As the world fights the menace of a new crown shaped virus named COVID-19 that has disrupted the global order, brands have also jumped on to the bandwagon to ‘educate,’ stay visible and relevant and, express solidarity with consumers in the midst of a global crisis.
Hygiene brands stepped in early, with warnings and advisories on how to conduct oneself. Reckitt Benckiser has launched a Paigham-e-Sehat (message of health) campaign around its brand Dettol. The company said that it hopes to drive behaviour change among its target audience and is trying to reach out to 550,000 Madrasa schools across the country. Ravi Bhatnagar, director External Affairs and Partnerships, RB Health India, said, “This year we are focusing on driving behaviour change through collective community efforts. I strongly believe that this effort would help boost the movement we have gathered to reach the desired goal of overall cleanliness and health.”
Sanitiser, disinfectant, health and wellness brands have a huge role to play in such times say several companies and brand experts, as they can keep the panic down, and of course, strike some business gains in the process. But cleanliness is on the mind of non-hygiene brands too. Amul, Zomato, Jio Cinema are among some that have used their social media handles to talk cleanliness as the antidote to a virus that still has no cure.
Restaurants and foodtech brands are using their online channels to emphasise upon the safety protocol that they follow, hoping to keep customers coming back and their businesses running. Sandeep Goyal, chief mentor, Indian Institute of Human Brands (IIHB) said, “First and foremost it is no laughing matter. So humour, howsoever subtle, is just completely a no-no. Tone and content needs to be informative, positive and optimistic.”
Tech brands and social media giants have stepped in to warn people against misinformation campaigns and open up the flow of conversations in crisis-hit countries. On Twitter’s timeline, for instance, a post reads: “We want to help you access credible information, especially when it comes to public health. We’ve adjusted our search prompt in key countries across the globe to feature authoritative health sources when you search for terms related to novel #coronavirus.”
Netflix and Maharashtra government have used humour and visual imagery to get the message across
Google’s Sundar Pichai has used his social media handles to convey his company’s efforts at fighting the crisis. “We want to help businesses and schools impacted by COVID-19 stay connected: starting this week, we’ll roll out free access to our advanced Hangouts Meet video-conferencing capabilities through July 1, 2020 to all G Suite customers globally,” he wrote.
One of the most impacted, the travel and tourism industry, is dealing with a crisis of far bigger proportions than the rest. Not only must they offer a warning and advisory against travel, thereby taking a hit on their business, but they also have to ensure that the crisis does not snap the ties that they have built with their consumers.
Rajesh Magow, group CEO, MakeMyTrip said, “The government’s decision to cancel all visas, with a few exemptions, is timely. It is critical to take account of inflow of persons from 110 affected countries.” While the firm did not quantify the impact on its business, it admitted to a slowdown that would hit the upcoming school holidays season.
Both IndiGo and SpiceJet have (following the DGCA order) said that they would not charge any fees for changing travel dates. At the same time, they are assuring passengers of clean aircraft, trained ground and flight staff and a commitment to battle the crisis at hand.
Some brands are keeping the tone light, Amul’s topical posters focus on cleanliness but in its typical style, with a witty turn of phrase. One said, ‘Better saaf (clean) than sorry!’ Fintech brand Paytm pitched for online transactions, ‘Stay Safe #Paytm Karo’ it said. Food delivery app Zomato asked people to wash their hands before a meal. Its Twitter communique was written in tiny font, so that one had to zoom and read, just as one would easily miss out the ‘tiny germs’ if one didn’t clean up well or follow the requisite guidelines.
Amidst all this hype and rush, Goyal felt that it was important to abstain from putting out information that is unsubstantiated. “Brands either need to be part of a possible solution or maintain a dignified silence,” he said.