Web Seminar on "Brand Communication in a Post-Covid World – A luxury or a life line?" on Wednesday 14th April, 2021 at 3:00 PM to 4:30 PM IST

VDMA India

Advertising alone does not build a brand, it simply brings attention to a brands' product or service. It stimulates brand interest. The Covid Pandemic is more than just one crisis. It’s a bunch of different crisis intertwined, including economic crisis that led to shrinking bottom lines for a large number of companies.

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Advertising alone does not build a brand, it simply brings attention to a brands' product or service. It stimulates brand interest. The Covid Pandemic is more than just one crisis. It’s a bunch of different crisis intertwined, including economic crisis that led to shrinking bottom lines for a large number of companies. For brands, particularly the ones not catering to end consumers, it poses a big dilemma. VDMA offered this event as a knowledge sharing platform and acted as a bridge head for VDMA members in India who are now beginning to start their operations and facing demanding issues as a result of pandemic crisis.

In this context VDMA India in association with Steel Scenario journal - a reputed publishing house has organized a web seminar on Wednesday 14th April, 2021 on the topic, "Brand Communication in a Post-Covid World – a luxury or a lifeline?" with an aim to provide insightful overview on brand communication and guide the companies on how they should reimagine their business model as they return to full speed. We had Mr. Koustuv Chatterjee, Advertising Consultant delivering the keynote address.


Web Seminar on "Brand Communication in a Post-Covid World


The session was introduced by Mr. Sandip Roy, Regional Head – East, VDMA India who gave an overview of VDMA and its activities. He also introduced the Managing Director of VDMA India, Mr. Rajesh Nath, spoke a few words about him and handed the session over to him.

The session was moderated by Mr. Rajesh Nath, Managing Director, VDMA India who voiced the importance of brand communication and how it has an impact on a post covid world. He mentioned that brand communication is a combination of activities such as advertising, social media and review that are used to communicate with customers. It takes place every time a potential customer or client interacts with a particular brand. He spoke about how the physical goods is placing pressure on new channels with the demand for e-commerce rising to new levels and how mobile phones are being used to pay at check-out to reduce physical contact.
As people move beyond the current mode of survival, the momentum behind digital-experience adoption is unlikely to reverse as people are forced by circumstances to try new things. With so much changing so fast during this difficult time, the big question is how can brands serve and grow their customer base. He mentioned about companies being able to transition to remote working arrangements. As we navigate what we know, marketing leaders work externally to keep their brands and customer journeys as whole as possible, while working internally to these three things:

  1. Understand the impact of business interruption and continue to triage the unexpected.
  2. Lean into digital ways of working and connecting with customers
  3. Mitigate risks to the customer experience by thinking realistically from the outside-in.

On the other hand, he emphasized that brands are all having to think, operate, and lead in new ways during these uncertain and unprecedented circumstances, and we will all have to learn together with both confidence and humility. The moment is not to be lost: those who step up their game will be better and far more ready to confront the challenges and opportunities of the next normal.
Mr. Nath introduced Mr. Chatterjee and handed the session over to him to share his thoughts and provide valuable tips to face challenges.

Mr. Chatterjee - in his key address appraised the audience on challenges faced by organizations and that there is no universal solution to it. He spoke about how he can help member companies to navigate their brands.
He mentioned the six commandments of Post-Covid Brand Communication or Embracing the Re. He presented a video to set the context. The foregone conclusion is that the pandemic has changed our lives irreversibly.  Brands would have to make amends to fit in with this changed world. It can be called as Embracing the RE in six steps:

  • Recalibrate
  • Relook
  • Realign
  • Recraft
  • Reassess
  • Remain

He further went on to state how embracing the Re in six steps can be explained by also quoting instances.

Step 1: Recalibrate the Market Objectives

He stated that marketing activities and brand communication would be like a headless chicken without well-defined objectives and the need to treat marketing objectives to arrive at a more effective communication strategy. He shared his views on how to assess the impact the pandemic has had on business and mentioned that the Pandemic has likely to have impacted business in 4 ways: 

  • Lift
  • Pause
  • Explode
  • Shift

He explained them by relevant interrogations.

Did your business get a Lift because of the pandemic?
He mentioned how certain industries flourished at the time of the pandemic when their marketing objective becomes different from what it was before and the need to look for higher order objectives.
Example: Food packaging industry

  • Did the pandemic pause your business in the short term?
  • He stated how some industries saw a tapering down of demand and experience a pause due to the pandemic. Nonetheless, with aggressive vaccination drive and herd immunity, these sectors would normalize in the long run. Hence such businesses can look at this period as an opportunity rather than disruption. Therefore, when the market stabilizes, their market objective can be adjusted accordingly.
  • Example: Travel industry
  • Did the pandemic result in your business to explode?
  • He referred to businesses that have not seen a sudden explosion and that a sudden surging business may or may not be permanent. Such establishments could face the struggle of getting supply chain to keep up with the demand.
  • Example: Thermal scanning and measuring equipment
  • Did the pandemic shift the demand away from your business?
  • He stressed on that fact that businesses would experience a sudden shift due to behavioral changes of end consumers or government regulations that the pandemic may cause.
  • Suggestion: Target new customers, re-position the brand entirely

Step 2: Relook at the media touchpoints based on audience behavior

He stated how certain businesses have seen significant changes and consequently the need to align their brand communication with the changes. He mentioned a few social markers. 
According to a global survey, 81% people prefer to work at home or in a hybrid mode, the online retail saw a jump two times greater than before and personal mobility is chosen over public transport.
He mentioned few key points on how to relook at media touchpoints.
- Sudden leap to the digital age
- Rise of value consciousness
- Blurring of personal time
- Go digital with a vengeance
- Experiment with timing
- Explore new platform features and innovations

Step 3: Realign your content

He gave us an insight that when the marketing objective and media gets ready, the next step needed to be taken is realign content and the content put would have to reflect the new realities of the post pandemic world.
Assure continuity:
The most important step is to assure continuity. The need to communicate to audience after any disruption is necessary and assure them that the business will be up and running right.

