Re-Search to Re-Set in Re-World Post-Lockdown

15 Apr,2020

 

By Sanjeev Kotnala

 

At the end of this extended lockdown, we would want a Re-Set button like the one we have the factory reset button on our mobile devices. How wonderful it would be if we could with one click get everything to the pre-lockdown, pre-coronavirus stage; a time which we can now qualify as a state of less ambiguity than what we expect to deal in future. We are never going back to that stage.

 

What we are going to do is Re-search (Not research) to Re-set our lives in sync with the unknown – the new normal. It remains an un-identified, undefined and unchartered. It is going to impact us across professional and personal life. However, it is tough to predict. Many of us want to build different scenarios and be prepared to have an added advantage. However, we must be ready to act and play as it evolves.

 

Re-set and Re-Search are not new. 

In-fact in our business realities and personal life, we have been Re-setting, Re-aligning and Re-synchronising for better control and result. Re-set and Re-search are proactive behaviours.

However, there is a big difference from then to now.

Coronavirus and the resultant lockdown has been an un-anticipated, un-welcomed and disruptive experience for all of us. It has impacted at multiple levels; individual, family, society and the Nation.

The consumer is shocked. The things consumer took for granted are lost.

Everyone has a stark polarised view of the situation. The reaction depends upon how profound the impact is. In real-time, the consumer is concerned more with his Family, Relatives, Friends Community, Religion, Region and then the Nation. The order is neither static nor guaranteed.

 

WORRIED BRANDS RESEARCH.

Naturally, brands are worried. They fear the possible changes in consumer behaviour. Many technology-supported research projects are already on to harvest insights.

Unfortunately, brands end up using the old model and framework to identify emotional triggers and changes. The result: research is restricted by the team’s bias, experience and expectations. When brands are unaware of the changing parameters, they most likely will end up measuring something different.

 

THE CONSUMER HAS OTHER ISSUES. 

The consumer, on the other side, has many problems to solve. They have been living in a reverse zoo. People have been scrutinised, threatened and cautioned time and again.

The release of pressure value of lockdown and the fear of coronavirus is a must for the new normal to get defined. And it will not be evident immediately but take six to nine months even to be visible. Banking on post-lockdown scenario to define the future will be a mistake.

Initially, it will be a period of hesitation and fear of replay—a period of mourning. The consumer will wait for the Tehravi– the last and final rites of coronavirus before re-gaining complete composure. And the economy may wait for the Barsi– the one year of mourning.

I expect the community to yo-yo for some time. We must expect multiple minor and significant ‘V’s’ before an upward positive. On the other side, if there is a repeat, it will strongly end up negating all the positives and pull the consumption curve down.

Consumers have been living a burrowed acquisition lead economy. Where dreams, aspirations and ambitions always have been a step ahead of their reach and capabilities. Everyone was happy chasing them. They will still chase, but not with the same enthusiasm, confidence and zeal? The reason not much shift will be evident as we are behaviourally hard-wired to be positively selfish.

 

THE CONSUMERS HAS RE-LEARNED MEANINGS.

The general public has realised what Essentials means and what is Luxury? What is materialistic success and how important it is when compared to the family bonds and relationship? What has been driving them, and what should have been pushing them?

During the lockdown, they have focussed on Re-Searching what LIFE is all about. What is Important, what is Critical, and what is FeelGood? How important is what other people think? What is the value of comments- share on social media?

 

CONSUMER IS RECALIBERATING LIFE.

In this situation, the real value of Money, Freedom, Dreams, Aspirations, Ambition, Abundance, Scarcity and Relationships has been individually re-calibrated. The consumers have traded in for variants and other brands in a forced-no-question-asked-prepaid-sampling. The difference between friends, well-wishers and interdependence is w understood. The regional and religious lines re-drawn. Their known rationality is under the microscope. Not everything has been unexpected.

Consumers have seen the brands share the burden, act as a community solution provider, demonstrating empathy, behave responsibly in this fight against corona. The consumer still distrusts, and questions brand engagement activities and repeatedly doubts the motive behind it. They have seen the human face and the transactional interface within communities. In this materialistic Kalyug, nothing surprises the consumer. Hence for impact, the brands must demonstrate consistent purpose-led brand acts with high frequency and effect.

 

THE CONSUMER IS HUMAN- THEY FORGET.

The consumer will soon forget and forgive brands action or inaction because they understand the situation. They will remember the brands that have touched them or helped them in this fight.

In the end, a highly religious centric population will not know whom to blame and whom to punish. Instead of the doctors, nurses and medical science, people will thank and credits their Gods and Gurus.

Once out of the Covid-19 Chakravyuh, they will come back to reality and their natural self and forget. They will adapt and play to the new realities.

 

THE CONFUSED CONSUMER WILL SEEK STABILITY AT ANY COST.

