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Brand Building in the time of a Pandemic

Brand Building in the time of a Pandemic

Pornhub made its premium content free worldwide.

Fevicol played with their logo to drive home the need for social distancing.

LinkedIn made 16 of its learning courses free.

Recently Pornhub made its premium content free worldwide. Corey Price, Pornhub’s vice president, in a statement, said, “With nearly one billion people in lockdown across the world because of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important that we lend a hand and provide them with an enjoyable way to pass the time. We hope by expanding our offer of free Pornhub Premium worldwide, people have an extra incentive to stay home and flatten the curve.”

What’s the incentive for the brand to do this? Of course, the gesture will reach the heart – among other things – of their target audience. But how else does the brand benefit?

For one, it makes porn respectable and Pornhub more than a profiteer who gains by pandering to the baser instincts of public. It helps Pornhub as it’d be perceived as a fun brand that’s socially responsible.

There are other brands too who have won us over with their altruism. Taj Hotels, for instance, won praise for sending free food for doctors in government hospitals.

Brands like ITC, Adani, Tata Sons, Kotak Mahindra, JSW Group, Vedanta, and Reliance have contributed to the prime minister’s fund to fight the pandemic.

But it is one thing to make a contribution, and quite another to be inventive and creative at a time like this, and stay relevant.

This is exactly what many brands did.

Indigo, British Airways and Ixigo came up with flexible ticket modification offers.

Oyo Rooms offered rooms at 50% discount for those who wanted to work from their hotels.

Star Health and Edelweiss reassured customers that their policy covered Covid 19.

Ford offered credit support to customers affected by Covid 19.

Food tech brands assured customers that their deliveries are sanitised and untouched by human hands.

Dettol launched the hand wash challenge, and Life Buoy released ads promoting hand hygiene (insisting that any soap will do).

Fevicol played with their logo to drive home the need for social distancing.

LinkedIn made 16 of its learning courses free.

Netflix did a series of billboards revealing the plot twists in their programmes, with the message: You should have stayed home.

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And then are brands that cynically tried to exploit the situation. A furniture manufacturer released an ad offering ‘Anti Corona Virus Mattress’. And ‘virus-resistant’ food appeared on some shop shelves.

All this prompted the Hindu newspaper to run an ad with headline ‘If you really feel the urge to milk something, kindly go find a cow’. Part of the body copy read: ‘Going by this stance, we urge marketers, companies and the general public to not use advertising space and social media in any way to take advantage of the scenario for personal/material gain.’ The grapevine has it that the newspaper turned down the ‘Anti Corona Virus Mattress’ ad.

Maybe at least some of the brands – automobiles, airlines, luxury goods, etc – may feel that they needn’t advertise during this time as they are not selling.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

This perhaps is the time to remind customers of the role the brand plays in their live. Which is exactly what Emirates did with a new ad called “Do you remember?” This, at a time when their entire fleet is grounded. The ad talks about the better days that are on the horizon.
As an adage goes, “When the times are good you need to advertise; when the times are tough you have to advertise.” Any brand that thinks that this is the time to take a well-earned rest is missing the bus.

Will advertising in the post-Corona world be different from what it was? Possibly, yes. If Covid-19 has changed people everywhere, it’s natural that it’d change advertising, too. The changed priorities and sensibilities of the public will reflect in advertising messages. Only time will tell how different the advertising landscape of tomorrow looks.

One thing is certain, though. Brands that stay active at this time and connect with the customer may not benefit from the activity immediately, but they will be rewarded in spades one day.

Author – Sabu Paul, ECD, August Communications

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