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Why brands must stay ahead of curve with Covid pandemic

By Francis Muriuki
Thursday, July 30th, 2020
Workers at Shona Enterprise in EPZ, Athi River, Machakos county making face masks to that will be distributed by the government to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the country. Photo/PD/CHRISTINE MUSA
In summary
    • If the coronavirus crisis takes longer than expected, companies will call strategy meetings to discuss novel ways to rationalise costs and cut down on non-core expenditure.

During a prolonged crisis like the one brought about by Covid -19, it is normal for companies to take a back step and hope that the crisis will disappear, and then ultimately, things will get back to normal.

If the crisis takes longer than expected, companies will call strategy meetings to discuss novel ways to rationalise costs and cut down on non-core expenditure.

In most cases, marketing, advertising and communication budgets are normally the first on the chopping board since for most companies, these activities are viewed and treated as a cost, as opposed to a revenue centre.

This could not be further from the truth. No one for sure knows how long the pandemic will last, and its long-term impact is still unravelling.

Many companies could be making a grave mistake by cutting down on their marketing and communication budgets during this period, with possible long-term effect on the brand.

Recent studies show that brands that go off air for more than six months lose an average of 39 per cent total communication awareness and an average of 11 per cent most often usage.  

If you are keen, you may have noticed that some big brands like Safaricom, Airtel, google, Absa (formerly Barclays Bank), Unilever brands, StanChart, Cooperative Bank of Kenya,  KCB, and Britam, among others, have increased their communication across mainstream and digital  multimedia platforms during this period.

These companies had a choice of not communicating during this period since they are top of mind brands, but they chose to continue positioning themselves regardless.

Most likely, the needs of customers will change during a crisis. However, this is not the time to keep quiet.

Brands must invest in continuous communication and brand building activities as they still need to offer products and services, whilst continuously building mutual and beneficial relationships with their various publics and stakeholders.    

Consequently,, brands need to re-invent themselves and deploy new ways of communicating and positioning themselves so that services and products resonate with the new customer dispensation and expectations. 

If the companies fail to communicate, they are in effect creating a vacuum which competitor will capitalise on and use to position themselves as the ‘’Go to Brand’’ in the market place.

Again, failure to constantly communicate, whether on the traditional news channels like newspapers, TV, and radio, or on social media and digital platforms will also erode a company’s market share, affect brand visibility, and chirp away brand affinity and intimacy.

Apart from creating top of mind awareness about a brand during a crisis, constant communication also supports business continuity strategies as brands adjust themselves to the new business models and new ways of doing things.

It is therefore critical that communication action points in this period assuage and assure customers and stakeholders of business continuity, relevance to the current business environment, convenience of product /services, and responsiveness and reliability.

 Numerous digital platforms are now available ior collaboration, networking, and communication on virtual platforms. 

It is important that brands invest in these new digital ways of working that rely heavily on technology and virtual environment because in the long run, they will continue to be a part of the new normal.

Above all, companies should come up with inclusive communication strategies tailored for Covid-19, based on a clear understanding of internal and external audiences, message, frequency and channels of communication.  

By thinking ahead of the curve, and constantly investing in communication, brands can emerge stronger and gain revenue growth during this period, Brands that will wait until the crisis is over to start communicating will find a changed market place and environment, and may be forced to spend more to create awareness about their products and services.

The writer is a strategic communication consultant with Valorem Consulting.

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