The consumer is going to come out of lockdown more confused than confident. More willing and wanting to re-gain what they lost in the lockdown. More concerned about safety and security, both materialistic and spiritual. All this will be important, till the time the fear retreats and the semblance of peace and new normal stabilises.

The consumer in the era of polarised media and fake news will have a lot many questions than there will be real answers. A weakened economy is trying to recover. Unemployment and income drop. Possible bankruptcies and break in education. Transient inflation and lower interest rates. Lowered value of the real estate. And a strong need for functional products. All this along with stories of losses and success will create collectivism that is going to make him generalise the impact, find stereotypical heroes to celebrate the win and distort information to the extent that it helps him make sense of the surrounding ecosystem.

 

THE CONSUMER WILL FORGET THE LOCKDOWN.

The consumer, after a time, will act as if this lockdown never happened. Just like they remember SARS never Happened, and the 2008 meltdown did not occur, the Kashmiri 370 did not happen, the Taj Bomb Blast did not happen. They remain closed memories in our archive and a not a subject of interest that impacts our everyday behaviour.

 

NO POINT IN BEING A MARKETING SAMURAI OR KAMIKAZE.

The consumer has witnessed the lockdown and has been through a dictated phase of uncertainty. They have experienced the fear, upfront and close. However, the consumer is a survivor and understand the situation. They do not expect a change. Brands must understand the difference between being a Marketing Samurai or a Marketing Kamikaze

Brands disoriented with the market condition and feedback will be under pressure to perform, sustain and at least survive. And for this, they will look to Re-align their purpose. They will re-tweak for the impact, importance and their roles in the life of consumers.

Instead of getting on to the marketing campaigns that they may be right now working at, the brands should invest in understanding and re-segmenting their audience, Re-define their position and re-create the magic with Brand acts. Remember, you can tweak but don’t immediately try major shifts unless the brand has a fresh offering, or has engaged with the consumers during the period of stress. Consumers forget, but they remember the experiences and the promises.

 

NEW NORMAL MAY NOT BE A NEW MARKETING CANVAS.

Brands owners and custodians will see this canvas of new normal as a possibility to leave a mark. They may impulsively want to re-define in the Re-World, they must Re-SEARCH internally. Re-look at the problems and issues they faced because they were constrained and ill-prepared. Re-seek consumer appreciation and re-gain trust. To achieve that, instead of jumping to conclusions, the brands can attempt PARAM; Pause, Reflect, Absorb and Move-on with the learnings.

In the re-world to re-engage the consumers, brands can and will rush for product and service design changes along with new communication challenges. The brands can use the Lockdown21 experience and learnings, use the Lockdown-19 in answering a few questions.

 

The brands must take a step back to Re-SEARCH with PARAM.

1. Why is there a need to do any rethink?

2. Is there anything wrong with status-co?

3. What are the gaps in our brand strategy and delivery?

4. How did they impact the brand’s consumer association and involvement?

5. What action and inaction of brand and competition have impacted consumers?

6. Did the consumer dropped us from usage basket, replaced within the category or a identified a new replacement?

7. Which opportunities (not necessarily marketing) did we miss?

8. How could we have maximised brand impressions with these missed opportunities?

 

BRANDS MUST BRIDGE THE GAPS.

The consumers will have the answer or can give brands a hint that is good enough to solve the puzzle. However, the brands must further Re-SEARCH in creating guidelines so that they can avoid such a situation again. Brands should talk to the existing and lapsing consumers to find out the gaps in their strategy and implementation. Just like Brand-I, there are only two significant gaps for any brand.

1. The gap between what you claim and how you behave?

2. The gap between how the brands see itself engaging/performing/delivering Vs how the consumer sees it.

 

THE CONSUMER OF TODAY IS THE CONSUMER OF TOMORROW. 

He has far too many problems in his life. He does not indulge in mental gymnastics and ego management sitting in conference rooms for his choices and decisions. He is like a smoker

The consumer is going to behave like a smoker. A smoker curses tax increase for a few days and comes back to the old habit soon because it is a habit and there are more important things in life.

Expectedly for some time, the consumer is going to be touchy and sensitive for brand messages and exercises trying to be the saviour in post-COVID-19. Because in his fresh recently engraved memory is the new understanding of essentials that define existence, survival and social status. The brands should understand the power of nudging and not shift, tease and not necessarily reveal, hint and not serve.

 

CAUTION.

The brands must Re-Search to help Re-set, Re-define, Re-gain in the new Re-world. And in this period, one basic questions the brand must keep re-evaluating is If the consumer of today is the consumer of tomorrow, can the brand purpose, delivery of today continue to be the brand of tomorrow.

 

Sanjeev Kotnala is a Brand-Marketing Consultant, Coach and Author. He can be reached at Intradia World.  His views here are personal

 

 

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