By Xavier Mah
As a Malaysian, the year 2020 holds a very deep significance growing up. The idea of a Vision 2020 was purported by Mahathir himself. When he tabled it into the Malaysia Plan in 1991, we were promised flying cars and undersea tunnels. We slowly anticipated living in a futuristic world pictured in Hollywood movies.
Now that we are in 2020, we realise how far-fetched the vision is. But we carry on by making the best out of what we have and continue striving for success. To many, 2020 is just another year of facing the same economic and political challenges which we’ve been tackling for decades. It seemed like nothing was going to change.
Until Covid-19 came into the picture and proved us wrong.
THE IMPACT OF COVID-19
The pandemic has contributed to one of the nation’s most unstable economic climates we have seen. With the movement control order in place, most businesses are getting zero revenue and risk shutting down. Employees are worried about getting retrenched or face pay cuts. Many can hardly afford daily necessities without a stable income.
According to UN trade agency UNCTAD, the coronavirus will be expected to cost the global economy USD1 trillion in 2020.
With such a volatile economy, many businesses are trying to make sense of the disruption. But, if businesses are hoping for any chance of survival, abandoning your brand building and marketing efforts are clearly not the answer.
To be honest, it’s difficult not to let the negative outlook caused by the pandemic to affect us. The days ahead will be gloomy, and we will see many people around us facing the same struggles.
Becoming a leader requires good foresight and strategies. When we defeat Covid-19 — which we definitely will — consumers will be thronging back to products and services they used to frequent, and getting your brand out there now is the best method to have them bring their business your way.
While consumers might still be cautious when it comes to spending, it is important to build your branding foundation to embed the image into customers’ perception which will be helpful in the long run.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS KEY
Billions of people affected by this movement restriction are spending more time at home than ever before on social media.
During a conference call in March, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg disclosed that the daily audio and video calls on WhatsApp and Messenger platforms had increased twofold as the pandemic steadily spreads.
If you already have a stimulating social media following, your task is to tweak your existing strategy. It is time to rethink the type of content your audience would resonate to, and dish them out.
Some of the content aspects that should be considered:
• Be Active and Consistent
Maintain your online activity by posting consistently as this will provide a sense of confidence towards your brand during these challenging times.
• Be Original
Curate content that would be informational, helpful and fun to your audience.
• Be Supportive
Give a shout out to the communities, frontliners and businesses that could use some help on your platform. Better yet, donate money and supplies as part of your company’s CSR.
• Engage with Your Audience
Check up on your network from time to time to let them know that you care.
BRANDING DURING A PANDEMIC
Though continuing building your brand is necessary, it is even more critical to be cautious and thread carefully with what you’re trying to convey during these times.
For example, in his initial response towards Covid-19, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson requested 8,500 of his employees to take eight weeks of unpaid leave to cut costs. This came as a shock to the industry as Branson is one of the most famous preachers of “employees come first” mantras.
The silver lining was that his stance drew an overwhelmingly negative backlash which made him to pledge a USD250 million rescue package for his 70,000 employees.
In a more local perspective, Malaysia’s Minister of Women and Family Rina Harun had been humorously coined the “Doraemon minister” after suggesting that women should speak in the voice of the popular Japanese manga icon when managing their households and husbands during MCO.
These cases prove that consumers aren’t mindless puppets void of conscience. The audience wants to see how brands are aware and reacting to the crisis, and how they can provide valuable impact to their lives.
The best and safest way for brands to stay in touch with their consumers is by being genuine, mindful and helpful.
BRANDING AFTER A PANDEMIC
There’s a saying; “Good times build confidence, hard times build character”.
So, during these hard times, develop a character that is authentic and genuine, and channel these brand identities through your content and social media platforms now.
Take a breather and restructure your plans if you must, but your marketing and branding must not stop. Be a company that has a working momentum and not one that has to start from zero when the world is up and running again.
It’s your responsibility to maintain and increase your market share and customer loyalty. Otherwise, your customers will be taking their business elsewhere when your brand doesn’t excite them anymore.
Customers will spend their money on businesses that remained relevant throughout the crisis.
This might not be the 2020 we wanted, but let it be one where we are victorious.
Xavier Mah is a PR and Branding strategist, contributing writer and founder of Xavier Mah Consultancy and luxury bespoke footwear label, XALF. He has worked with brands and the media from numerous industries. He was the finalist at the Ten Outstanding Young Malaysian Awards 2017 and Grandeur International Business Awards.2017/2018.