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As part of our new series, ‘Marketers Playbook for 2020 Post Covid-19′, Arvind R P, Director – Marketing & Communications, McDonald’s (West and South) says that proximate businesses will need to come up with innovative business solutions to survive. He adds that marketers will need to ensure that the media plans are aligned with the emerging trends.

The current situation is clearly a Black-swan event, and unfortunately for business leaders and marketers, there is no existing playbook that one can adapt to face the current challenges. This truly is, as everyone has been saying, unprecedented times.

Therefore, it is extremely important to assess the likely impact of COVID on one’s business and consumers and adapt it to the ‘new normal’. A very useful framework* to arrive at the impact is to see if your business is ‘proximate’ (does it bring people together in near proximity during the consumption process, e.g. movie theatres or theme parks) or ‘singular’ (businesses where the final product is consumed singularly, without other people being present nearby, e.g. on-the-go music). While, the former has been and continue to be impacted significantly, the latter would sustain and possibly thrive under the ‘new normal’. So the proximate businesses will need to come up with innovative business solutions to survive (e.g. new movie launches on OTT platforms, which is already on the rise), and the singular businesses will need to leverage their advantages to accelerate growth.

While it’s a phrase that is often bandied about in the current context, it is important to better understand this ‘new normal’. Here are a few approaches I believe will characterise the ‘new normal’ in the context of brands:

  1. A human-first approach – The current situation demands that brand see their customers as people first and consumers second. Brands need to be empathetic and extremely cognizant of the concerns and anxieties of the customers today. So, ‘Hygiene’ and ‘social distancing’ for example, will continue to lead brand conversations in the near future and agility to launch innovative business solutions around these themes would be imperative. For example, McDonald’s was one of the first brands to introduce ‘Contactless pick-up and delivery’ – an innovative way to deliver food to customers without any bare hands ever touching it and with all adequate social distancing measures. Our aim was to reach out to consumers who were in need of safe and hygienic food, while keeping their concerns at the centre.
  1. Exhibiting a strong sense of community – Today, there are many communities who are struggling, economically and otherwise. We are also seeing great examples of solidarity as individuals from different sections of society are coming together to lend their support to the larger community and they definitely expect their favourite brands to follow suit. Brands need to step up and reach out to these communities to help alleviate their suffering. McDonald’s being a frontrunner in safe and hygienic food is taking a lead in community outreach as well. Over the last two weeks, we have reached out to over 10,000 frontline workers, daily-wagers and slum dwellers and delivered McDonald’s meals to them in a contact-less manner, across cities. For our brand, this is going to be an ongoing journey as we have always been committed to using our scale for the good of our people and our community, especially in times when they need it the most.
  1. Be a companion for customers – A recent report by Kantar stated – “When the storm passes, consumers may not remember exactly what the brands said or did but they’re going to remember how the brand made them feel”. I couldn’t agree more. As people are turning to digital and especially social media for reassurance, engagement and to connect with friends, brands should strive to be that ‘friend in need’. Brand can leverage their social presence to be companions for their customer by creating fun, engaging content and try to spread cheer and positivity. A case in point is that when we recently brought back Instakshari – a social media version of popular Antakshari – it drove great engagement and was a big success.
  1. Brace for tectonic shifts in media habits and consumption – We are already seeing shifts in media consumption habits. It is possible that digital and other new-age media platforms such as OTT and on-the-go music will grow at an accelerated pace in the new normal. Given this, it will be important for marketers to continually re-visit their media plans and align it with the emerging trends.
  1. Guiding customers to either re-navigate the brand if it’s in a proximate business or re-engage with the brand if it’s a singular business – There would be cases of brands with good equity facing a business model challenge, if their model is proximate involving many disparate people consuming the brand in groups. These brand will have to leverage technology re-engineer their business models to remain relevant to consumers.

Brands in singular businesses would be least impacted, so they would need to approach this from a position of strength. But it would be a mistake to market the brand in the ‘new normal’ with similar strategies as pre-COVID era (as we knew it). Consumers would be more conscious and demanding of ‘social-distancing’ and hygiene and the brands would need to demonstrate to customers how these are being taken seriously and also infuse these practices into the new way of doing business.


*Sajith Pai in Economic Times: Helping passionate founders scale their startups at Blume Ventures | Complete writings at

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Arvind R P

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