Brand Engagement in the Lockdown

30 Apr,2020


By Sanjeev Kotnala


Brand Engagement is always relevant and more so during the lockdown. Brands are using different tricks for engaging with consumers. Some of them are relevant and impactful, few original and innovative. I believe if there is nothing to say, being silliest is a better option.

The car manufacturer shares tips on how to take care of the parked car. Banks deliver newspaper in your inbox. Antiseptic cream makes sanitisers. Porn site gives free access to premium content so that you stay at home! Soaps shouting about washing the virus and Apps are updating for smoother operations.

Brand engagement during lockdown is part of the strategic initiative in preparedness for the post-lockdown market. Naturally, every brand wants to be on the top of the consideration-set whenever markets open. So, they need to keep the brand connect alive through brand engagement. It is known that the brands engaging the consumers now are most likely to emerge as the front runner post-coved scene.



It was interesting to see Durex playing mindgames in its territory. The brand also suggested an innovative way to help out the audience like using it to cover the finger while pressing buttons in the lift.


On the other level, DOVE went ahead to celebrate the Beauty called Courage. It remains credible as the brand is operating within its pre-Covid coordinates defined by inner beauty.


Consider, ‘TAKE THE LOAD’ by Ariel, and it falls in place. The brand is continuously thinking of engaging consumer in different ways and situations. It is an attractive proposition, but I have a problem with it. The brand still addresses housework as a woman’s load. I will discuss this some other day.


Keeping the conversation going during such a crisis is a sensitive area. Some brands have learnt their lessons the hard way. The strategy and the message must remain incomplete internal and external sync. The brand can not have different visible standards or expectations across geographies, product lines and services, internal or external.



The brands must realise that ‘The consumer will treat you exactly the way you treat them during this period of crisis’. Remember, we live in an era of information democracy, and it is driving everyone crazy. Once the message is released in the public domain, you no longer are in control. If you are in the arena to commercially exploit the situation, your life will become miserable, sooner than later. At the same time, it is a beautiful space for brands with real purpose and empathy in engaging the audience.



During the crisis, sometimes it is best to remain silent. The well-informed consumer is aware of the situation. Brands are looking towards contactless delivery, but it still is no time for impact-less irrelevant engagement.

The consumer’s transactional deal is restricted to the brand delivering the best at a reasonable price. Or the brands are playfully engaging the consumer while sending a positive, relevant message of importance. Just like the various brands supported Social Distancing by playing around with their logo’s.



One of the compelling ways beyond talk play and intent is to act the intention. Let sharing of the news surrounding the Brand Act be amplification, instead of trying to send out a video in the social space. However, when brands move beyond transactional arena to show their soft touch treating consumers as part of the extended family, the equation shifts from being purely a stakeholder to an active partner. It required empathy, care, understanding and being sensitive to the ecosystem. The brand needs to understand the covert -overt needs and continuously re-defined expectations. It is a tough and risky territory to walk. The brands that see it as only a commercial leveraging opportunity, they fail to understand the double-edged dimensions and in effect do more wrong than the right to their image.



Such situations like coronavirus and the lockdown demands that the brands demonstrate care and empathy. However, there is an un-stated boundary between compassion and pity. The brand operating within the bandwidth of experience and tonality have higher chances to succeed.

Mumbai police use of citizen vigilance for Stay Home campaign makes sense. People relate to it, knowing that ultimately police can do that much only. They emerge as a partner- as a peer.


Nearer home, Surf team remains true to the thought Daag Aache Hai. And extends it with Daag Bhai Ghar par Rahenge. The brand extends engagement by sharing fun activities for home on Instagram.


Now, this was brilliant as it came well in the early phase when people were still thinking about how to manage work. It works for Sony It works as the scope remains restricted to helping the daily wage earners in the film and television industry. But what is the Kalyan Jewellers link?


When EMIRATES tells you to stay home and assures with positivity that we will fly soon, you like the approach and the tonality. They are, in fact, not making any new point.


On the other side, when UBER uses a similar tone to thank you for not using them, it seems forced. It is the result of earlier experience and perception of the brand ethos, culture and expectations.


Vodafone used both their famous hugely loved mascots, the ZOOZOO and the PUG to deliver the message. The Pug communication still has something going for it, but the ZooZoo fails to impress.


ASIAN PAINTS keeps the tone of voice consistent in ‘Jab Ghar Mai Saab Ho Toh Ghar khilkhilata hai’, #stayhonestaysafe. It remains within known brand coordinates using a picture of everyday life. Similarly, TATA SKY talks about ‘Ghar Baite Kuch Seekhe’. It is an example of excellent connect with its known educative and activity-based channels.



And when there is nothing -nothing to say and the brand still wants to keep the conversation going. They fall back on positivity to keep people motivated, usually with a dose of singing and celebrities.


When you overstretch and try being arty like HUL. It snaps because of a hyper stretch. It fails to evoke similar emotions.


However, when Mahindra says,- Some wheels will keep moving, you relate to it. And the treatment makes you feel so much better.



Though travel is a bad word during the lockdown, I was looking forward to engaging relevant and sharply focussed communication from Samsonite. It had reoriented its coordinates when they made the earlier communications including the one during Kerala floods. It will be a waste of a marketing opportunity if Samsonite does not subtly engage the audience in this crisis.



On the side, the crisis also made room for some absurd but thoroughly enjoyable videos. The one that is my favourites features Shekhar Gupta and @HoeZaay. He tries explaining the concept of tomorrow in a Swami Nityanand style. Shekhar Gupta may not need new audiences – but this viral must have worked for him.

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