Reviving Marketers’ Hope Amid COVID-19 Storm
By Abdulsalam Mahmud
With 3.925 million cases and 274,488 deaths globally as at 10 May, 2020, the world, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report, continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
Back home, over 128 deaths have been recorded in the country, with 745 persons discharged among 4, 151 reported cases. This is according to a statement by the Nigerian Centre for Disease and Control (NCDC) issued on Sunday. Chief among the factors that aggravated the containment of the deadly virus in the country is weak healthcare system.
The pandemic has resulted in largely cutting international trade as a result of falling global demand, both for consumption, as well as investments. Declining sales and liquidity shortages are beginning to hit companies around the world.
Global economies are already counting their losses. So, too, for individual investors and Nigerian business firms. But the ravaging disease has not spared the commercial activities of marketing, both locally and internationally.
That is why marketers must adopt a step-by-step method in addressing the various issues surrounding the effect of COVID-19 on their businesses and consumers, says Prof. Samaila Mande.
Mande, the Dean, School of Post-Graduate Studies at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) in Abuja, gave the charge during a virtual paper presentation organized by Nile University of Nigeria.
He said marketers may need to consider and adopt necessary approaches that will help to position their companies and sustain their brand presence during and after the COVID-19 crisis.
His words: “They need to carry out a review of the consumer and business impact analysis of COVID- 19. They also need to collate data on the COVID-19 crisis (across all dimensions). There is need to build good COVID-19 strategy. Also, they should adapt the marketing function to the situation at hand. Equally, they should put changes to their media plans and advert spending. It behoove on them to adopt creative communications, and plan for the aftermath of the pandemic.”
Speaking further, the university scholar, also underscored the need for marketers to practice customer empathy, keep the conversation going, strengthen the alliance with sales, have integrity and plan for the future.
His words: “Show that you care, choosing the right emotional response to meet the customer’s circumstance. Now is the time to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Let them know that the brand they have always identified with, also identifies with them even in this trying times.
“Ensure that your communications are motivated by a genuine desire to improve people’s lives, not to grow your revenues. Responding rapidly to customer needs and finding solutions to new customer problems, accelerate innovation. These can improve sales and revenues without being insensitive to the customer’s feeling during these trying times.
“Do the right thing, ensure the needs of the many are met, prioritizing safety, protecting the vulnerable, being seen to act fairly and in all customers best interest; are key ingredients that a marketer needs to display at all times, but most especially during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Lastly, most marketers have their work cut out for them just coping with the next 24 hours. But if one can, carve out some time to plan for the aftermath of the pandemic; it will be a great competitive advantage.”
Prof. Mande, noted that with a cautionary implementation of the above recommendations, the marketing drive of a brand, whether goods or services, should be able to survive the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The erudite don, who spoke on “COVID-19 Pandemic: The Marketing Perspective,” had earlier explained that marketing, more than any other business function, deals with customers, noting that marketers must find ways to ensure that the customer’s satisfaction is protected.
He said as scientists are doing everything possible to develop a vaccine or drug for its cure, the business environment will also continue to devise ways of bringing goods and services to the consumers.
“It is important to say that technology has a very crucial role to play in making possible the marketing of goods and services during this pandemic. Although, the same technology is being used to circulate bogus news and conspiracy theories that are unsubstantiated; a widely circulated idea linking the spread of the coronavirus to 5G technology has led to hundreds of incidents – such as wireless towers being set ablaze – in multiple countries. Other incidents involved people dousing themselves or others with different medications, or ingesting antiseptics and causing serious injuries to themselves – as they read it would kill the virus,” he added.
According to him, this led to the United Nations (UN) creating a specific website dedicated to debunking false information as a way of marketing itself as the umbrella body working for the protection of all human beings and our habitat.
On the effective marketing strategies marketers can adopt during this period of COVID-19, Prof. Mande, stressed the need for massive investment in traditional TV/radio, SMS, internet adverts and embarking on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) by marketers.
He said: “If your business wasn’t already placing ads on the television or radio, then now is the time. Practically everyone is now staying at home, a lot more will be watching television and listening to radio possibly to keep abreast of the crisis. This gives companies the perfect opportunity to promote their businesses. This gives companies the perfect opportunity to promote their businesses.
“Customers and prospects are more likely to respond to text messages than phone calls. Text messages allow them to view the message at their leisure, and it’s a less-distractive way to reach customers while they remain stuck at home. Your text message should be a quick sales pitch.
“Another effective marketing option may be to place an advert on entertainment streaming services like Pandora, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Pogo, and Spotify. Since people are working at home, they are likely to look for where to listen to music while they work, or watch film during their breaks. Most entertainment streaming services have adverts that run through them.
“Corporate Social Responsibility has it benefits apart from possible tax concessions and the act of kindness it engenders; it is an excellent way for a marketer to endear its brand to the customers and prospects. People will see such gesture as “stitch in time that saves nine”. The public will notice this act of kindness from the brand and it will be easier for them to identify with the brand by patronizing it.”
On her part, Nkiru Olumide-Ojo, who is the Executive Head, Marketing and Corporate Communications Africa Regions PBB, Standard Bank Group, said markets insights have shown that there is lots of anxiety among marketers, both locally and internationally.
“The marketers and their firms are also battling liquidity issues. They are now preoccupied with thoughts of how to survive post-COVID-19. But in the meantime, things keep changing at the speed of light,” she stressed.
Olumide-Ojo, was speaking on the theme, “How to Remain Relevant in the Age of Disruption,” at the Third Zoom PR Clinic, organized by the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), Lagos State Chapter.
Wondering what commercial brands and governments across are doing to mitigate the impact of the viral pandemic, she said tomorrow is expecting a lot from marketers who are afraid of been hit hard by COVID-19.
Hear her: “They must become change managers who will understand market trends. Adaptability and flexibility should be something they consider in the manner and ways they run their firms and commercial ventures. It is imperative they have a solutionist mindset to solve real problems. They must also learn to become resilient, have strong hope in the future, and be innovative.”
Mahmud, a Staff Writer with PRNigeria, writes in from Abuja
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