Following the joint efforts of the entire Insper Community to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, we are producing exclusive content to collaborate in decision-making and in overcoming the challenges of this period.
Generating knowledge that positively impacts society is one of our missions and. At the moment, we reinforce our course of action with a series of interviews, news stories, videos, and webinars that address various topics and highlight care and guidelines that we must all pay attention to during social isolation.
In the following interview, Silvio Laban, Coordinator of the Professional Masters in Administration, addresses topics such as the need to understand the impact of the pandemic on customers, for it is necessary to adjust the brands’ tone of voice. He also talks about what to consider for long-term marketing planning. Check it out:
1) What is the first step for brands to understand the impact of the pandemic on their products and customers?
The first step is to talk to customers to understand how they perceive this moment.
Depending on the brand and its present relationship with customers, it becomes easier to establish a relationship more focused on meeting any dynamic that may be transient and see what kind of impact this will generate later on.
2) At this point, is it important to adjust the brands’ tone of voice?
Sure. This context, due to its originality and particularity, causes a series of sensations with which people often do not have the habit of dealing. Neuroscientists are pointing out some important issues regarding people’s behavior. Many of them are in a state of almost permanent stress.
It is important to understand that the tone you used in a normal condition must be adjusted to this new reality. Many people may be more interested in understanding what brands can do to help them get through this time than what companies are actually capable of delivering in another context.
At this time we are living, the very perception of value is slightly different from that present in a situation of normality. You begin to live with situations like spending more time at home, afraid to go out on the street. You interact less with others, too. That ends up changing the way you see the world. Moreover, it is not a short-term thing that happens in a week and is resolved. We will walk that road for weeks, not to say months.
All this with an aggravating factor, which is a feeling of unknown duration. The environment, particularly in Brazil, creates much insecurity, besides all the characteristics of the pandemic. That influences the way people think about the future and deal with difficulties. Brands must be aware of this aspect.
3) Why is the use of technology increasingly crucial for brands during the pandemic?
At this moment, it proves to be even more important because it proved to be the only alternative for some brands to keep in touch with their consumers.
If you relied exclusively or primarily on experiences based on or supported by the physical world, when this environment starts to have a series of restrictions, the path you end up following is that of creating dialogue and establishing a connection with your client. The digital ends up being the solution for that.
It is worth remembering that digital transformation also assumes that the organization is concerned with the transformation of its internal processes, besides its visible face before consumers. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of innovation. At the moment, it has created a rupture with a series of mental models so that companies can navigate in the slightest this path that we are taking.
4) How should a company analyze if this is the time to increase its marketing investments?
That is a great question. On the one hand, there is some demand, and it obviously varies with the type of category and service. On the other, there are many uncertainties about the future and concerning economic issues.
It is, therefore, necessary to look for ways to remain relevant at this time. For instance, electronics stores that are closed have found in WhatsApp a way to seek a connection between sellers and the end customer. They had to invest in communication to move in that direction.
It is not possible for brands to simply withdraw from the market now, waiting for things to pass. Up ahead, it may be that people look at your company and think: “I needed this organization, and it was not with me”.
So, this is a complex moment. On the one hand, you have a series of uncertainties, but on the other, it is not possible to stay out of this context. You have to stay in it even if it is to establish some kind of connection with consumers to help them reflect on this situation.
When talking about marketing investment, we need to think more broadly. Besides issues like product development and distribution, it is necessary to consider that this is an opportunity to invest, in a more assertive fashion, in communication focused on education and relationships. Therefore, when this process passes, the brand will be more present in the minds of consumers.
5) What are the main recommendations for companies to make long-term marketing plans?
It makes sense to start thinking about future scenarios that may happen, even if there is still no clarity regarding terms. It is necessary to try to understand the implications of everything that is happening now.
People started to do more things at home, stopped going to certain places, and joined the do-it-yourself world. I have to consider what the implications of this new consumer behavior will be for my product specifically.
People are also closer to some processes, such as tracking waste generation of what they consume. As they begin to see the impact they promote on the planet more tangible from the point of view of sustainability, it can have implications,
It is necessary to observe, therefore, how people will deal with aspects like time, health, and convenience. Moreover, this will vary, even by age group. Countless situations are happening at this moment, which give rise to a reflection by organizations to start thinking about how this new scenario might look.
Therefore, in this and at all times, we always need to be close to consumers. They are an inexhaustible source of information and wisdom. Technology has helped us to create channels for bidirectional communication in which consumers have a voice, and the companies can listen to them. Understanding it represents a significant differential.
Silvio Abrahão Laban Neto has a degree in Naval Engineering from the Engineering School of the University of São Paulo (Poli-USP). He also earned a graduate degree with Specialization in Business Administration and a Ph.D. in Administration with an emphasis in Marketing, both from Fundação Getúlio Vargas’ São Paulo School of Business Administration (FGV–EAESP). Prof. Laban began his academic and teaching activities in 2004 and was also vice-coordinator of the Center for Excellence in Retail. He worked for more than 19 years as an executive at several service and retail organizations. He is also the Coordinator of the Professional Masters in Administration at Insper.