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The Pandemic And The Notion Of Restricted Living

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As part of our new series, ‘Marketers Playbook for 2020 Post Covid-19′, Anil Viswanathan, Director – Marketing (Chocolates), Mondelez India says being relevant at home and helping consumers connect with loved ones are the drivers for future brand activation

By the time you read this article, you would have spent a couple of months working at home and you would be now thinking and preparing for what is in store for you and your business going forward. A lot has been and will continue to be said about this whole episode. In this article, I will try and restrict my observation to India and share my views in the context of consumers, brands and marketing.

From all that we read and see around us, I see two broad drivers of change with consumers and these are: The Pandemic and the notion of Restricted Living.

The Pandemic has created a concern for health & hygiene – for self and for the near and dear. Beyond an immediate impact of this on categories and brands operating in this space, consumers have also become more conscious about the brands they purchase and will become more circumspect about indulgences like dining out. Behaviour changes emerging out of the Pandemic are likely to go back to normal once the fear dissipates, though settling at a new base for different categories – higher for some, and for some, lower than before.

Restricted Living is also throwing up interesting challenges and opportunities for brands. Consumers are spending more time at home, either alone or with their immediate families. At home consumption has exploded and experiences have shifted into the living room. Now more than ever, people are realizing their need to be connected socially. They are also adapting and coping to work from home – embracing new technologies, figuring out new ways to be productive. Access has been disrupted, and thus consumers are shopping elsewhere. After initially stockpiling essentials, they are now shopping for anything and everything that can be used at home. Uncertainty of the future and the missing of regular activities is creating stress and consumers are resorting to comfort foods and snacks to alleviate this. On the other hand, they are also rediscovering the joy of being with their families and finding time to invest behind their forgotten hobbies and interests. Any product categories involved in consumer’s lives out of home are struggling, while at home consumption is seeing new peaks.

Both these above trends are manifest in the Urban Middle Class while Rural India is impacted in a much broader economic manner in a direct correlation to the business & cash flow disruptions that this pandemic has brought in. This economic slowdown will impact consumption & penetration of brands & categories with consumers down trading to more value offerings and opting out of discretionary spend areas. Big ticket spends are likely to be more impacted by this trend while smaller ticket items and especially those relevant for kids are likely to be least impacted.

The three broad trends mentioned above lay down the direction that brands should take in the near future. Starting with the economic impact, brands & categories must brace themselves for strengthening their value proposition & relevance as they compete for a shrinking consumer wallet. Brands must leverage their equity & trust with consumers to reassure and comfort them with positive messaging. Depending on the category that they operate in, brands must dial up their claims on authenticity & efficacy and play up immunity if possible. While profit pressures will imply necessary corrections in spending, brands must still try and communicate to their consumers – share their view on the world at large today. They must strengthen their messaging around purpose and how this purpose is manifesting in Covid times. And finally, brands must reflect on relevance – and how it may need to change given Restricted Living conditions. Being relevant at home and helping consumers connect with their families & friends are possibly the two most visible and attractive drivers for future brand activation in the months to come.

About the author / 

Anil Viswanathan

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