonably, suddenly found that DM spends slashed. In this expected scenario, I was surprised by some exceptions in the Indian market place. The first was in the $20 Billion a year edible oils market. 40 percent of this is by aggressively advertised national brands, Television being the medium of choice. Recently Digital Media as a cost-effective option was adopted. Once the COVID debacle started, they cut most advertising including digital advertising.

Since 2018, the Indian real estate market has been dismal. Unsold stock of apartments and villas were a drag on the sector. Home décor majors, however, were using Digital media to promote medium to high budget décor options. They also stopped when the virus spread.

In a silent market place, a relatively unknown local edible oil brand started a steady stream of digital advertising. Similarly, small local home décor outfits started to advertise extensively. These were nowhere near the size of the market leaders. So why are they doing so?

Here are some thoughts.

• These brands had insignificant brand equity in the market
• The market place was silent and the noise of competition was muted
• They were targeting only specific urban markets and not rural India
• Digital media is highly cost-effective

I would like to believe that these were the thought processes that led to their unusual activity. I will be tracking these brands and will write later on their status. In the meanwhile, this is a lesson for the many brands that are fighting for minds pace against major brands with deep pockets. A depressed economy no doubt but I believe these brands are looking at it not as a crisis but a growth opportunity.