Display empathy:
Brands that are more empathetic will get more respect and consequently more favour from its audience. There is not need to have a serious tone but being sensitive to the times help. The need to think of what audiences worry about, cares for, crave and are rebelled by is very important.

Be human:
Human touch and humanizing a brand is an important key factor to profile employees, clients and partners. Make it less about logo and more about people. Nothing connects better about people than other things.

Invest in tomorrow:
There could be times when people would not buy from certain brands but an engagement today could potentially transform into business tomorrow.
Barter knowledge for preference:
The need to offer present customers the brand's knowledge and expertise is essential. Establishment of the brand so that customers would be more predisposed to the brand and help them grow with the brand's valuable knowledge.

Use your audience:
Social media is a game of content. The User General Content (UGC) has several advantages in the post covid world. A study shows 92% people prefer to trust UGC. It is a free content which saves budget cuts and it stands as a unique perspective for a user.

Step 4: Recraft your communication strategy

He mentioned that the communication strategy has got four fundamental elements:

- Target audience

- Message

- Timing

- Media

The following points are required to create a communication strategy.

Segment your audience - The audience may not be a homogenous set, there may be core audience, a secondary or tertiary audience as well. Hence customize communication for each. Adding segmentation to your communication strategy would make your brand much more approachable and relevant to different targets.

Be Consistent - While segmentation would bring diversity and add different facets to brand communication, being consistent is also a major necessity. Brands with consistent branding across channels brought a 23% more revenue than others did.

Implement S.M.A.R.T Strategy - A great communication strategy can be identified how smart it is. Before implementing a strategy make sure it is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound.

Step 5: Reassess your competition

He gave an insight of how to study the competition of landscape and how competitors are coping with the changed situation. If there is something to learn from them or if there is any elemental strategy worth replicating, businesses need to adopt without hesitation. There may be some cases where there is a common ground with competitors or there is a need to talk unitedly as an industry instead of individual organizations. A competitor may not always be an adversary so collaboration in difficult times can be a great communication strategy. To build a brand is to differentiate and to create an identity, therefore, businesses need to know what their competitor is doing in times of pandemic in order to figure out a differentiated space for their branded communication.

Step 6: Remain alert of any change in situation

He further went on to state that the pandemic is an evolving situation and it is raising a second wave now in India. New virus streams and vaccinations can alter the situation dramatically. All of which can have an impact on brand communication and so it is difficult to deal with the new situation.
He took the audience to a case study which is more relevant to the VDMA members by stating about Anchor Harvey.
Anchor Harvey is a hundred year old precision forging company in the US that caters to a diverse set of industries such as aerospace, defense and motor sports. A significant part of their pipeline was about to vaporize due to the lockdown last year and how they overcame it.

  • Stage 1: Focusing on the Essential Sector-Anchor Harvey segregated customers such as the medical field was deemed essential. They targeted customers with social media and marketing.
  • Stage 2: Essential Information Liquidity-
  • Anchor Harvey updated and expanded their website with content about their products for customers to get relevant information easily at any time. They also invested in search engine optimization and key word search heavily to ensure that Anchor Harvey products are featured. They also ran a strong paper click campaign as per their digital outreach.
  • Stage 3: Aggressive Social Media Campaign
  • Anchor Harvey used two platforms, Facebook and LinkedIn to run the campaign but with a different focus on each of them. They used Facebook to increase brand awareness and drive engagement. They basically used the platform to humanize the brand. They used LinkedIn to send targeted display ads and customized messages to people working in companies in essential industries.
  • Stage 4: Sustained follow up and support
  • The sales people changed the lead that was generated by the LinkedIn campaign and the marketing department ran public relation stories reaching out to trade publication and industry podcast, local news, published white paper and guide books so that Anchor Harvey remains at the top.

Steps that can be adopted from Anchor Harvey:

Decision to invest
Reworking of marketing objective
Big digital push
Customized, consistent messaging
Knowledge sharing 
Humanizing the brand

In his concluding remarks, Mr. Chatterjee spoke about the big dilemma. He stated that brand communication is an investment and not an expenditure. Based on individual aspects and constraints, businesses would have to answer if the dividend is worth it and he wished all the participants to hope for the best.

Ms. Shakuntala thanked Mr. Nath and gave an overview of the Steel Scenario Journal and spoke a few words about Mr. Chatterjee. 
Mr. Nath thanked Ms. Shakuntala for her concluding remarks and Mr. Chatterjee for his beautiful presentation on embracing the Re. He concluded with a quote by Mr. Richard Branson from Virgin Group, "Branding demands commitment; commitment to continual re-invention; striking chords with people to stir their emotions; and commitment to imagination."

The session was concluded with a Question & Answers to the speakers and we had a total of 41 attendees for the session.