Marketing in Time of Social Distancing: Mobile and Digital are the Way

Arun Gupta
Founder and CEO at MoMagic Technologies Pvt Ltd

The pandemic caused by COVID-19 strain of virus has wreaked havoc on the economy of the world. According to the World Trade Organization (WTO) projections, there will be a ‘a sharp drop in trade’ and the recession following the pandemic is expected to be worsen than the one after the 2008 financial downturn. While many are apprehensive of widespread job loss and restructuring of companies, it is quite likely that advertising and marketing budgets will also undergo a major cut. Therefore, planning for the business once offices open is the need of the hour. At the same time, since the final extent of the disease’s impact cannot be ascertained yet, the plans should be flexible to adjust any additional restrain that are already factored in.

Time for responsible action

Marketing and advertising have traditionally been the image-builders. They have been at the centre of attention of annual budget plans. However, the Indian advertising industry stares at a possible loss of Rs 5,000 crore in the next three to four months if the pandemic keeps on raging. In the wake of the pandemic, it can enhance a company’s image by playing its part in a timely and responsible manner. The highly-contagious nature of the virus has shaken consumers to the core and many are wary of touching things coming in from outside. While food chains such as Domino’s and Burger King have launched campaigns and separate tabs on delivery apps, media houses such as The Times of India has launched a TV advertisement showing why it is safe to handle and read newspapers. These companies have been forthcoming in presenting scientific facts and the precautionary measures they have taken, projecting them in a consumer-oriented, responsible company. This image, built and augmented through well-planned and sustained campaign, will give them a competitive edge over its peers.

Sending message in times of social distancing

There is no clear idea even among the medics as to when the pandemic will retreat and people can go back to their normal lives. As consumers increasingly undergo a sea change in their regular behaviour, their consumption of marketing and advertising messages are also likely to change. At a time when social distancing is the norm, consumption of messages will change, especially the medium through which it is communicated. With serious budget cuts in the short term, planners are more likely to opt out of any medium that entails additional cost such as printing, supply chain, etc. As a result, the movement of advertising budget from traditional marketing such as print, TV and ATL activities to digital and mobile marketing would happen and at a much faster rate than the pre-COVID-19 times.

The shift of marketing and advertisement platforms from traditional to online platforms will benefit the small firms more than the larger corporations. In the traditional battle, the smaller firms lagged due to limited monetary resources while bigger firms could take advantage of all possible platforms. The pandemic acted as a leveller of sorts – both types of firms are brought on the same level. Even though bigger corporations will pump in more money to bombard the consumers with quantity and variety, smaller firms will have a chance to be innovative in their messaging to catch the attention of the consumers. As a result, the new marketing and advertising messages are expected to be more targeted. However, marketing and advertisement departments must be quick to book spaces in their preferred media. Though traditional media may not work in the post-COVID-19 world, traditional approaches will still remain valid. Marketing and advertisement departments should be able to predict a scenario, especially the crisis situations. They should also be careful to underpromise the consumers and overdeliver in their actions to retain their customer base. At the same time, they should listen and note the consumers voice and what they feel, and make social media an integral part of that process.

With the pandemic striking the heart of the economy, the world is going to change. We cannot predict the specifics or nuances of the post-COVID-19 world. However, we should use the best of our abilities to assess the current situation and draw resolutions from our collective experience to get past the effects of this pandemic.

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